In every group, one can always find someone that shines bright. When it comes to our Children Within Our Borders (CWOB) volunteers, we found that shine in Olivia Batshon.
Olivia began volunteering with CBOB after hearing about the program through an involvement fair at the University of Central Florida, where she is currently studying Elementary Education. At the fair, she obtained a sticker which she promptly put on her wall as a way to remind herself to get involved. Taking this initiative, Olivia searched on Facebook and once finding the nearest CWOB event, she signed up to volunteer and has been returning since.
CWOB has been so influential in Olivia's life because she is always in search of new ways to impact her community. Our programs allow her to interact with local children in different ways and really make a change in their lives. By doing this, she hopes to be better prepared to be a great educator.
While having focused on the Children Within Our Borders program, Olivia definitely has plans to one day attend a Bound for Peace service trip. With the desire to be a greater asset, she is improving her Spanish and hopes to be able to communicate effectively with the children we work with in South America.
Olivia has given us a description of what it’s like to be a CWOB volunteer and we couldn’t agree with it more.
"Volunteering with Children Within Our Borders is the most rewarding experience I have ever encountered. Yes, sometimes it's hectic, yes, things never go as planned, and yes, sometimes the children are a lot to handle. But at the end of the day, none of that matters. All that matters is the impact that we, as a collective group, are able to make on each and every child living in that hotel. The children living in this hotel have very monotonous routines. There is not a playground for them to run around on. There is no park around the corner. There is no basketball court for them to shoot hoops with their friends on. They are confined to their hotel rooms and the parking lot that lies a few feet from their doors. This, to us as college students, is not a life we are able to imagine. We get up everyday in our dorm rooms or apartments, with the nerve to complain about our "uncomfy" beds. These kids live a life that is unimaginable to any person that has never lived through it. This volunteer experience for the past six months has given me a glimpse into a cruel world that I never opened my eyes up to see before. We all hear about homeless children and families. We all hear about the statistics and the millions of kids who go hungry every year, but homeless children do not go panhandle on the streets of the city. They are tucked away in hotel rooms, cardboard boxes on the streets, or hiding in plain sight in their classrooms. It is completely impossible for any of us to understand this experience, and without understanding, it is hard for us to find a way to help. Go out and ask anybody on the streets "Do you want kids to be homeless?" The answer would be hell no. But who actually has the perspective on this issue to either A. Decide to help with the problem or B. Actually think about this problem for more than 30 seconds after the question is asked? We all want to live in a perfect world with great education and happy people, but how is this possible if we can't even begin to understand all that is wrong with the world? This organization has given me my first step, my first glimpse into this part of the world, that I never took the time to understand before. This organization has given me the opportunity to work and talk with children, and look into their eyes and understand their pain. This organization has given me the opportunity to begin to be a solution to this problem. It has allowed me to be creative and not only think of new ways to integrate knowledge into activities, but to execute them. My ideas are able to be brought to life, impacting each child in their own distinct ways. This organization has given me the tools to better understand the problem of homelessness in education and our at-risk youth, and I am now able to take action, one child at a time. Without Children Within Our Borders, I would still be left blind, sitting in my dorm room, aimlessly complaining about how the world should be a better place. You may criticize me and say, "Olivia, this is just one hotel. There are only so many children here, and your monthly appearance will soon be forgotten as they get older." But you know what I would say to that? That is completely wrong. Let's not forget that this is not just a hotel that they are lodging at. This is their home. This is where they eat, sleep, and cry. This is where they make friendships, break friendships, do their homework, and spend family time. This hotel is where their childhood memories will lay. Take a minute to think to yourself. What was your childhood home like and what was your favorite memory in it? This hotel is where that will lie for them. They will remember the rugged walls, torn up grass, cracked parking lot, and smell of smoke. But they will also remember our organization. They will remember us, as the people who came, not to take them away from their families, not to arrest one of their parents, not to give counseling to their mothers, not to bring a clipboard in and evaluate their home lives - they will remember Children Within Our Borders as those people who came to their homes for one sole purpose: to bring joy to them. They will remember the games we bring, the things we teach them, and how many times we all laughed. They will remember us as one of the only peoples who came solely for their well being. All that we want is their happiness and to empower them through education and knowledge. We want them to see that they are more than a product of their environment. This is what they will remember when they are 25 years old and reflecting on those childhood memories. Yes, it is just one hotel. But we, as an organization have come together and found one spot that we can make the biggest difference. We have found our sweet spot. We will continue to be the highlight to their day, week, and month and we are only beginning to grow in their community. Yes, right now it is just once a month. But with time, we will change that to twice a month, bi-weekly, weekly, and eventually, even daily visits. We will eventually integrate ourselves and our goals for their development and prosperity into their daily lives. We will become part of that monotonous routine of living in a hotel, and give them a positive outlet to look forward to. Our growth is exponential. We just started under 6 months ago, and it gives me chills when I think about all of the lives we have touched already. This organization brings me pure happiness, and this, right now, is just the beginning." - Olivia Bashton
Cartagena, Colombia is one of the six cities our Bound for Peace (BFP) service trips visit every year. Did you know that it is also the city where Yosimar Palacios Becerra, one of our IAMCBOB Scholars, grew up?
