Spring into STEM and Camp Oasis!

As we gear up for Spring Break, nearly 400 students are continually being served in Overtown and West Homestead at Touching Miami with Love.

Thanks to great supporters we have a new and engaging STEM curriculum and during Spring Break we’ll be enforcing different skills and topics! Last month Brave Church provided items necessary for the upcoming STEM projects and assembled the kits!  Supplemental to our STEM activities, is “Structured Free Choice” where our students play to reinforce the skills they’ve learned throughout the day. For example, after learning Human Anatomy, their structured free choice will be playing a game of Operation.

volunteers creating kits     

In addition to STEM activities, we will offer a fun approach in our Children’s devotional, fitness, visual arts, social skills, and literacy. Another fun addition to our Spring Break week is the opportunity to explore Zoo Miami. At the zoo, we will enforce previous lessons about animal habitats, differentiating between predators & prey, and really giving them a hands-on experience.

The children don’t have all the fun, it’s Camp OASIS time for our middle and high school youth! During Spring Break, our youth will embrace a change of scenery in Central Florida where they will get to connect with one another and grow spiritually. This years’ theme is “Disrupt” and coinciding verse is Mark 16:24 “Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”

During this spiritual retreat, the youth get a chance to disconnect as they have no access to their cell phones, allowing God to “disrupt” the normal day-to-day hustle and bustle. Some of the activities available to our youth are swimming, archery, boating, and crafts. Being exposed to different activities really opens up the youth’s mind as they learn more about themselves and what they enjoy.

Looking back at past Camp Oasis pictures has us excited for what’s to come!

archery sunset girls fishing

Sharing the Love at TML

This Valentine’s Day Touching Miami with Love celebrated with some special treats! Our youth showed love for their TML family, and children and youth both practiced some self-love too.

Just a few days before Valentine’s day, we welcomed the Stephanie Rubinstein Foundation as they conducted a mindfulness workshop for both children and youth. The students learned breathing techniques, how to calmly acknowledge their feelings and to accept their thoughts. They also received a take-home to practice their mindfulness techniques along with some Valentine’s treats.Mindfulness workshop

When Valentine’s Day came along, our youth prepared goodie bags for our children and sweetly distributed them to each class as the children celebrated with a pizza party. The youth also handed out flowers to each staff member as a reminder too of the command in 1 Corinthians 16:14: “Do everything in love.”

youth passing out candy staff and youth

February Fun at TML: Super Bowl Edition

February in Miami is all about the Super Bowl coming to town, and our students were buzzing with excitement for the big game! We are utilizing the spotlight on the Super Bowl to “tackle” pressing issues facing our youth as well as have some football fun.

The month began with a visit from a former Miami Dolphins cheerleader teaching our Kindergarten through Fifth-grade girls a cheer routine during their fitness time.

We then hosted a Super Bowl themed Fun Friday which included a friendly series of flag football and hot dog and popcorn feast for our children. Our youth didn’t miss out on the fun as we hosted Super Bowl watch party on game day for them at TML.

It’s not all fun and games when it comes to the Super Bowl, though. As you may know, whatever city the Super Bowl is in, human trafficking increases.  To ensure our students understand the dangers, as part of our holistic programming, our middle and high school youth will take part in a three-day human trafficking workshop led by Unitas, whose mission is to prevent human trafficking and exploitation through education and awareness.

We are very thankful for our current partnerships that continue to help us provide a fun yet safe, secure, and healthy environment for our children and youth at Touching Miami with Love.

TML Children remind us to trust in Jesus!

At this year’s Thanksgiving Showcase, we had a packed house at our Overtown site as parents and relatives gathered for dinner and a show. We host this event as an opportunity to get to build stronger bonds with our families outside and bless our community with a memorable meal as Amanda, our Spiritual Formation Director leads the show each year.

Every class had a different song they performed, each with a powerful message on the love of Christ. Our students practiced for weeks, and when it came down to performing, they really rocked out! It was terrific seeing the crowd record the show on their cell phones, stand up and clap, and sing along. Not only could you see all the families beaming with pride, but you saw each instructors’ eyes light up watching their students perform.

One particular performance stood out –our 4th -5th-grade “Marlins” group. One minute into the song, the music unexpectedly stopped, the class looked over at their TML instructor, Ms. Ashley with concern on their faces. Ms. Ashley kept her cool and encouraged her students to keep singing and continue their choreography without the music. As everyone else cheered them on, the children belted out lyrics,

“In every circumstance
no matter where I am
I will trust you
I will trust in You!
It’s so sweet to trust in Jesus.”

At that moment, the words seemed to come alive for everyone under the sound of the students’ voices. Singing passionately, even amidst the technical difficulty, the children reminded us that no matter what the situation, God has everything under control. What could have been a disaster and awkward ending to their performance, turned into a great lesson of overcoming and victory. It was beautiful to see the teamwork and self-confidence we teach our students on display.

