Self-Discovery

Haiti Round 3… but with a twist

Three years ago this upcoming July I will have been part of an organization called Help The Youth Haiti for 3 years. Only a year after I helped grow this organization I took on a leadership role. I hope this role still to today. The role was to plan and facilitate the activities and events that group would be doing when we all traveled to Haiti in July. Originally I thought this role was going to be easy. I have held similar roles in the last so I wasn’t too worried. Little to my knowledge, it was a lot more difficult than anything I have every done. thumbnail_FullSizeRender

My biggest struggle in this role was communication. By that, I mean communication to our Haitian counterparts. Language wasn’t a problem because most of the people we work with in Haiti know English. The hard part was being able to maintain regular communication. This was due to their limited access to Internet and phone. But yet, another obstacle was thrown my way. As many know a hurricane hit Haiti earlier this year. Any forms of communication they had was now gone. We went weeks without knowing how thigs were, let alone if our friends were still alive. 

Despite the many obstacles thrown my way, this has been a great experience. This upcoming July the trip will consist of a few new events. We will be running a free CPR and first Aid seminar in order to teach people how to respond in emergencies. We will also be planning and facilitation vacation bible school for the children and a pastor’s conference for the pastors in the community. Unfortunately, I am not able to travel to Haiti this July due to academic reasons ( I will be taking physics 2), however, I chose to remain actively involved in my role. jkjkj

This experience has taught me to patient and willing to adapt. Things don’t always work out they way they are planned. Also, this experience has taught me to be creative. The supplies, money, and resources available to us were a lot more limited than I was aware of prior to taking on this role. Thus, when planning events such as vacation bible school, where craft supplies are usually found in surplus, I had to be creative in coming up with crafts that would use only construction power, popsicle sticks, and 4 bottles of glue. thumbnail_IMG_4486

I’m disappointed that I cannot travel to Haiti this summer. However, I remain in contact with my friends. The bond I have formed while in Haiti have only grown stronger since the first time I’ve been there. My involvement and leadership role Help The Youth has been one of the most benefiting, eye-opening experiences of my life. It has taught me so much as about my myself. You may think that it is a little dramatic when I say that this organization and the people I have met have changed my perspective on life. 

OH OH OH! We are also in the progress of trying to get a few of our friends passports to come to the U.S.

STAY TUNED!! 

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Project UNIFY

Normally I try to come up with some creative blog title, but in this case I decided to be direct Project Unify is an outstanding program and I want to get its name out there! If you haven’t worked with Special Olympics AT LEAST ONCE, you’re missing out. 14732402_10208542498693537_6141825387487114860_n

I’m a junior in college and for the past 3 years, every fall, I participate in Project Unify. Project Unify is a program through Special Olympics Michigan. My involvement in this program is as a facilitator. I, along with 20 or so other college students, volunteered a few nights a week for a few weeks to prep for this program. The event itself is one day and was hosted at a hotel conference center right here in Mt.Pleasant. The day consisted of leadership challenges, problem-solving, team-work, games, crafts, dancing, and FUN. Project UNIFY is directed toward students both with and without different abilities.

I had the honor of facilitating team PLUTO PURPLE! My team was very involved in all the activities and always had something to say when questions were asked. It always tough to have a group that doesn’t actively participate and thus I was ecstatic that my group was so involved in what we were doing.

One of my favorite activities had to do with communication. There was a group of sports balls in a pile in the middle of the room. Around the pile of balls were the students standing in a circle.  Each student was given a number. The goal was to find the ball with the matching number. We did this 2 or 3 times. However, each time there were different rules. The first time, everyone was able to talk. The second time, no one was able to talk, and the third time, only 3 or 4 people were able to talk. These different scenarios helped to teach the students that in different, situations different types of communication may be the most suitable; sometimes it is important to actively communicate, and sometimes it is best to sit back and let others speak.

