Okay, like March, April kind of got away from me, too. In all fairness, today is my first free day after 20 days of busyness.
As soon as this blog post is finished, I will spend the afternoon resting. First on my agenda is to watch Monsters, Inc., which I have not seen in years. Then I might watch another movie or two, go on a walk, read a good book, take a bubble bath, paint my finger nails, maybe even bake something with chocolate in it.
But for now, I will update you with some of what I have been doing since my last blog post:
I started volunteering at the Everglades Outpost, a wildlife refuge for abandoned/abused/neglected and rescued animals, on Fridays (one of my days off). The Everglades Outpost provides another chance for animals that may otherwise be euthanized. It is home to alligators, a crocodile, a lemur, parrots, a zebra, a camel, donkeys, a pig, sulcata tortoises, kinkajous, a puma, wolves, tigers (including two 6-month-old cubs), snakes, etc. As a new volunteer, I spend a lot of time welcoming guests and charging admission (while also reading my LSAT study book). But I have also been shadowing current volunteers who have been working with animals for years.
On my first day of volunteering, I assisted with a wildlife tour for preschoolers, which mostly involved trying to get them to walk and to even listen a little bit. I also was able to hold a kinkajou during a wildlife presentation. And I got to hold a baby raccoon that was dropped off and rescued while another volunteer spoon fed him.
The next time I volunteered, I helped rake out the alligator exhibit (while ~10 alligators were still inside).Fortunately, the other volunteer I was with wrestles alligators, and he was very patient and protective of me (i.e. he dragged the alligators to one side of the exhibit, so that I could walk through safely).
I also was let in the cage with the tiger cubs, who were extremely playful and fun to watch. They mostly left me alone to play with each other, but I did get to pet them a little bit.
Yesterday when I volunteered, I was able to help prepare food for the animals and then feed the macaques, kinkajous, camel, donkeys, pig, sulcata tortoises, birds, emu (who stole some of the food from the macaques), zebra, and iguanas. Here are a few of the pictures I took yesterday:
I’m grateful that the other volunteers put up with me–most of them are used to working with animals by now, which has diminished the “WOW! OH MY GOSH! IS THIS REALLY HAPPENING?!” factor for them.
My other big piece of news is that I just returned to Miami after traveling to New York City and Washington, DC for the Global Mission Fellow (GMF) US-2, Class of 2015-2017 Midterms (April 10-April 19). Our class is composed of 15 Missionaries serving all over the United States, from Miami, FL, to Nome, AK; from Tuscon, AZ, to Philadelphia, PA. We are serving in a variety of settings, including social justice advocacy organizations, social service organizations, churches, colleges, after-school programs, homelessness ministries, and non-profit law offices.
During the first part of Midterms, we stayed at Landmark Guest Rooms at Union Theological Seminary and worked a couple of blocks away at the Global Ministries offices in the Interchurch Center in New York City, NY. We spent most of our time discussing our experiences at our placement sites and re-visiting some of the topics that we first discussed at Training, such as the importance of program promotion and how we can re-define what it means to be a Missionary by advocating for social justice.
This is probably a good time for a shameless plug: Will you please consider supporting young adult missions through my Advance? I am $1,222.50 short of my fundraising goal, and any amount will help! Thank you to everyone who has already donated!
We also had some time to explore New York City. I visited an old friend, walked around Central Park with some of the other GMFs, and got to try shaved ice cream.
On April 15, we took a bus to Arlington, VA, where we spent the rest of our time participating in Ecumenical Advocacy Days (EAD). EAD brings together Christians from around the world to learn about social justice issues and to then speak truth to power by lobbying on Capitol Hill on the last day. This year’s theme was “Lift Every Voice! Racism, Class & Power.” We learned about a wide variety of problems in the world, but the focus was on “Supporting the Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2015 (S. 1659/H.R. 2867)” and “Defeating the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement.” More information on each of the Lobby Day Asks can be found here.
Some of my favorite sessions included:
- Opening Policy Plenary: “Racism, Class & Power”
- Lunch Plenary: “The Cradle to Prison Pipeline,” during which Marian Wright Edelman, Founder and President of the Children’s Defense Fund, spoke. She has been a sort of hero of mine for awhile, but especially after volunteering with the University District Freedom School in Columbus, OH last summer.
- LGBT Briefing Breakfast
- Nationality, Power and Statelessness in the Dominican Republic
- Corporate Tax Avoidance: How Global Tax Rules Steal from the Poorest
- Israel/Palestine Briefing Breakfast
- International Plenary: “People Power around the World”
Unfortunately, on the final day, we weren’t able to meet with someone from Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s office (FL-R) to discuss the Voting Rights Advancement Act or the Trans-Pacific Partnership, since she and all of her legislative assistants were out of the office.
I was, however, able to attend the rally outside of the Supreme Court while the judges were hearing oral arguments for US v. Texas. US v. Texas will decide whether or not the President’s Executive Order expanding Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and creating Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) is constitutional. It is estimated that 3.7 million people could benefit from DAPA and expanded DACA, and a positive decision would mean that South Florida JFON could take on even more types of cases. For now, we wait.
I was also able to visit with several friends in Washington, DC, which was nice. Most of my friends from American University have graduated and moved to various places around the world; it is hard to keep in touch with everyone consistently, but it is always nice to catch up when possible.
I visited the Renwick Gallery, just down the street from the White House, before flying out of DCA on April 19.
I got home on Tuesday night and was back at work on Wednesday morning. I was exhausted and found it hard to focus on Wednesday and Thursday, since I had not had a day off in so long and had not had time to process all that happened at Midterms.
In other work-related news, we held our last South Florida JFON clinic on Saturday, April 9 (my day off) at Grace Haitian UMC, and that went well. We met with ~15 people from Haiti.
Our next clinic is tomorrow at First UMC Homestead; it will focus on unaccompanied minors from Central America.
My supervisor, Janet, has announced that she will be leaving Redland Community UMC as pastor in order to go full time with South Florida JFON in July. I am excited for what that might bring, since we will now likely be able to serve even more low-income immigrant families!
That is all of the news that I can think of for now. I’m grateful that I have been given so many opportunities during these past 8 months, and I look forward to what the next 14.5 will bring. Thank you for your continued support and for following my journey!