Open Doors Lead to Open Hearts at Touching Miami with Love

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.

Summer Matters

Touching Miami with Love provides programming in Overtown and West Homestead all-day for students. Because of all the learning and love that is happening. . . SUMMER MATTERS

Summer matters as research shows that children born into poverty are likely to suffer a 6,000 hour learning gap compared to their middle school peers.  This learning gap isn’t from a lack of classroom learning, but rather from the lack of access to greater world learning through a lack of preschool, summer camps, after school activities, family reading time, and day trips.  Here’s our top 10 ways we’re showing SUMMER MATTERS!

  1. Because Summer Matters our middle and high school students have been busy coding, drawing, writing, performing, programming, sharing, and learning a ton!
  2. Because Summer Matters we built partnerships with YouMake, Big Brothers-Big Sisters, Children’s Bereavement Center, Project YouTurn, and Augmented Intelligence Academy to make all this learning possible!
  3. Because Summer Matters we’re building up the literacy learning for all students each day, offering intensive courses for our most struggling readers, and a Kindergarten readiness program in partnership with Florida International University.
  4. Because Summer Matters we keep our children’s minds busy as they take part in visual arts, enrichment sessions, computer time, structured free choice.
  5. Because Summer Matters we keep our children’s bodies busy too as they take part in daily fitness.
  6. Because Summer Matters we share God’s love through Devo Time every day with fun songs, games, and skits.
  7. Because Summer Matters we go on weekly field trips engage, enrich, and open new learning to our children.
  8. Because Summer Matters we engage high school youth as interns in our summer programming building leadership skills with hands-on learning through internships.
  9. Because Summer Matters we challenge our students to give back. West Homestead Site youth traveled to Daytona to support the children’s summer programming at Central Baptist and our Overtown Site youth take part in weekly community service projects around Miami.
  10. Because Summer Matters we invite teams from across the country to come share in the summer fun as they bring new learning and experiences to our children at both sites. Thank you to all our great summer teams this year!
Summer matters to each and every child, youth, and adult we serve through our programs this summer. We hope the great things happening at Touching Miami with Love matter to you too!  Help support our summer programming through your summer gift to TML.  Just go to  https://touchingmiamiwithlove.org/give/ with your gift of $10 or more.  Summer is almost over, so don’t wait to show that Summer Matters!

West Homestead Spiritual Formation Director Announced

After thirteen years of faithful ministry, Wanda Ashworth-Valencia is moving to be closer to family in July.  As we looked to hire a Spiritual Formation Director, one of the many roles she filled, we sent job requests to seminaries, partner ministries, and made online postings to seek the best candidate to lead this important aspect of our programming.  We looked across Miami-Dade County and across the country for the right person to guide our children and youth.  After numerous interviews, we found no one with as great sense of passion, understanding of the West Homestead community, and experience with youth as our very own Martin Villa.

As many of you know, Martin first came to Touching Miami with Love: West Homestead (formerly Open House Ministries) as a second grade student. During his time in the program, Wanda’s love had a profound influence on Martin.  As he grew up in the program, Wanda encouraged him and challenged him to grow as a leader first through a summer position in high school and later as a fellow staff member. Martin has shared about his passion for TML and his West Homestead community in several settings. In 2015, he was asked about the students that he teaches, “I see my second grade self in them as I teach them and hang out with them. When they tell me their struggles, I see my struggles. I see the things I used to go through as a child with my family. I can feel them. My passion is in these kids . . .that’s what TML is for. For the teenagers and everyone else that I’m teaching now.  This is their home. This the place they need to be.”

We are so grateful to Wanda the legacy she leaves behind in the life of Martin.  Please join us in welcoming Martin into his new role as he leads the spiritual formation of West Homestead’s children and youth.

Martin with campers, Summer 2012

TML Kids Featured in Run 51 Music Video

Touching Miami with Love kids know how to live and enjoy each moment.  We were so pleased to be invited to be a part of Run51’s latest video release for their song “This Moment.”  The moments we have to live, to grow, to smile, to enjoy, are not to be taken for granted. In this life there are challenges, trouble and hard realities we all face, but through Jesus and what he accomplished we can live a victorious life now. Check out Run51’s video and follow the story of one young boy as he journeys through a crazy world, but chooses to to take a moment to make the most of it, new friends that make the journey an adventure! Click below to watch and order your copy of Run 51’s EP HERE!

 

Ocean Reef Community Foundation Supports Summer Youth Employment at TML: West Homestead

A recent 4-H National Youth Survey on Leadership of 1,501 students in 9th-12th grade gained their thoughts on leadership.  Only one in three young people say they have the skills needed to be prepared to lead. “Survey shows American youth feel today’s leaders have a different agenda; they lack skills to lead themselves.” (2016, April 12 National 4-H Council). Students participating asked for 1) hands-on experience in leadership roles and 2) programs to build confidence and 3) regular encouragement to lead.  We see the same requests in our work in West Homestead at Touching Miami with Love.  Homestead’s historically low high school graduation rate, high poverty rates, and high crime illustrate the need for strong youth leaders to not only rise above these struggles, but impact change for the next generation.

