By: Tiffany Cerda, Marika Jackson, and Rose Mary Wilson.
As we stood in the store grabbing items from the shelves, a huge smile and feeling of joy and accomplishment came over all of us. We reminisced on times passed and talked about which ones we liked the most. The shopping cart started to look like a funhouse with the items pilling on top of each other. The walk towards the check-out line was a walk of pride and honor. You see, the items that were in the cart were not for us at all. Our cart was filled with toys. Yes, toys! How could we feel so much fulfillment from just shopping for toys, especially for someone else? Well, those toys were purchased with a mission in mind. The toys’ purpose was to bring a sentiment of happiness, a smile, and love to some special children. We had the opportunity to have a small impact in a child’s life for a short period of time during a life changing experience.
The Yucatan Crippled Children’s Project was established in 1996 by Dr. Charles C. Southerland, DPM. He began this mission to bring free medical and surgical care to the underserved children in Mérida, Mexico with congenital foot deformities and financial need. These children suffer from a variety of foot pathologies like club foot, limb length discrepancies, and many others. Quarterly, Dr. Southerland and his team members travel to Mexico to serve the children and their families. The American Association of Women Podiatrist club (AAWP) at Barry University, decided that we could help supplement the medical and surgical care given to these children by supplying the children with toys. At this point in our careers we were unable to help with the surgery, but we were able to bring an additional element of joy to the children with a small toy. A toy, though conceived by many as being only a small part of the medical mission project, to the underserved every little thing counts.
We began hosting a Yucatan Crippled Children’s Project Toy Drive in 2018, understanding that many students do not have the extra funds or time to go out and buy toys for these children. This school year, our organization decided to host a fundraiser to further help the cause. However, in order for our Toy Drive to be successful, we had to come out of our comfort zones and ask everyone to help. We utilized social media websites, sent out mass emails, and posted flyers to help us be able to purchase over a hundred toys to send with the mission team, this past February. Some members of the club (Tiffany Cerda, Marika Jackson, Berlinda Pickens, Nicole Smith and Rose Mary Wilson) decorated boxes that were placed around designated locations on campus with flyers to invite people to donate new unwrapped small toys, from mid December 2019 through January 2020. To extend the opportunity for more people to be involved, in January, we decided to do an electronic donation where students could donate funds with a note to purchase toys on their behalf. Jana Hutchinson and Marika Jackson went around to the locations and collected the toys donated in the decorated boxes.
After fundraising concluded and all the new unwrapped toys were collected, in January, we organized the items into dolls, teddy bears, and toy cars and much more. We went shopping for the remaining toys in order to have an even number of toys in each category and to also meet the club’s goal of one hundred toys. Tiffany, Marika, and Rose Mary were designated to shop for these additional toys. After all the shopping was done and the toys organized, the three of us went to Jackson North Hospital to present the toys to Dr. Southerland and Ms. Ianka Rodriguez, the Yucatan Crippled Children’s Project Directors. They were very pleased and thankful for all the donated toys that helped them bring joy and show love and affection towards the children they treat in Mexico.
Though as students, we are unable to directly perform these limb saving procedures, our small act of kindness helped provide much needed hope for these children.
Our vision for supplying toys to the underserved children of the Yucatan was brought to life with the tremendous efforts of Ms. Ianka Rodriquez, the project coordinator of the Yucatan Crippled Children’s Project for the past five years. The former president of Barry AAWP chapter, Chelsea Ofili started the Yucatan Crippled Children’s Project Toy Drive last year, and we graciously continued the tradition. Ms. Rodriquez was key in helping us get the toys from Florida all the way to the children in Mexico. She coordinated the toy distribution to all children after their surgery was completed. We asked Ms. Rodriquez, “How do you believe the toys made the children feel?” to which she replied: “These children are in underserved areas, when they see our team, they feel hope!” Though as students, we are unable to directly perform these limb saving procedures, our small act of kindness helped provide much needed hope for these children. We accomplished our goal of bringing love, care, and a smile to each child.
As podiatric medical students, we believe that by being involved in community service, one can not only give back to the community but also build one’s own character by discovering who you are as a person.
A large portion of being a part of the healthcare field involves having a certain level of compassion for others. As podiatric medical students, we believe that by being involved in community service, one can not only give back to the community but also build one’s own character by discovering who you are as a person. Additionally, AAWP offers community service events for podiatric medical students, where they can apply what they learn in class and build their clinical skills while serving the underserved in the local community. For instance, recently, AAWP participated in a Special Olympics Fit-Feet event, where students had the opportunity to interact with Special Olympics athletes and care for them alongside applying skills such as performing biomechanical evaluations on athletes, outside of a classroom setting. Each year, AAWP also hosts a Good Friday event where callus shavings, nail debridement, and foot screenings are provided for the local homeless population at various locations in South Florida such as Hollywood and Miami. With the addition of the Yucatan Crippled Children’s Project Toy Drive, AAWP has expanded its reach to surpass the local community to begin serving communities on a more global scale.
Though our acts may have been small, in the grand scheme of things, we were able to contribute towards putting a smile on each child’s face. It is important for all students out there to know that any act of kindness, no matter how big or small can make a significant impact in the community. Just remember, even little things can make a big difference.
Day of Toy Delivery
By: Tiffany Cerda, Marika Jackson, and Rose Mary Wilson.
Student Organization: AAWP
School: Barry University School of Podiatric Medicine
Little Things Can Make A Big Difference
1st Place – Writing Competition 2020
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