Mohan Yatham: Miami Service 2020

Photo captured and edited Mohan Yatham/ CC BY 4.0

Howdy! My name is Mohan, and I’m a senior pre-med undergraduate at Florida International University. I major in Biology and minor in Business and Chemistry. I want to pursue a dual degree MD/MBA in the future. Throughout my undergraduate career, I believed that exploring is the foundation of a new beginning. Over the past decade, I lived in multiple places, including India, New Jersey, Rochester, Daytona Beach, Orlando, and Miami! This allowed me to gain insights into various regions and local traditions. I’ve always wanted to learn more about the culture and history of Miami. As a part of the Honors College, I am thrilled to share my experience and exploration of Doral on this page!


I volunteered for the Box of Joy, which is an annual Christmas gift ministry organized by local Catholic schools facilitated by Cross Catholic Outreach. This organization sends toys and gifts to children from extreme poverty to receive the joy of Christmas. Box of Joy has delivered for over 75,800 boxes of joy to children in over 7 countries. Volunteers have the opportunity to screen the toys to make sure that all items are safe. Some of the volunteers help to pack and organize the cartons to prepare for shipment. It is crucial to recognize that the children have a hope for joy for once every year and this organization was successful in fulfilling the joy of thousands of children in poverty. 

I also volunteered for the Bakehouse Art complex community project. This project aims to raise awareness about our decaying coral reefs. As it was a community project, an artist led the project in collaboration with a scientist due to common interest in projecting the idea of degrading coral reefs in our oceans!


The mission was the main motive for my interest in this volunteering opportunity. Although this volunteering opportunity directly does not correlate with my major, I am blessed to have had the opportunity to participate in this great mission of joy. I wanted to engage in a community oriented project that aims to fulfill a goal that resonated with me. I have seen many poverty countries first hand and I always wanted to somehow contribute for the welfare of the people suffering from hunger and lack of joy. I have been to Costa Rica and Villages of India and seen how the lifestyle for many people is. On top of all of the issues, this year has been tremendously rough due to COVID. Christmas is a holiday season that should bring joy and happiness. But unfortunately, the majority of these children can not even have a good meal in a day. When I read about this mission, I immediately signed up to be part of it. 

The coral reef project was probably by far my first direct community related involvement and was very fortunate to have taken the class Miami in Miami. It was a great experience to show how science and art can collaborate to spread crucial information to the community.


Box of Joy

I had to quarantine myself for about 5 weeks due to twice occurrence of symptoms fpr COVID for myself or someone in my family. Fortunately none of us were tested positive, so finding a volunteering opportunity during these times was a bit difficult. However, when I started to research about the potential volunteering opportunities near me, I found this website HandsOn Miami organization that presented this volunteering opportunity. I immediately signed up myself and invited a couple of my friends to join if they were interested. I had one of my friends join me to volunteer for this event. I got in contact with the opportunity head Gus Cruz and confirmed my schedule. I was lucky to get the volunteering spot since there were only 2 spots left after I signed up. I have the contact information of Gus Cruz to potentially participate in this event whenever it is made available in the future. 

Bakehouse Art Complex

The opportunity to be involved in this project was a part of Miami in Miami class. Professor John Bailly coordinated with the artist and provided the class to participate in the community project.


At the Box of Joy screening center

Photo captured and edited Mohan Yatham/ CC BY 4.0

On December 13th at 11:00 am, I arrived at the box of joy center along with my friend. As soon as I checked in, I met with Guz Cruz (the opportunity head) and was guided to the training session. The training session was about 20 minutes in which I learned the protocol of the workflow in the screening center. I was assigned to pack the boxes and prepare to orient for shipment. I also had some time to sort and screen toys and gifts to make sure there were no harmful gifts being packed. I was also told that due to the government systems of certain countries, toys of the army or any in that category shall be removed since it can affect the children physiologically. Overall, I had a great experience working with everyone and working for the mission.

At the Bakehouse Art Complex

Photo captured and edited Mohan Yatham/ CC BY 4.0

On October 25th, I arrived at the Bakehouse Art Complex, a little later our group learned about the project and purpose. Soon after, we learned the technique about how to use the molds to properly assemble the articraft. I had a fantastic experience working with class for the very first time. Coral reefs in our oceans are slowly dying and it is a rapidly increasing issue that needs immediate attention and action. The best way to create conversation is by art and this project reflects the use of art and science to present to our community the importance of decaying coral reefs. The artifacts are designed to represent the coral reefs as they also decay as time progresses. This was a very successful project and I am extremely grateful to be part of it.


Photo of proof of service hours edited Mohan Yatham/ CC BY 4.0


Overall, I am extremely grateful for the opportunities that I had to contribute to great causes. The box of joy mission really resonated with me and I was very happy to be involved in that event. I had a great opportunity to meet a like minded community that is working hard for the cause. The bakehouse art complex project was by far one of the most memorable experiences of my life. I am lucky to be involved in a project that has a goal of spreading attention about the decaying coral reefs in our ocean. This project involved research from a scientist and the involvement of artists to create a community project that became very successful!

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