By Natalia Torres
Born and raised in Cali, Colombia, I quickly jumped at the chance to join Children Beyond Our Borders once I found out about it as a sophomore at the University of Florida. Leading up to my first service trip, I was thrilled about the opportunity to collaborate and travel with like-minded people to serve the youth in my home country. After the excitement of landing in Cartagena wore off (does it actually wear off though?) and I was a few hours into our first day at Granitos de Paz, I was hit with how truly fortunate I was to be in that space and that it was not something to be taken for granted.
During my time at Granitos on my first trip, I was able to witness the phrase “education = empowerment” in action in the community; within the center, at every workshop with our kids, and mostly within myself. I was able to step out of the bubble of my privileged college experience, return to my roots and see first-hand that education comes in all and shapes and sizes and it has the ability to create significant change in an individual’s life. I also realized that I wanted my efforts to go beyond a two week trip.
At the time, that looked like heavy involvement with the UF Chapter of CBOB. To this day, my group of girlfriends who I reunite with at least yearly, rely on for life advice, and feel empowered by, are the women I met on these trips and during my time with the organization (hi Alli, Candice, Maria, Supriya and Taryn!) Long term, these experiences and the passion that I felt around our mission led me to education as my full time profession. After graduating from the University of Florida, I moved to Chicago to join Teach for America as a special educator, and to this day, I work at the same high school I started at, now as an Assistant Principal.
Through Children Beyond Our Borders, I was able to have life experiences that illuminated the right path for me, and also made it clear that to make the impact that I wanted to, I had to make a serious and long term commitment as an educator. This is why I pursued my masters as soon as I started Teach for America, have been at the same high school since my first day as a teacher, and returned to Children Beyond Our Borders by joining the board a few years ago. Every day I wake up ready to learn and grow as an educator, but I know that all of these experiences are most powerful when shared, so I hope that the knowledge I’ve gained over the years, inspired by the very first time I set foot in Barrio Olaya Herrera, can serve as a resource for all the children that Children Beyond Our Borders seeks to empower through education.
Reflecting on my semester as a VIP at Children Beyond Our Borders Inc.
By Madelyn Brenner
I didn't know what to expect when I applied for a position with CBOB's Volunteer Internship Program last fall. VIP is a selective program that allows individuals to get involved in an international non-profit organization. The VIP interns are treated as employees by encouraging independence, originality, and a stress-free environment. Interns are able to apply their academic skills to a hands-on experience in the non-profit field. The overall goal is to encourage and empower the interns by providing life skills that can prepare them for a successful future. From the research I had done, it seemed like a good fit with my two majors---International Studies and Spanish---and great preparation for a future career in public service. I had no idea how much experience and knowledge the organization and program would allow me to gain and how much I would grow to love the cause and mission CBOB stands for.
In addition to my daily duties as a Public Relations and Social Media Intern, which involve posting updates, contacting other organizations, creating graphics, and scheduling posts, I was also able to grow so much as a person. By participating in local events like Health Fairs, workshops, tabling, and setting up for big events like Gala, I was able to help promote and implement CBOB's mission of providing opportunities for children and youth affected by armed conflict and social injustice to find peace, prosperity and well-being through education and empowerment. I was able to gain a deeper understanding of the purpose of our organization's programs and what it accomplishes with every action that it takes. I hope to further watch this organization succeed by continuing to stay involved as an intern, and hopefully finding new ways to promote its mission, by participating in a Bound for Peace service trip in the near future.
I can't wait to see what this organization does next, and how I am able to promote its vision as an intern! I hope others reach out of their comfort zone and join the VIP program in order to help promote education and empowerment. With a variety of positions in every field, and an assortment of opportunities to get involved throughout the organization, like Bound for Peace, Tutoring, our College Prep Mentorship Program, and more, there are so many ways our VIPs are changing the world! It's amazing to see so many people from different backgrounds coming together to promote a greater good. I would never have felt such hope and inspiration if I hadn't applied for CBOB's Volunteer Internship Program.