“Hello everyone, my name is Yosimar Palacios Becerra. I was born in Cali, Colombia but I grew up in Cartagena, Colombia. I have been a part of CBOB for the past nine years. Every time CBOB volunteers come, I try my best to make the very best of their stay so they can go back home and recommended it to others. I could not be happier and more proud to be raised in such a wonderful city. If you have never been to Colombia you might have heard it can be a dangerous place, but I am going to tell you this now, the only risk is that you’ll want to stay. Most people who come to Colombia totally change their mind and instead end up falling in love with this country. Cartagena also known as La Fantastica (The Fantastic) it is the most touristic city from Colombia. It is just such a beautiful and a charming city. It has a lot of history, culture and places of interest. There is no such thing as a perfect time to come. Cartagena always has great weather! It’s always hot and sunny, so it is perfect to spend a great time in the beach with others. People are so friendly.They are always willing to help you no matter what. The food is just delicious! You will try some of the best food you could ever have imagine. This is definitively one of the places you need to go before you die! It is definitely worth it and you will never regret of coming.”
“My service trip to Cartagena, Colombia through Children Beyond Our Borders was the best trip I’ve ever had. I went in not knowing what to expect and came out appreciating such a wonderful experience. Some of the lessons I learned are how important it is to be open minded in all the things I do. I was able to have a better understanding of the Colombian culture, and how much of an impact I can have on others. I also learned the importance of sharing. I appreciated the aspect of working as a team when making decision for the children at the Fundación Granitos De Paz foundation. What I miss about my service trip the most are the children at the foundation and the other UF students I was fortunate to share my experience with. Seeing the children’s faces every morning at the foundation always brought a smile to my face. I will never forget crying alongside one of the students on our last day at the foundation. Also, it was great to see how much the children enjoyed learning and playing the different activities. I would definitely recommend going on the Bound for Peace trip to others because it's an experience that made me adore working with children and allowed me to step back from myself and focus on others.”
As you can see, our Bound For Peace Trips are more than just fun. They are an unforgettable experience. The memories you make here will last you a lifetime. Bound for Peace Service Trips allow you to experience what it is like to have innocent, young children tell you they love you, wait for you to come back, and thank you for changing their lives. These trips offer you to opportunity to feel true love, to understand what it is like to be needed, and to feel the burning passion to help. The memories created here will change the way you view the world and the person you are. You will grow as an individual, learn about other cultures, and change lives. If you want to live a truly unforgettable adventure, then join us on our Bound For Peace Trip to Cartagena this summer. Applications for this trip close February 14. We promise you, it’ll be one of the most amazing experiences of your life!
Today, Children Beyond Our Borders mourns the loss of Gio Zorrilla, the beloved brother of one of our former alumni, Alex Zorrilla. In times like these, we stand together as a family and show our support to those who were closest to Gio.
We are so saddened by the loss your family has suffered but inspired by the people who Gio touched. Many whom he never met. When Alex joined our CBOB Family, we immediately felt the strength of his brother and the journey his whole family has been through and would continue to be on. You will be missed Gio! Thank you Alex for sharing his story with us and we are here for you! - Andrea Ortega
"Alex, I can remember the light in your eyes, the motivation, encouragement and love that shined through when you spoke of your brother. The loss of your brother here on earth, is a huge gain in Heaven, for God will have him sitting by his side and continuing to shine his light down on you. Continue to work, study and love hard... For you have such talent and genuine love for the world. We all know your love for your brother and drive to want to help him and others is what continues to give you strength. But don't forget we CBOB of Medellin are always here for you, we are your sisters and your brothers and will be here for you whenever you need us. Stay strong our brother- we love you." - Nicole Linardi
Although Gio’s service was on January 23rd, we invite you to visit his GoFundMe page to help the family with any costs they might run into during this time.
No One Can Know
No one can know just what you've lost;
No one can understand the cost;
But when you feel your energy drain,
Please count on us to help ease your pain.
Let us help you cope with grief;
We hope with time you'll feel relief.
We can't replace the one who's gone,
But let our concern help you carry on.
By Karl and Joanna Fuchs