Our solution to the need for Youth Leadership is to continue our successful project “West Homestead Youth Internship.” Through the continued support of Ocean Reef Community Foundation Touching Miami with Love will provide meaningful summer jobs to 10 youth with hands-on leadership training as youth take active roles in our summer programming, but also a comprehensive approach that includes lessons for leadership skill building. We are excited to announce our 2017 Ocean Reef Community Foundation TML: West Homestead Summer Interns-Irina, Edwin, Tiana, Eufemio, Christian, Travis, Jerry, Darrian, Luis, and Jessica. These students were selected to apply and interview for these coveted positions. Almost ALL of the interns we selected are frequent volunteers.

Our model for empowering young leaders is working!  We recently expanded our children’s programming this year to include seventy-five more children served every day for a total of 150 students in K-8th grade in our Tomorrow’s Leaders program.  Our need to increase our staff includes many young adults who grew up in our programming.  This year we added Vanessa, Paul, Kennesha, Maria, and Celina to our staff ALL of which were formerly in our children’s and/or youth programs and many who are past TML Summer Interns.  We are extremely thankful for the continued partnership of Ocean Reef Community Foundation to continue to make a measurable impact on our community through the lives of our young leaders.

Elevating Our Communities Takes Commitment: Bank of America Supports Touching Miami with Love

Some South Florida communities continue to falter when it comes to financial growth and economic mobility, despite the overall recovery of the U.S. economy. The situation may be getting worse. Barriers to economic success are growing in South Florida with all wage earners seeing an income decline, except for the top 5 percent, a report from the FIU Metropolitan Center reveals.

Furthermore, United Way of Florida’s latest ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) report reveals that 21% of households in Miami Dade live in poverty and an additional 27% are one emergency away from financial instability, meaning more than half of all households in our community struggle to make ends meet.

It’s clear that effective solutions are needed to close this growing economic disparity in South Florida, now one of the largest such gaps in the United States. Bank of America recognizes that low-income individuals and families face a variety of challenges, have diverse needs and may qualify for multiple services, so they support nonprofit organizations providing supportive services that will enable individuals and families to move forward.

The invaluable nonprofit organizations that provide a safety net for individuals and families are central to the success of these efforts. To this end, we are proud to announce the Bank of America Charitable Foundation has named Touching Miami with Love a recipient of its 2017 Workforce Development and Basic Needs grant. Touching Miami with Love will use the funds to support our Bridges Program in West Homestead. Growing up in West Homestead is difficult, many children are underperforming academically, struggling with behavioral issues that leads to trouble in the classroom, and suspensions further impede their academic progress and their chances of exiting generational poverty.

Touching Miami with Love’s Bridges program provides wraparound services in conjunction with our Tomorrow’s Leaders Out of School Children’s Program Monday to Friday afterschool and all-day on most Teacher Planning Days, Spring Break, and six week of Summer Programming. Children meet with our Case Managers in sessions within the afternoon program hours to doing social emotional learning individually and in small groups. Our Case Manager visits the children’s school every day in the midmorning hours to meet with teachers and talk with administrators to track the progress of students in her caseload. Through our strong partnership, our staff is also able to check in and encourage the students at school as well. We are grateful for this partnership, because it means helping more of our children get the necessary support to succeed.

Touching Miami with Love is also indebted to all of the volunteers, including Bank of America employees, who continue to demonstrate how incredibly invested they are in our community. They generously share their time, passion and expertise to improve the quality of life of their neighbors and people they have never met in many ways every day.

Quality Afterschool Learning at TML

Over the course of five years, the National Partnership for Quality Afterschool Learning conducted a research study in which experts visited fifty-three high-functioning afterschool programs across the United States that reported student academic gains. The study concluded that “the benefits for the students who attend them: better attitudes toward school and stronger school engagement; stronger school performance; higher rates of school attendance; fewer behavioral problems; and lower dropout rates.”  They identified the specific strategies for building supportive relationships as the following:

  1. Encourage positive relationships between staff and students.
  2. Link to the school-day staff.
  3. Support and train program staff.
  4. Engage family members.
  5. Collaborate with community organizations.

These five elements remain the core of our children’s out of school program, Tomorrow’s Leaders Children’s Program.  We are blessed with committed staff who are passionate about creating a positive environment for students.  Ten of our children’s program instructors are graduates of our programs, so they know the impact a positive role model can make in children’s lives as each of them are living proof.

Our Children’s Director and Case Managers are in the schools of the children we serve literally every day.  Talking with teachers, sharing lunch with students, and linking parents to the school through attending and advocating at teacher-parent meetings and Individual Education Plan (IEP) meetings.

