It’s tough news for any parent, their child’s diagnosis of a disability. Parents are often unsure of where to turn or what to do. After the shock begin to fade, the panic, fears, and the distress begins to set in. For low-income families, like the ones served at Touching Miami with Love, it can feel overwhelming.
We are excited to announce that our partnership with the University of Miami’s Mailman Center for Child Development has expanded. In February of 2018, we announced our formal partnership as University of Miami brought their impactful Parent Child Interaction Therapy to our two sites, read post HERE.
This winter, TML was asked to be among three community agencies to have staff trained in their Family Navigator Program. Five of our staff representing both our Overtown and West Homestead Site received the extensive training to be called a Family Navigator for the families served by Touching Miami with Love. The Family Navigator program was developed to ensure that children and their families receive needed services. The navigotors empower, support and educate families by implementing a system of care where Family Navigators work with families to help them get services for their children.
Our team of TML Family Navigators are equipped with skills to help parents identify family strengths, connect with needed services, advocate for their child, learn how to address school concerns, and help parents connect with other families of children with special needs or health care needs.
Touching Miami with Love is pleased to expand our partnership with the Mailman Center and are excited to continue working with Dr. Jeffrey Brosco, MD, PhD and his great team. Dr. Jeffrey Brosco, MD, PhD knows better than most about how important serving the whole child, and their family, is to their overall health. In a 2017 interview with Miami’s local public radio station WLRN following his appointment as Florida’s deputy secretary for Children’s Medical Services Dr. Brosco shared,
“A person’s health, and especially child’s health, is not just about their medical conditions. It’s also about their school, and their neighborhood, and their family, and violence in the community, and if there are playgrounds. And so we also have to think about the public health issues that inform child health.
Events that children live through, their environment, how they grow up—actually gets written into their biology, gets written into their bodies. If you look at the most important health issues in the United States, things like stroke and cardiac disease and cancer, almost all that starts as a child.”
As Touching Miami with Love continues to serve children through our wholistic programs, we are excited to now have five trained Family Navigators to assist our efforts, ensuring our families in Overtown and West Homestead have access to the support they need.
As we enter in a season that is known for giving, our middle and high school students have had a greater focus on Civic Engagement. The current civic engagement initiative is “Celebrating the Unsung Heroes.
Our first event in the series focused on Mrs. Gloria, our housekeeper at our Overtown Site. The TML youth worked hard and threw her a surprise “Appreciation Party.” In a very simple way, our students learned the power of selfless giving and the beauty of loving others in proximity. They learned that you don’t have to go far to show love and there are always people around you who deserve our appreciation.
Our second initiative was to honor our local firefighters. Our students baked and decorated cookies and delivered them to two local stations near our Overtown Site. The Miami firefighters from Stations 1 and 3 were grateful for their treats! The firefighters even took time to show us around their homes away from home. Making the time even more fun, they put some of our students to work a bit. It was a wonderful exchange of love in the community and a great way to teach our youth to have a giver’s heart.
Written by, Gary Francis Overtown Youth Coordinator
The ability to read is not just essential for getting a good education; it is essential to life! Reading helps students grow their imaginations and build empathy skills as they envision themselves in the stories they read seeing the character’s life experiences through a new lens. At Touching Miami with Love, we provide all kindergarten through eighth-grade students thirty minutes of Literacy Class every day. Additionally, we have five Reading Interventionists between our two sites working individually and in small groups with our most struggling readers. Through our partnerships, we can provide bonus incentives for improved reading. One of our partners in this effort is the Bubba Gump Shrimp Restaurant. They offer us the opportunity to bring five students a month for a free meal at their restaurant. One parent recently commented, “I’m so glad that you can reward my daughter for her improved reading. I’d love to be able to take her to Bubba Gump’s as a reward, but I just can’t afford it. It’s so nice to know TML can take her for me. Thank you!”
We’re excited to add another component to our reading program this summer. In collaboration with our all-day summer programming, we are launching CONNECTED STORIES. In this initial project launch we are inviting TML supporters to take part in one or more ways:
• Come to our Overtown Site and read to children Fridays throughout June and July
• Purchase books from our Amazon book list
• Host a drive or donate to our children’s book drive for gently used books
• Volunteer to assist in sorting and preparing for our book giveaway at both sites.
CONNECTED STORIES is our way to connect to the larger community to the work of Touching Miami with Love and instill in the children the importance of reading. We hope you can join us! Find out more HERE
We are always encouraged by the generosity, creativity, and passion of our supporters. An article recently came across my news feed about why teenagers were always so hungry. Thinking of our son’s first weekend home from college and his constant grazing, it resonated with me. Reading deeper researcher Susan J. Popkin shared about the immense gap in food insecure teens. She wrote, “It’s easy to line up little kids and give them a backpack filled with food,” says Popkin. “But you can’t really do that with teens. There are stigmas about not wanting to stand out. I think they’re often seen as too hard to get to.”
We recognized the difference dinner could make over five years ago when we began providing meals each night of our youth programming as we re-created the family dinner hour. Not only were evening meals providing nutritious food to hungry youth in Overtown and West Homestead, it also created space for caring staff and volunteers to be a listening ear for young people. As we tried to match our resources with hungry youth, we found a new opportunity to engage the community at large and our project “Guest Chefs” was born. Individuals, church small groups, companies, and even families have joined us in providing one night of meals to our youth. We ask that groups do not just provide the meal, but stick around and chat with our youth too. It’s led to great conversations and open eyes on both sides of the table.
One partner church has taken being a “Guest Chef” to a completely new level. Several times a year, a small group of people from the church gathers to create hundreds of servings of dinner. It’s part of their outreach event, City Serve, and Christ Journey Church has created some huge fans of their cooking! We’re grateful for all those in the TML Family who use their time, talent, and treasure to bless the children and youth we serve.
Our doors are always open for you to see the impact of your giving and we invite you to stop in and see us in Overtown or West Homestead. When you do, here is just a glimpse of what you may find.
Our Spiritual Formation Directors (Amanda in Overtown and Martin in West Homestead) will be guiding the children through weekly devotionals that proclaim how they were fearfully and wonderfully made. Some of our children’s program instructors are leading engaging and educationally enriching lessons on literature, fitness, and enrichments in science topics, literature, or history. Others are teaching the kids a drum cadence or dance lesson or are cooking up a culinary arts lesson. You can peek in the window and see our Reading Interventionists; five in all at both sites. They meet with students in one of the tutoring rooms where students get needed help with reading skills. Our Case Managers will likely be just returned from their daily time in our partner schools where they met with teachers and shared lunch in the cafeteria with our students. Over the course of the afternoon, they will meet one-on-one to encourage the students and ensure that they are on track with their individualized Success Plans we create each year with students.
Our middle and high school students are working on TML’s laptops as they do their homework every afternoon and if you have time to stay for evening programming you’ll find staff setting up for dinner as we serve a full sit down dinner to begin each night of youth programming. After dinner, our staff will then lead Creative Arts sessions, and on other nights Social Skills classes. Our Spiritual Formation Directors lead devotions for youth, challenging students to connect with the God who loves them.
We stay busy with nearly 450 children, youth, and adults actively engaged in our year-round programming and we couldn’t do it without your support.