Being a part of this program is always a pleasure. The students show so much passion. The desire to take what they learned at the workshop and bring it back to their own school is amazing to see! Each year I see familiar faces from the year before and that has to be one of my favorite things, knowing that these students want to keep coming back.

Destination Haiti: Round 2 of many

Growing up we are always told to do something we love when we grow up.I loved helping people and I was going to help people by becoming a Physical IMG_0999Therapist. That was my plan and that is what I was going to. It was not until  last summer however that discovered what really makes me happy, my purpose in life.

I discovered Haiti.

I could go on and on about how the negative connotations that come along with Haiti are SO far from the truth (that’s a story for another day). Haiti is a place full of love and community. The people are noIMG_1147thing but welcoming. Last summer, the day I arrived in Haiti happened to by my birthday. Meeting the people I would be staying with for the first time, I never would have expected in my wildest dreams that they would have thrown me  a birthday party. OH WAS I WRONG. TiCarme, the major leader in the village, somehow, I am still unsure how, found out that it was my birthday and planned a party and made me a birthday cake. I instantly fell in love with the country. How often do you see a complete stranger throw someone they don’t know one bit a birthday party? Pretty much never. The next 5 days were nothing short of life changing. I experienced so much while in Haiti. I, my faith, and my passion for helping others grew immensely.

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When it came to leave, I sat on the plane and cried. I did not want to leave. Although the friends I made there said they knew I would be back, God was telling them I would be, I honestly was unsure if I would ever be back and that broke my heart. How could I never return to the country and to the people that changed my life? I couldn’t. It was then that my cousin and I, with the help of our old church Pastor and his wife started to brainstorm. It was here that Help The Youth, a Haitian non-profit grew. Help The Youth i

Help The Youth is non-profit organization that is American funded and Haitian run. Money is raised to help pay the student’s annual school tuition fee. Being able to go to school in Haiti is considered an honor because not many families can afford the $250 fee. In addition to funding for tuition, we collect and donate school and health supplies to the local schooIMG_0943l and clinic in Neply Haiti and surrounding villages. Students from 4-5 villages often go to the same school.

We fundraise year around. A few weeks ago we had out first community fundraiser in my hometown of Holland, Michigan. It was a success. If you are interested in donating to Help The Youth, click here (Be sure to select Haiti in the drop down menu. Every sent donated goes directed to Haiti. No percentage of the donations are used to pay employees. We are also a tax exempt organization in Haiti, which means the organization

SIDE NOTE*****No percentage of the donations are used to pay organization employees. We are also a tax exempt organization in Haiti, which means the organization receives all of the money donated. No percentage goes to their government.

IMG_1041A few months following my trip to Haiti, I was asked to be a part of the Board of Directors for Help The Youth. The country that changed my life was now becoming a huge aspect of my life. A few weeks after that I found out I would be able to return to Haiti the following summer and mostly likely every summer following. At age 19, I was now a co-founder and member of the BOD of an international non-profit organization. Sometimes, the things  that you never consider or never expect become the things that hIMG_1012elp you find your purpose.

Unlike most college students, I am not just a part of a club, the club is a part of me. Haiti and Help The Youth hold a special place in my heart. I am beyond blessed that God lead me to Haiti. If you feel lost, do not worry. God will show you the way to a place where you will discover yourself.

 

 

Project Unify: I AM ABLE

As part of being a Leader Advancement Scholar, I am required to partake in  community service. Despite the fact that it’s required, I enjoy staying involved in my community. One of my favorite experiences has been volunteering at Special Olympics. Special Olympics is an organization I learned to love during the past two years at Central Michigan University. For those of you who do not know, Special Olympics makes it possible for those who are differently abled to participate in competitive sports with other  state and national Special Olympic athletes. 10007426_10205852400682768_4982940145970982804_n

In addition to sports competition opportunities, this year I was able to be apart of the first Special Olympics Michigan Project Unify. Project Unify is an aspect of Special  Olympics that brings together Special Olympics athletes with non-Special Olympics athletes from high schools all over the state and gives them the opportunity to participate in leadership activities and facilitations. Project Unify focuses on teaching these students how to utilize skills that they have in order to become leaders in their schools and communities. Being able to facilitate these leadership sessions to these students is nothing short of amazing. It’s such an awesome sight being  able to not only watch them grow as leaders but to activity be a part of their growth. I loved every moment of facilitating and encouraging these students. They all ave such potential, and it seeing them realize that was something I will NEVER forget.

