July 26th 2011
"I used to be out on the streets selling things," shared a 16 year old girl named Marsilla. She paused and sheepishly look at the audience of children and parents. "Now I work with these kids. They love me. I love them. I'm a different person."
I've heard testimonies like this before. This was different. Different because I was sitting in the fellowship hall of a catholic church in Little Havanah, Miami.
I was reminded of what one social scientist said, "every child has the opportunity of becoming 1000 different adults." The trajectory of Marsilla's life has been radically altered. She will be a different adult because of this opportunity.
This is the second summer for UP's Camp Courage--based in the heart of the Cuban-American community of Miami. Each day over 100 children and 17 Streetleaders provide a dynamic camp experience for this community.
Most encouraging for me is that camp leadership is being provided by two former Camden Streetleader's--Pookie and Justin. Both these young men are now students at Eastern University. Both young men started in UP Camden at the age of 6.
"They are remarkable leaders," shared Maria, a HR director for MTV. She serves as a volunteer with UP Miami. "I train a lot of managers and administrators. These young men are amazing. This Streetleader program is remarkable."
I leave Miami amazed at what is happening. I am reminded what people can do when they are committed. Two years ago I was approached by Kristy--a lawyer--and Ana, a child psychologist. Natives of Miami. They wanted to make a difference in their community. As "volunteers" they have raised money, hired staff, and shared their love with hundreds of families.
Last night reminded me of the early days of UP Camden. A period in our history when volunteers and caring people dared to make a difference--with scarce resources. Who knows what will happen next in Miami? There is a vision to grow. And with a little vision and a lot of hard work, ministries are birthed that will transform the lives of the next generation of leaders from Little Havanah and beyond.