Palmer Trinity junior Mikela Garcia is still affected by what she saw on the seven-day mission trip to Nicaragua with fellow students.
“We collected several duffle bags of clothing and flew to Managua, Nicaragua,” Garcia says. “While we were there, we built a small home for a family in a very rundown area. This experience was life changing.”
Garcia says that because she is originally from Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, she knows that poverty exists in the world, but she says that she had never been confronted with the problem like she was on the Nicaragua trip.
“Building that house and seeing those people only motivated me to do more to make a difference,” Garcia says.
Because she is from Haiti, Garcia volunteers for a lot of community service projects for the island nation. She started when she was in the sixth grade shortly after Haiti was devastated by a hurricane. That crisis prompted her to organize a drive to collect bottled water, canned goods and clothing for the people of the Caribbean nation. When she was in eighth grade, Garcia’s family started the Help Heal Haiti organization.
“My mom is from Haiti,” Garcia says.
“She’s one of seven children, and four of her siblings live there. I visit the country a lot.”
While family members that live in Haiti were not injured by the devastating earthquake, so many other people were. To help fund relief efforts, Garcia sold bracelets and tee shirts.
“I sold two different kinds of bracelets,” she says. “One was a blue-and red rubber bracelet and they had a slogan that read Help Heal Haiti. The other bracelet was beaded and crocheted.”
Garcia’s aunt was selling the beaded bracelets for profit, but when Garcia told her about the charity, she shared the information about how to get them.
“We raised about $3,000,” Garcia says. “My cousins and I did it. I raised the money with their help,” she says. “They used to go to Westminster; two moved to Palmetto.”
Last year they gave the money to different non-profit organizations in Haiti.
“We donated $1,600 to a school in the poorest part of Haiti,” she says. “And there is a Project Medishare, which is a project dedicated opening hospitals.”
When she was in the ninth grade, Garcia hosted a Christmas toy drive for a foundation. The kids had breakfast with Santa and then they were given gifts. The breakfast was for Haitian children in Palm Beach County.
“Each semester, I try to organize a project,” Garcia says, adding that she has been the community service representative for her class for the Student Government Association.
“I held a clothing drive and then over spring break I went to Haiti,” she says. “We sorted the clothes and we donated clothes to the families in need in Carries, a town about 45 minutes outside of Port Au Prince.”
At the end of 2012, Garcia collected old French textbooks so they could be donated to a school in Haiti. Palmer Trinity invested in new textbooks, so the old ones could be discarded.
Through Palmer, Garcia volunteers for Project Feel Good at St. Albans School in Coconut Grove.
“We go there and we do crafts with the kids, play with them and help the teachers on the days we don’t have school,” she says.
Garcia plays soccer and volleyball for Palmer. She has only played volleyball for a couple of years, but she says she expects the volleyball team to improve over last year. Garcia is a star on the soccer team, which made it to the state finals last year before losing. She was named to the third team All- Dade squad.
By Linda Rodriguez Bernfeld