The pictue below is a special one. I created a special  bond with this wonderful gal. Most students were there with their teachers, however, her teacher was unable to spend time with her due to the needs of one of her classmates. Due to her teacher not being there, I felt it necessary to giver her slightly more attention. We clicked immediately. After only a few hours of knowing each other,she opened up to me and told me what most would consider to be her life story. She was adopted from Africa after watching her parents be killed. She said she doesn’t tell many people her story because “then they feel bad for me and treat me differently but I know you will still treat me like a normal person.” The moment she said this my heart melted. Throughout the day, I became her go-to. She opened up and participated in all activities. Watching her step outside of her comfort zone was a big step for her, and I’m so thankful she allowed me to be a part of that.

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If you have never volunteered at Special  Olympics, I HIGHLY recommend that you do. Special Olympics has one of the most positive and supportive atmospheres you will ever experience. You will make friendships that will last a lifetime. VOLUNTEER. You won’t regret it.

A new way of life!

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A few months ago I decided that I was going to change my lifestyle. I was sick of feeling sluggish and squishy (LOL my way of saying out of shape). I quit making excuses and got my butt off the couch and to the gym. That was in November of 2015. Since then, I have lost a total of 30 pounds and gained massive amounts of CONFIDENCE.

People often ask me, “what motivates you to change,” “how do you stick with it?” The best answer I have for them is that I QUIT MAKING EXCUSES and telling myself that losing weight was impossible while in college or that I just have bad genes and I could never be skinny. Shaping your body into the way you want is something you ARE CAPABLE of doing! Isn’t that motivation in itself?Your body is the one thing you can do what ever you want with!

At the beginning of my fitness journey, I was doing everything on my own. I quit snacking late at night (one of the hardest things for me to overcome), and began to eat healthier. Overall I wasn’t eating the bad before, however, I was eating TOO MUCH. By January I had lost around 13 pounds. Obviously I was happy with the progress I had made thus far, but at this point I was finally starting to feel confident in my own skin, how could I quit now?! So I didn’t.

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Then, to my luck, my cousin contacted me regarding a program called 21 Day Fix Extreme through Beachbody. It was here that my passion for health, fitness and nutrition took off. The program taught me how to eat clean in the correct portion size! This was huge for me. I now no longer eat dairy, and I’m on a completely clean diet. I hate to use the word diet though because I am not starving myself. I’m never hungry! I still eat out, I just order smart. I still eat desserts, but change out certain ingredients for healthier ones.  I started this program in January. For the first 3 weeks I followed the program religiously, however, now I’m starting to become a little more flexible because I’m beginning to understand and learn what works for me. Everyone is different. What works for one person may not work for another. Experiment, figure out what works for you. As of today, I’m town 27 pounds and feeling great!

Although the physical changes are visible, I feel like a completely different person. This journey has taught me so much about myself. I have gained immense amounts of confidence. I’ve learned that the number on the scale DOES NOT MATTER. It’s the way YOU FEEL that matters. I’ve made new friends with a similar passion for fitness who have helped and encouraged me along the way! I couldn’t have done it without them!

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I’m now to a point where people are beginning to come to me for advice and tips. It warms my heart when people tell me I was there motivation to become healthier. Trust me when I tell you this, if a full time college student, who lives in the dorms, and also works two jobs can do it, SO CAN YOU!