Touching Miami with Love places a high value on quality training.  That is why we dedicate one week at the beginning of the school year, full days throughout the school year, and one week before summer programming to staff training.  We designed our weekly program staff meetings and monthly all-site staff meetings to encourage, inform, and equip our staff to give their best to the students every day.

Our partnership with Miami-Dade County Public Schools in our Parent Empowerment Project engages families in our meetings and activities twice a month.  The many Community Outreach Projects we do: Back to Back, Christmas Store, Community Cookout, and Easter Party keep our families connected to the larger TML family.

All of this would not be possible without the incredible support of our partners—churches, community organizations, and partner schools’ support.  Each Tuesday middle school youth with a passion for art are bused to the Perez Art Museum for a special art class and our top readers each month enjoy a meal with our partners at Bubba Gump Restaurant. Our K-6 graders enjoy learning about nature, art, and God each month in our multi-year partnership with Key Biscayne Presbyterian Church and School. We could go on and on about how many are pouring into the lives of our children and youth each day in partnership that is helping our students succeed and your support is part of that partnership too—thank you!

Home Depot Foundation Support Keeps Doors Open at West Homestead Site

The doors are always open to the students, families, and community of West Homestead.  As the site of our Touching Miami with Love programs to children, youth, and families our West Homestead Site also hosts an office for Catalyst Miami and a satellite office of Wellspring Counseling.

Thanks to funds from the Home Depot Foundation along with a volunteer team led by Mike C., we were able to replace several doors at our West Homestead Site to keep the doors open for all. Our entire 5,000 sq. foot center was built by volunteers over the course of several years in the early 90’s, so it was very fitting that Home Depot required that the installation of the new doors be done by volunteer labor.  Our BIG thanks to the Home Depot Foundation, Mike C. and his volunteer team for helping to keep the doors open in West Homestead!

Alaska to Miami: Small Team is Powerful During Spring Break

All the way from Anchorage, Alaska three faithful volunteers came once again to serve in our spring break camp at TML. One key way they impacted everyone at TML was through the power of prayer. Ron and the entire team prayed with our children’s program coordinator several times for the events of the week, and for our staff and volunteer teams. Nancy spent time everyday praying for each of our children and staff.  There were several times during the week when there was a notable change in the atmosphere of the classroom space, a renewal in our staff team, and a joy in our children.

 

A second key impact was through the ongoing engagement of the volunteers.  Each day, the team led enrichment and visual arts times that provided children pictures, stories, and even tastes of new foods that introduced Alaskan culture.  The team sang with the children during worship times, drove to a field trip to play with the kids, and made crafts side by side with children daily.  Many children immediately remembered the volunteers from last year.

 

Last, the daily devotional led by the team to explain the good news of Jesus Christ was powerful. Mr. Ron explained part of the gospel each day, and the team created a special opportunity for all children and staff celebrate communion.  It was wonderful to see how it all built on what our March and April TML devo time has been doing to introduce the gospel.  There are daily opportunities opening up to remind individual children of the good news of Jesus.  We believe it’s because of the powerful impact of the prayers, caring engagement, and truth boldly shared by the Alaskan volunteer team.  We are so thankful for Ron, Linda, and Nancy’s presence with us last week.

 

TML at OASIS Camp

During spring break this month, our students will be attending OASIS Camp in Central Florida sponsored by our partners at Branches. We are so excited for this opportunity for our youth. Please be in prayer this month not only for our middle and high school students from Touching Miami with Love Overtown and West Homestead sites, but also for students from all over South Florida. Our youth staff is asking our TML supporters to be in prayer for all of those going to OASIS:

  • Students—to hear clearly from God
  • Staff—to represent Christ and show unconditional love and support
  • Worship Teams—to honor God in all they do
  • The camp speaker—that God would speak through him
  • Safety—as students and leaders travel from South Florida to Central Florida

We also ask that you continue to pray for our students when they return home.  Many youth become close to God at camp, some for the first time, but struggle as they return home because their friends and surroundings are often not supportive of their new life choices.

The theme this year is “Woke” and during OASIS, the youth will be encouraged to be consciously aware of what is going on in the world and invited to join in working against the injustices happening in the world. Along with a lot of fun in the outdoors with sports, canoeing, fishing, swimming, and more, students will choose to participate in many sessions, some of which include:

  • Eracism—Racial Reconciliation
  • Global—Around the World Issues
  • We the People—Know your Rights
  • Get Lit—Surviving without drugs and alcohol,
  • Down in the DM—Uncover the Secrets of Social Media
  • Flawless—Attacking the Lies of Society About Beauty and Image (Females Only)
  • Champions—(Men Only)
  • Lifeline—Suicide Prevention
  • Vibes—Music and Its Influence

Thank you to our friends at Branches sponsors of OASIS Camp.