One of our IAMCBOB scholars, Davian, graduated from university on April 27, 2018.
by Christina Mouttet
IAMCBOB provides an all-expenses-paid college education to motivated students who have a strong desire to acquire a higher level of education after graduating high school. The program empowers young leaders to be equipped for success and gives them the opportunity to have a proper college education. IAMCBOB students put forth their best effort in their school work, while also giving back to their communities by participating in civic engagement activities. IAMCBOB students act as both role models and service leaders to their communities.
Read below to find out about one of our scholars, Davian Ortiz, who graduated on April 27, 2018 with a degree in industrial design.
1. Where are you from?
I was born in San Cristobal, a corregimiento of the city of Medellin on January 1, 1994.
2. Describe your family and how you grew up.
I am a humble man from a humble family. I was born and grew up during a time of economic poverty, always wanting to rid myself of certain things that wore me down on a daily basis. I grew up with 3 siblings, 2 out of marriage and one little sister from marriage. We relied on each other in all circumstances. My mom and dad came to the city in search of opportunities for their children and always found ways for us to advance our education. They taught us values and principles to face life in many ways. I am a faithful person, a believer that everything that shapes us as a human being comes from how we were raised and customs. I feel proud of my family and of our struggle to be better every day.
3. What did you study and why?
I studied industrial design. The repair and creation of objects caught my attention since I was really young and I gravitated towards design since it gave me knowledge in that area.
4. How did you hear about CBOB and our IAMCBOB scholarship program?
I found the program one day in my school when my friend Jose Fernando Martinez came to me and asked if I wanted to join a program of higher education from abroad that would teach us a lot. It caught my attention right away and I responded yes. We started in the program called “New Horizons,” directed by Angelica Suarez Trujilo, of which I was with for about two years. Later, this same program gave me the opportunity to go to university, which has now made be a part of the IAMCBOB scholars.
5. What plans do you have for after graduation?
After graduation, I want to continue with my studies and start to make my dream come true of having my own business of industrial design.
6. Tell me an interesting fact about yourself.
One time, someone told me that happiness comes from being a better person every day, and when the sun rises every morning, you should thank God for all your blessings.
7. What do you like to do for fun?
I love to play sports and spend time with the people who are close to me.
By Jennifer Nicholas
Children Beyond Our Borders Inc. hosted its third annual salsa benefit, Dance for Good, last Friday in downtown Gainesville.
Dance for Good all started back in 2016 by Board Members Dr. Brendan Williams and Dr. Diana Montoya-Williams. What began as an event to honor both their wedding anniversary and their passion for giving back to the community, has turned into a CBOB yearly tradition. It annually brings the salsa-loving community together in Gainesville for a great cause- all of the proceeds go straight back to CBOB’s local programs.
There was never a dull moment at this year’s Dance for Good. The night was filled with live music, dancing, delicious food, raffles and a silent auction. As soon as our guests walked in, they were immediately greeted with a variety of popular Latin music played by Elio Piedra, a talented local artist in Gainesville. No one wasted any time getting out on the dance floor and showing off their best dance moves.
With all that dancing, our guests worked up an appetite. Omi’s Elegant Catering was generous enough to donate a variety of delicious food to our event. Our guests couldn’t get enough of the plantains, chicken, rice, coconut shrimp and more!
While taking a break from dancing and eating, guests had a chance to bid on our silent auction items. All of the silent auction items were graciously donated to us by generous individuals and local businesses. Auction items ranged from gift baskets, to gift certificates, to admission tickets and specialized items. Salsa Mundial donated two group class certificates, Zen Vibe Yoga donated an in-home private yoga session, St. George Inn & Suites donated a two-night stay, the Lowry Park Zoo donated two admission tickets, and the Curtis M. Phillips Center for Performing Arts donated tickets to the Nut Cracker, just to name a few!
We have our incredible event manager, Sonia Herrera, to thank for another amazing year of Dance for Good!
“All members of Children Beyond Our Borders worked together to make this event happen, even our members in Orlando,” Sonia said. “I’m super happy with how everything turned out. I think we had a really great turnout and everyone had a lot of fun.”
This event also would not have been possible without our wonderful development director, Valentina Betancur.
