MIM Service Project Fall 2020: Kathalinna Zuniga

Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science, 2019. Photo by Pamela Zuniga.

Hello everyone, welcome to my blog! My name is Kathalinna Zuniga, I was born and raised in Bogotá, Colombia, and I moved to Florida almost five years ago.  I am a persistent and committed honors student, double majoring in International Relations and Political Science at Florida International University. Before moving to Florida, I lived in Ottawa, Canada, for about a year. Canada’s demographic diversity awakened my passion for different cultures, languages, religions, and customs, reason why I decided to explore and volunteer so that I could learn more about South Florida.

WHO

I have been volunteering for a nonprofit organization called Community Enhancement Collaboration. Their mission is to make a difference while enhancing the quality of life of residents in Hollywood and its surrounding areas. Their priority is to help those who need it most. Hence, the organization distributes food, and basic supplies as well as pet products to low-income families. 

If anybody is interested in donating, being part of the organization or knows somebody that could be benefited from this, they will be having holiday events where they will be giving toys, baby essentials and tons of food! 

CEC LOGO

WHY

Food inequality, hunger and malnutrition are issues related to International Relations and Political Science as they are part of the human rights field. Currently, in the United States 13.7 million people are food insecure, with an increasing number due to the pandemic (USDA, 2020). Indeed, many families in America do not have enough resources to meet their basic needs and are going through difficult moments. 

However, I did not choose this volunteer opportunity because it had to do something with my major, I chose it because I have seen how people that I know are struggling over the dilemma of paying rent or buying groceries, not having their utilities shut down or having something to eat in the day. Thus, the real reason why I chose this volunteer opportunity is simply to help, to do something for those who do not know where their next meal is going to come from, and motivate the community to donate and be part of this nonprofit. 

HOW

I have been part of HandsOn Broward for almost three years. HandsOn Broward is a nonprofit organization that seeks to empower people to make a difference for causes they care about. The NGO has a website page where volunteers can access a calendar with the description and specific date and time of multiple opportunities. Therefore, I was able to connect with the Community Enhancement Collaboration organization through their page. 

HandsOn Broward website page.

HandsOn Broward website page.

WHERE AND WHAT

The organization is located 30 minutes away from my house, in Wiley St, Hollywood, Florida. 

Community Enhancement Collaboration location.

Monday, November 30. 

9:00 am to 2 pm. 

The first day I was completely lost, the place was full, with tons of donations and I did not know where to start. Luckily, I met three volunteers who where already working on unpacking all the boxes and they explained to me what I needed to do. 

First, we had to divide food products from hygiene, beauty, cleaning  and pet supplies. Then we had to find empty boxes and fill them with products from the same “category”. For example, all beverages were going to be placed inside one box, all feminine products such as tampons and pads were on a different box, and so on. 

After dividing everything we had to label each box, so that products could be found easier and faster. 

Photo by Kathalinna Zuniga/CC BY 4.0

After my first day volunteering at the NGO, I was not only impressed by the amount of donations they get but also by the amount of food waste that there is. We found multiple bags of moldy bread and other spoiled food products. Even though the organization makes every effort to preserve all the food and avoid having people looking in the trash, there is still tons of food waste. 

Finally, to my surprise, before I left the nonprofit received a donations of 70 boxes full of meat products (see photo below). 

Photo by Kathalinna Zuniga/CC BY 4.0

Friday, December 4 

9am to 3:00 pm

Friday is definitely the best day to volunteer at the organization. When I arrived at the location there was already a line of cars waiting to get their groceries. First, we had to organize and fill some bags with fruits, vegetables and dairy products. Those bags were going to be distributed among the families that were waiting in line (see photos below). 

Photo by Kathalinna Zuniga/CC BY 4.0

Photo by Kathalinna Zuniga/CC BY 4.0

Additionally, on the other side of the table two volunteers were checking all the boxes of eggs while throwing away the broken ones (see photo below). 

Photo by Kathalinna Zuniga/CC BY 4.0

Then we had to prepare all the stations. First station had all legume and can products as well as chocolate and candy for kids. Second station had fruits, mainly oranges and apples. Third station had meat products. Fourth station had eggs and bread or bakery products. And lastly the station, where I was helping, had bags filled with a variety of products such as vegetables, more fruits, and dairy products. 

Fifth station contained dairy products, bags of cucumbers and bags with a variety of products.
Photo by Kathalinna Zuniga/CC BY 4.0 

Fourth station had eggs and bread/bakery products.
Photo by Kathalinna Zuniga/CC BY 4.0 

After organizing and preparing everything the drive thru food distribution opened at 12pm, by that time there were already 160 cars waiting in line. Every car received one bag from each station, with the exception of cars that had the windshields up which meant that there was two families in one car, and we had to double everything we were giving. 

Photo by Kathalinna Zuniga/CC BY 4.0 
 
Photo by Kathalinna Zuniga/CC BY 4.0 

We were done by 2:30 pm, when we received the last car. Then, we started cleaning and putting everything back inside. That day I left at 3 pm and they even gave me a free turkey, eggs, cucumbers and bread. I ended my volunteer journey exhausted but extremely happy to see all those families waving and thanking everybody for the food they were receiving, and all the kids smiling because they were getting a chocolate bar, something so simple that we sometimes take for granted. 

WHEN

SUMMARY

I enjoyed my volunteer opportunity more than I expected. I started going only to fill the volunteer hour requirement, but now I am planning to go every other Friday and help at the drive thru food distribution. Sadly, many families are going through difficult times, especially during this pandemic. According to Feeding America the coronavirus pandemic left millions of families without stable employment and more than 50 million people may experience food insecurity. Hence, the pandemic has not only worsened the humanitarian crises but has also created mass migration not only in the United States but globally. In conclusion, that experience made me appreciate even more everything I have. I am thankful for having the opportunity to serve all those families. 

CITATIONS

Key Statistics & Graphics. (n.d.). Retrieved December 12, 2020, from https://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/food-nutrition-assistance/food-security-in-the-us/key-statistics-graphics.aspx

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