Joshua’s Heart started when the founder, Joshua, was just 4 years old. His grandma gave him $20 after church one day, and Joshua decided to give the money to a homeless man. That moment sparked something in Joshua, and he knew then and there that he wanted to continue helping others. Since then, 60,000 youth have participated in the organization’s mission of ending hunger and poverty.
What do you do as a Junior Advisory Board member?
I’ve been part of the organization for 13 years. The Junior Advisory Board is made of high school students in south Florida; we create ideas based on our diverse backgrounds to help sustain the foundation. Our nonprofit is a youth-run organization that provides necessities for people to better themselves and improve their quality of life. We engage youth to commit to helping end hunger and poverty, we want youth to step up and help those around them. I coordinate between the staff and the youth by getting our ideas to the adults on our team. We lead youth groups, plan events, and organize volunteering.
What have your volunteer experiences been like over the years?
The foundation has changed a lot in terms of the amount of volunteers we have and the amount of people we serve. It started as a local charity that would host food drives, and now, 13 years later, we are a huge nonprofit in the area and people depend on us for their food. We have a very established pantry, tons of volunteers, new employees– the growth has been massive. I’ve helped with food drives, toy drives, coordinating events like Thanksgiving drives, and been part of volunteer trips. I’ve gone to Washington DC to lobby and even led trips to India. In DC, we lobbied for the end of women’s malnutrition during pregnancy and spoke to senators and representatives to get our voices heard. Thankfully, the bill ended up being passed. Through the years, we’ve served over 4 million meals to families and donated over 200,000 toys, books, and clothes.
What have you learned about poverty and hunger by working with Joshua’s Heart?
For me, the biggest realization was that hunger is a problem happening in our own community. When you’re a kid, it’s hard to think about anyone’s life being different from yours. I would go to food drives when I was 5 years old and see other 5 year old kids picking up food because they didn’t have any at home. That was a life changing moment for me. Joshua’s Heart is one of the only organizations that allows kids to be involved at a young age. Volunteering as a kid gets you out of a sheltered mindset and sets you up for a lifetime of success. I am so grateful that my parents and community gave me the opportunity to volunteer at a young age, it instilled a passion in me for volunteering that will never go away.
What is your favorite part of being a Junior Advisory Board member?
An amazing perk of being part of the Junior Advisory Board is meeting other youth who have the same passions as me. We’re able to come together for a great cause, which creates bonds that are like a family. Volunteering may sound dreadful to some people, but the reality is that we’re all excited to help out. It’s amazing to be part of something that is enacting change. Going forward, I want Joshua’s Heart to help target policy by talking to lawmakers and advocating for legislation changes. That’s where I think we can have the most impact.