We are so grateful for everyone who participated at our annual Thanksgiving Showcase– from volunteers, staff, parents, and students. As we continue to celebrate the holiday, let us remember the real reason for the season and carry the lyrics within us – “It’s so sweet to trust in Jesus.”

Promoting Leadership

At TML, we believe in sowing into our youth so that they bear the fruit of long-term impact. While it is no surprise to have students visit us after they’ve graduated from our program, it is always rewarding to see them return for a simple “hello,” others invest and become part of our staff team. If you’ve ever called our offices, then you’ve likely talked to Brittney. She gave us permission to share her story.

Brittney was in grade school when she moved to Overtown with her grandmother when she and her two sisters began attending our children’s programming. By the age of fourteen, Brittney was already showcasing her leadership skills and became one of our summer Jr. Interns are working alongside our children’s program. During the summer, our Vice President, Angel Pittman gave Brittney one of the most precious yet valuable opportunities to babysit her own children while she would debrief with summer teams. Not only had Brittney become a leader, but she earned trust as she always showed signs of love, loyalty, and commitment through her actions.

As Brittney matured into a young woman, she consistently proved herself as a calm and caring individual. After graduating from high school, Brittney began volunteering at TML, which eventually led to a regular position as a receptionist. Our programs grew and we discovered the need for a Program Assistant. Brittney was the obvious choice as not only had she first hand experienced our programs as a student but now her son would be joining as well. While serving as Program Assistant, Brittney discovered many things, from having more confidence in herself and how to communicate professionally and effectively with her colleagues.  Five years later, we are excited to announce that Brittney has become our new Office Manager.  While this role has more responsibilities, we firmly believe in her ability to continue to learn and grow alongside the rest of our staff.

Having Brittney transition from a child in our program to a staff member years later is another example of the tremendous work our teams dedicate themselves to. We believe in our students, even on the days, they don’t believe in themselves. We are confident in the leader Brittney has become and are excited for her as she takes on her new role.

 

Payday Lending Practices Harm Communities

Payday Lending Practices Harm Communities

Join Touching Miami with Love, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, and CBF FL and faith leaders across the country to stop harmful predatory lending practices. Read more about CBF’s advocacy efforts on payday lending HERE.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is rolling back a recently created rule that requires predatory payday lenders to make affordable loans. Without this rule, payday loan sharks can prey on vulnerable consumers with debt trap loans causing default on other bills, overdraft fees, and even bankruptcy. The CFPB must protect families and stop the debt trap – not enrich payday loan sharks.

In my first months of ministry, I remember a faith leader offering a challenge to not simply create programs and services that serve people who are caught in tough situations in the river of life, but instead to go upstream and see who is pushing people into the river. That analogy stuck with me. Heading up the river is what advocacy is all about.

Recently I was able to be a part of CBF’s training event, Advocacy in Action, held in New York City. Throughout the four-day event, pastors, faith leaders and seminary students from across the country joined together to learn practical ways to put faith to action while impacting the most pressing issues of the day including immigrant and refugee issues, religious liberty and human rights.

Our group visited the United Nations to learn about global advocacy and hear about interfaith work being done from a panel of UN advocate experts. During our week, we viewed refugee stories up close at the Tenement Museum and stood beneath Plymouth Church in Brooklyn in the same room as those escaping slavery through the Underground Railroad. All of this was a great reminder of both the importance and the investment required for advocacy.

It seemed fitting that the following Monday, I would get to be a part of putting my new advocacy learning into action at a Pray-In and Press Conference to denounce the abusive practices of the payday lending industry.

This gathering brought together the Center for Responsible Lending, the Florida Council of Churches, the 11th Episcopal District of the AME Church, and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Florida to protest outside of the Trump National Doral Resort in Miami as the national payday lenders association, The Community Financial Services of America (CFSA), held their annual meeting.

Touching Miami with Love joined this effort years ago and continues to learn about the industry that grows wealthy off a debt trap designed to force borrowers to take out increasing loans to pay off previous loans. It was encouraging to join prominent leaders in this movement as we prayed and called for justice to uphold the rights of the poor. We held signs attracting the interest of the police and media as we condemned the industry for their 400% APR rates and predatory practices that lead to an average of ten loans per borrower.

Following this experience, I was invited to join a researcher from the Center for Responsible Lending to be a local voice on Miami’s local public radio station WLRN’s show, “Sundial.” It was a privilege to shine light on the abusive practices of payday lending because no one should be thrown in the river drowning in debt.

Angel Pittman is a CBF field personnel serving as the Vice President of Touching Miami with Love. Since 1995, Touching Miami with Love has been serving the neighborhoods of Overtown and West Homestead, sharing the love of Christ through providing hope, opportunities, and resources.