When asked about the event Valentina said, “Events in general are usually pretty hectic the day of and a lot of planning needs to go into them prior to the event date, so my development team really had to come together to make sure that the event turned out well. I have to say that it really came together in the end because everything looked amazing! My favorite part of the whole thing was the silent auction because we received a lot of cool donations for this event and it looked really nice when we set it up. Also, the food was absolutely delicious and I think our guests really appreciated it. Another thing that I absolutely loved to see was that everyone was having a really great time. Overall, it was a pretty tiring experience but it came together amazingly and I'm really happy that we were able to raise so much money for our local programs!”
Dance for Good was a huge success thanks to all of our donors, volunteers, and supporters. We could not have made the night such a success without the help from you all. Thank you to our donors who donated all of our amazing auction and raffle items. Thank you to all of our volunteers who donated their time and effort to ensure that the night ran smoothly. Thank you to all our supporters who bought tickets to the event and joined in on all the fun.
We cannot wait to see you all again next year for our fourth annual Dance for Good event!
by Allison Hoyle
I joined CBOB in 2007 after a friend from Sabor Latino, UF’s Latino Dance Team, mentioned it to me. I knew as soon as I met the executive team and the other volunteers it would be a life changing experience, but I had no idea at the time that CBOB would launch my career into non-profit education.
The children, of course, won me over. It was remarkable seeing their excitement and eagerness to come to our workshops every day after a full day of school. They advocated for their learning, and told us how they wanted to learn advanced math and to speak English. I would leave every day with letters and notes from the kids, and head home to prepare the lesson plan for the following day.
But it was really that first taste of teaching that hooked me. I loved the creativity of coming up with a lesson plan that would engage each child in the room in a slightly different way. I thoroughly enjoyed the rush of adrenaline I got from improvising if the lesson didn’t go quite according to plan. It’s electrifying to stand in front of a room of 60 energetic children and matching their energy in order to reach them. When you are finally able to make that connection and they learn something new, it feels amazing.
I joined CBOB because I was looking for community, but I truly learned about myself as an educator and as a leader. I found my way into the classroom after graduation. I started teaching elementary school with Teach For America and teaching in Overtown, Miami. Now I work as a Program Manager at Reading Partners, a national literacy organization that reaches about 1,000 students in New York City, and 11,000 nationally. I get to flex my teaching muscles and work with committed volunteers and educators that inspire me daily.
On the board of CBOB now, I am ecstatic to see how it has grown and increased its impact. It is wonderful hearing about hard-working volunteers going back to Cartagena and Medellin and the complex workshops they develop for the children.
Getting to know who's in charge and what motivates them here at CBOB
by Madelyn Brenner
Keeping track of all that goes on here at Children Beyond Our Borders is not an easy feat. There are meetings to schedule and attend, fundraisers to arrange, trips to plan, and everything in between. Read on to learn more about who keeps our nonprofit on track, and what inspired them to join our CBOB family.
Christina Mouttet, Creative Director
Christina Mouttet is a second-year student at the University of Florida majoring in public relations and minoring in real estate. She first got involved with CBOB last semester as a PR intern and this past semester got promoted to Creative Director. She has absolutely loved her experience with CBOB. Seeing the impact CBOB is making amazes her every day. While she loves the social media and advertising aspect of her job, her favorite part is when she gets to work directly with the kids. Attending workshops, health clinics and weekly tutoring are definite highlights for her.
She is originally from Miami, Florida but moved to Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago when she was 15. She came to UF as an exploratory student but eventually decided on public relations because it was the perfect combination of journalism, advertising and marketing. After she graduates, she hopes to attend law school and work in corporate law. She also loves to travel and has been to almost 40 countries!
Julia Lasley, Service Trip Director
Julia chose CBOB because she wanted to explore ways to give
back to her new home in Orlando by using her background in and love for education and international service. She chose CBOB for its dedication to creating opportunities for kids and communities that need it the most. To her, CBOB is a vehicle for empowerment and global change, reminding her of a favorite quote of hers, "Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire." She is originally from Cocoa Beach, Florida. After finishing high school, she attended FSU (Go Noles!) for her B.S. in International
Affairs. She served as a Teach for America Corps Member in
Jacksonville until 2016. This is currently her fourth year teaching middle school English and second year in graduate school at Lehigh University for her Master’s degree in International Education. Her future career goals include teaching abroad and/or working for a nonprofit in the field of international development with an emphasis on girls’ education.