A few months ago I can across a quote that I now live by:

“Power is a passion in itself”

… Find the power to get up in the morning and workout, find the power to ignore the tray of chocolate chip cookies in the cafeteria, find the power to take the stairs after a long day instead of taking the elevator. Find the power and determination to become healthier and it was become a passion, something you love!

My days are long and busy like every other college student out there, but I find time to workout everyday no matter what. It’s my way of stress relieve. If it wasn’t for the gym, I’d probably be bald at this point from pulling all my hair out (LOL).

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Throughout my journey I found a passion for health, fitness and nutrition. I am now currently in the process of getting my personal training certification. Becoming healthy is not easy. It’s involves breaking habits that we have had for months, weeks or even heard!  But it’s worth it and that’s why I have decided to get certified. I want to help others achieve their fitness goals and becoming the best person they can be!

If you are unhappy with your body, I challenge you to accept the challenge of change. Start today, not tomorrow, not on Monday, TODAY! You can do it!

Check out my Instagram (Jenniferkae) if you’re interested in advice and motivation on achieving your goals! Believe in yourself, your mind is the only thing holding you body back from accomplishing what you want it to!

 

THATS MY MENTEE

IMG_1401Being a mentor has been a great experience. However, it is a lot harder than I had expected. My mentor and I are very close, we hang out every week, and make dinner for each other all the time, he is more of a brother to me than a friend. My mentee and I however, are not as close.

Going into this experience I had a goal to not be a mentor who never talked to their mentee, and I believe I have accomplished that goal. But frankly, I do wish that I would have spent more time with my mentee during his freshmen year at college. I know how important and helpful it was to have my mentor there for me whenever I needed him, and looking back, I do  have regrets about feeling like I did not make it clear to my mentee that I was there for  him.

Being busy is not an excuse. EVERYONE IS BUSY. It is  important to make time for those you  care about. Being an LAS scholar, I have a responsibility to help those younger than me. I know for a fact I would not be where I was today if it weren’t for other LASers helping me over the course  of the last two years. IMG_1397

Being a mentor has taught me that although being there for someone 24/7 is not easy, it sure it worth it. It means a lot to that person to have someone to  go to whenever they may have a question. I know Harrison is going to be a great mentor and I cannot wait to meet the new addition  to the LAS Platinum Fam! He has accomplished many great things thus far, and I couldnt be more proud of him for how much he has grown!

 

Haiti: A country rich with love

Two weeks ago my cousin and I went on a mission trip to Haiti. The trip was life changing to say the least. Check out the videos below to see what we were up to on our trip!

Possibly interested in joining us on a trip to Haiti? Feel free to contact me with any questions!

Interested in donating to the Mission and helping send students to school visit Beautiful Response and click donate to Help The Youth.

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Camp Sunshine: The Happiest Place On Earth

This past week I was able to be a counselor at Camp Sunshine. Camp Sunshine is a camp for anyone with cognitive or physical disabilities. Camper/Counselor partnerships are one on one. Each camper has their own individual gift and talent and therefore throughout the week we lived by the statement, “Label me able” and got rid of the words disabled and handicapped all together.

 

Throughout the week, I created an unbreakable bond with my camper. She was one of the sweetest, sassiest, and most funny people I know. By the end of the week my camper had opened up to me and told me about all the negative names and words people call her at work and how it makes her feel. This immediately broke my heart. Following her opening up to me, we sat down and had a long conversation about how wonderful she is. A sentence that she said stuck with her that I said was, “God made you and God doesn’t make mistakes.” The rest of the night she repeated this sentence I would say, hundreds of times.

Also by the end of the week we had learned to tell time and to say our alphabet. Seeing how happy this made her warmed my heart.

 

Going into camp all the counselors always talk about how we cant wait to make a difference in our campers life. However, by the end of the first day, we realize that the Camper/Counselor partnership is so much more. Over the course of the week Lori taught me way more than could ever have taught her. This experience was one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had.

 

When working with the population of people who have unique needs, please remember to be respectful.