By: Jordan Wong
Last year in Joshua’s Heart Foundation (JHF) was a busy and fulfilling one for me, with meetings, food/grocery distributions, fundraisers, and trips galore. To say everything we did will take forever – therefore, I will break down the highlights of the year.
Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA)
In March, three members of the JAB (Thalia, Christen, and I) and Josh went to Wisconsin to participate in the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards, an event where kids who have made a difference in their communities are invited to a leadership conference where they can meet and learn how to lead from speakers from around the country. Josh was invited to speak, and brought us junior advisory board (JAB) members to help him at the conference. I spoke briefly as well and it was a lot of fun – not only did we hear many amazing speakers, we were able to make new friends and, most importantly, spread the word about Joshua’s Heart Foundation and our mission to eliminate hunger. The experience was great and memorable– and taught me many lessons that I can utilize as chair of Joshua’s Heart.
Superheroes of Service Gala
The Superheroes of Service Awards – 10 Year Anniversary Gala was held on April 9th and organized by Ceci Sosa, a JAB member, and her mom Cecilia. It was held at Ransom Everglades School, and it was an awards ceremony to recognize the “Superheroes of Service” – companies and individuals who have helped and supported Joshua’s Heart since its founding 10 years ago. Before the awards ceremony and gala, there were many festivities outside. There were food, music, and performers walking outside and interacting with the guests. Later, during the ceremony, the awards were presented by the JAB members to the recipients, and there were performances interspersed during the ceremony such as singing and dancing. The proceeds generated through sponsorships and ticket sales will be used for immediate needs of Joshua’s Heart, one of which is the purchase of a van to be used for food distributions. The whole event was great, and is something that we hope to repeat in the near future.
In late April, Josh, I, and a group of JAB members went to Chicago to attend the WE Day concert, an invitation only event for youth who have done volunteer work and made a difference in their communities. Josh was invited to speak and friends who we met from RYLA and live in the Chicago area joined up with us there to attend the concert as well. The venue was huge – thousands of people were in the stands at the All State Arena, the stadium where it was held. There were many performers such as Nico and Vinz and Ciara, and there were many inspirational speakers such as Martin Luther King the III. We also got to meet the Kielburger brothers, who founded WE Day. The event was like RYLA in the way it taught the people attending leadership skills, but it also interspersed performances to make it a true celebration. It was a great experience, one I’m sure that the people who attended from Joshua’s Heart won’t forget
Global Youth Service Day
For Global Youth Service day on April 16, we went to Davie for a grocery distribution. Colin Wanless, the head of the Boca Raton chapter of Joshua’s Heart, led this distribution. Suria also distributed books there that she collected from her Page by Page book drive. A photographer and reporter were stationed at the distribution, and they asked about our experiences with Joshua’s Heart. It was a typical distribution otherwise – all of the JAB members and volunteers helped lead people through the distribution. In the end, the significance of this distribution wasn’t the uniqueness of the activity we did, but the fact that we did something to help the people in our community on Global Youth Service Day.
Food/Grocery Distributions and Fundraisers
In 2016, JHF made a lot of progress. We gave away over 200,000 pounds of food, increasing our totalamount from 1.1 million to 1.3 million pounds of food. We also raised over $75,000 from fundraisers and from sponsors, to move from $475,000 to $550,000. All of this success was possible not only because of the work by JAB members but especially from our 12,000 volunteers helping us change the world. This progress was massive, and we hope to have even bigger gains next year and in the years to come.
End of Year (2015-2016) Meeting and Celebration
Our End of Year Meeting was held at Trump International Resort in Sunny Isles. Awards were handed out to JAB members for their service in the past year, and videos were shown of all of the distributions that happened in the past year. This meeting was also Navya’s (the former chair of Joshua’s Heart) last meeting, for she was going to college at Brown University, and all of the JAB members wrote her a thank you card for her service. After the meeting, all of the JAB members went down to the beach for some fun in the sun, which I believe served as a fitting end to a year filled with hard work.
First Meeting of 2016-2017 Year
The first meeting of the year was held on August 27 at the Florida International University (FIU) North Campus. It was a big day because not only was there going to be many speakers to provide leadership training, but it was also the time for the elections, and I was planning on running for JAB chair. Upon arriving at FIU, we greeted each other and played some icebreakers. It felt good to catch up with everyone on how their summer was. Then, we started to listen to the speakers. There were many speakers: first was a homeless man named Shawn who lived in the Miami Rescue mission who told us his inspiring story about how he got off the streets and took control of his life. Then, Lorena Estrada, an anchor for WSVN talked about how to speak in front of a crowd, and how to not be afraid when speaking. Then, my mom spoke about how to create a budget and manage money. All of these speakers taught us many things that will prove useful for us JAB members in the future, and we were all grateful for that. Then came the elections. I ran for chair, and luckily, I ran uncontested and got the position. I’m so thankful for this opportunity and I look forward to working closely with Josh in leading Joshua’s Heart in 2017 and continuing to accomplish its mission of eliminating hunger and poverty.