Valentina Betancur, Development Director
Valentina Betancur is completing her third year at the University of Florida and should be graduating Spring term 2019. She is pursuing a dual degree in Economics and International Studies and two minors in International Development and Humanitarian Assistance (IDHA) and Food and Resource Economics. Her dream is to work for an international development agency in the future such as the World Bank. She started her journey with CBOB in the summer of 2017 as a fundraising intern and she came back for the same position during the fall semester. She was promoted to Development Director during that fall and now she leads four different teams of interns along with Gina Castano. Her duties consist of partnering with organizations in our community, planning various fundraising events, executing major fundraising benefits such as Dance for Good and Gala, and completing a 5-year plan for the organization. Her most important task is to be there for her team and make sure that they have everything that they need to build their skills.
On top of CBOB she also works part time in retail and takes classes full time. On her off time, she likes to play with her puppy Mia (pictured below), go out and eat sushi with her friends, or go to the pool with her roommate if it’s nice out.
CBOB's student chapters tutor children from underserved areas on a weekly basis.
by Jennifer Nicholas
Children Within Our Borders Inc. strives to make a change in the local communities of Alachua and Orlando by providing opportunities for the at-risk youth from these areas. One way CWOB does this is by providing weekly tutoring services to the children in both of these at-risk communities.
The tutoring services help the underserved children in the community with a variety of homework subjects. At tutoring, volunteers act as one-on-one tutors with the children to encourage them with homework completion and provide them with an empowering environment. The children that attend tutoring range in age from five to twelve years old.
CBOB’s tutors are committed and energetic individuals who volunteer their time to work with these children once a week. Iman White, a CWOB tutor who attends the University of Florida, described her experience of being a CWOB tutor as one of her favorite experiences at UF thus far.
“I really look forward to going to the church every Monday to see Jaime, the student I tutor, and all of the other children,” Iman said. “They get so excited to work with us, and it creates a really special environment. I help Jaime (her student) with whatever homework he has, but we usually focus on math in preparation for the FSA. Seeing him improve his skills and hearing from his mom that his grades have risen since tutoring began has been so rewarding, and I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to work with him.”
Iman went on to describe one of her favorite memories as a Children Within Our Borders weekly tutoring.
“Jaime once told me that he really liked looking at things under a microscope, so one time after we finished all of his homework, we spent the rest of the session looking up pictures of everyday objects magnified under a microscope! He absolutely loved it, and that is probably my favorite memory with him. All in all, tutoring through CBOB has been such a valuable experience, and I look forward to continuing to do it for the rest of my time here at the University of Florida.”
Through Iman’s experiences, it is easy to see how tutoring is beneficial to both the students and the tutors. The children receive one-on-one assistance from the volunteers in order to help them with their school work, so they can better understand their subjects and succeed in school. The volunteers receive the satisfaction of lending a helping hand to those in need and seeing the positive impact they have on these children firsthand.
If you are interested in becoming a tutor for Children Within Our Borders, be sure to keep up with our social media to find out when applications next open!
March is the month of luck and CBOB takes a moment to reflect on everything we are lucky for.
by Christina Mouttet
Happy March and happy spring! This month is all about celebrating luck and welcoming in spring. As you can see pictured above, spring is time to enjoy the weather outside with good friends! It is so important that amongst our March St. Patrick's Day celebrations we take a moment to step back and be grateful for everything we are lucky to have.
St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated annually on March 17, the anniversary of the death of the patron saint of Ireland in the fifth century. What started as a religious feast day in the 17th century has evolved into a variety of festivals around the world celebrating Irish culture with parades, lucky charms, music, dancing, and a newfound appreciation for the color green. Shamrocks, a symbol of Ireland, are associated with luck which is why luck is such a huge theme of this holiday.
So many things that we take for granted, like access to education and proper nutrition, are not available to many people around the world. Children especially, who have no power in bettering their situations, need our help.
These statistics are scary, but organizations like Children Beyond Our Borders Inc. are working to reduce these numbers to 0. It is times like this, surrounded by the energy of spring and festivities of St. Patrick’s Day, that we feel even more connected to our cause and the difference we are making in the lives of children. We believe that no child should be denied access to education and it our mission to provide these children with opportunities to find peace and prosperity with the proper educational tools.
