Let the Journey Begin, Because I'm Dreaming Again

The following is a guest blog written by Eveline Joachim, a youth formerly in foster care and graduate of Public Allies Central Florida

I always knew I had a heart for helping others. Over the years, I’ve noticed my passion in service leadership and project development growing. Having a non-profit of my own that would impact youth in foster care has always been my dream, yet I have navigated down many paths trying to find my niche. It took awhile, but I finally realized that my calling and purpose cannot be found in any title or job description. It has been quite hard to find my ideal career position, so I finally decided to just create it.

The name Pathway to Hope was born from the mission and service work I had been conducting in the city of La Gonave, Haiti. First spurred by my father, I began working with the La Gonave community after the devastating earthquakes that left the country in desperate need several years ago. La Gonave is currently ranked the third poorest place in the world. The typical income for a family is less than $450 annually, and 95% of the residents are unemployed. I first began helping in 2012 to collect toys and items to help build children’s spirits around the holiday season. Since that first year, our efforts have grown and become so much more.

In a manner of months, Pathway to Hope became a grass roots community initiative. Within three months of beginning our fundraising efforts, we had gained the support of eleven organizations, four schools, and three churches. Donations and financial support began to pour in so quickly that within weeks we had outgrown our 5×5 storage unit and had to rent a larger 10×10 unit to store all the donated items.

While I had originally planned to just take toys, as I had every year, the overwhelming support and interest inspired me to transform this year’s trip into a four-day service-learning immersion experience for those interested in learning more about Haitian culture. In December 2016, I led a group of ten on an educational adventure complete with visits to hospitals, orphanages, and a Christmas party for the children we had collected items for. You can learn more about our trip by reading our Pathway to Hope Newsletter!

My fear of failure has always kept me in the back of the line when it comes to taking on new responsibilities and challenges. My mindset has always been “with responsibilities comes expectations, and with challenges comes demands I am not feel qualified to meet”. Because I am an introvert, many have defined and judged my character as shy, timid, submissive, and lacking the abilities to lead. Because of this, I would always shy away from accepting tasks that I deemed to be too challenging for me to manage. Thanks to the encouragement of people like my mentor Nilmarie Zapata, I discovered my own strength and resiliency and embraced my potential as a leader. She provoked me to face challenges head on and to take ownership of my passion. I finally started believing in my God-given calling and purpose. My motivation was awoken by one of my favorite quotes by Les Brown: “You don’t have to be great to get started but you have to get started to be great.”

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My next trip will include youth in foster care, exposing them to social issues while identifying and addressing systematic oppression. I hope their time in La Gonave will empower them to be future leaders within our society. By revealing to them the hardships of others around the world, I hope to broaden their horizon and inspire them to recognize and take advantage of opportunities before them. Let the journey begin, because I’m dreaming again!

“Lasting social change results when citizens of all backgrounds step up, take responsibility, and work together.” ~ Vanessa Kirsch