Want to help? We ask that you make it our ~lucky~ day and donate to our cause! Visit www.chbob.org/donate to donate today!
Fun fact: For every “lucky” four-leaf clover there are approximately 10,000 three-leaf clovers.
by Brianna Ferguson
Hello! My name is Brianna and this past spring break I was lucky enough to spend a week in the great city of Medellín. My experience was unforgettable because of the amazing people I had the pleasure of meeting. I was able to meet some of the scholars: Jose, Davian, Jason (Alex), Valentina, Luisa, and Andrea. They were each very pleasant and so interesting to interact with. The saddest part about the trip was having to leave the kids behind at the organization. Even right now, some of them are messaging me! The acceptance and positive reception that my group and I received from the scholars and the kids made this experience so amazing. This was my first time outside the country and I was never nervous or scared to be another country because I knew CBOB had our backs!
We taught workshops on teen pregnancy, values, and social media. Each workshop was my favorite because we were able to interact with the students and teach them valuable lessons. To see how excited they would become over the activities we planned was pretty heartwarming. It made me feel great, especially when they would come up after the workshops and ask us additional questions.
I encourage anyone with even the slightest interest in a trip to apply! The Medellin trip was so unforgettable that I already reapplied for another trip, and if that trip is even a fraction of the amount of fun I had, I will seek to go on at least one trip per year until I graduate :).
To see more of the Medellin trip, visit our instagram @iamcbob.
Check out a slideshow of pictures from her trip below!
By Jennifer Nicholas
For fifteen years, Children Beyond Our Borders, Inc. has worked to bring hope and change to the lives of internally displaced children in Latin America. CBOB believes that every child deserves a proper education, regardless of social status, race, or gender. This is why CBOB created the IAMCBOB Scholarship Program. IAMCBOB provides an all-expenses-paid college education to motivated students who have a strong desire to acquire a higher level of education after graduating high school. The program empowers young leaders to be equipped for success and gives them the opportunity to have a proper college education. IAMCBOB students put forth their best effort in their school work, while also giving back to their communities by participating in civic engagement activities. IAMCBOB students act as both role models and service leaders to their communities.
On Wednesday, March 14th, Children Beyond Our Borders’ second IAMCBOB Scholar, Jose Martinez, will be graduating from college! Jose is one of CBOB’s internally displaced children who has been with the organization for over eight years. His CBOB family is so proud of all that he has already accomplished, and we are so excited to see what else his future has in store for him.
We interviewed Jose to find out about his time at college and what his plans are.
Q: “What area of study did you choose?”
Jose: “My specialty, or the area I’m most interested in, is electrical energy transport. Electrical energy transport caught my attention because, through this, I can make an impact on thousands of people in a positive way, generally those who cannot enjoy an electrical system with dignity and confidence.”
Q: “What was your favorite part about college?”
Jose: “My favorite part of university is the ability to discover new thoughts and ideas. I like being able to debate with my classmates and friends. On the other hand, I really liked the social networking and the amount of people I was able to meet throughout my years at university. One of my favorite memories is the satisfaction I feel finishing this semester. My days and nights of hard work were worth it. On the other hand, I remember the good times I shared with my friends and classmates, they were happy moments and have left me with many life lessons.”
Q: "What was the most important lesson you learned during your years in university?"
Jose: “The most important lesson I have learned (in university) was how to tolerate different opinions and respect ideas that I do not agree with. Overall, I learned to value every person and recognize that we are all part of a society and are all equally important.”
Q: "What are your plans for after graduation?"
Jose: “After graduation, I want to start developing a productive project, while at the same time I plan to learn English and learn different alternatives to study abroad in the near future. I would like to see new cultures and different ways of thinking.”
Children Beyond Our Borders is anxiously awaiting Jose’s graduation. He is an inspiration to all of us here at CBOB and we are so happy for him! Jose has a bright future ahead of him and we are so grateful for the opportunity to see him grow into the admirable young man he is today. Please consider making a one-time donation to www.chbob.org/iamcbob-scholarship, and we will give 100% of the proceeds towards Jose’s graduation present. For more information about our IAMCBOB Scholarship Program, visit www.chbob.org/iamcbob-scholarship.