Keeping up with the Kazmi’s

kazmi sisters

It’s a play on words but this is all about the Kazmi sisters and how they are helping their community with the national “Project Downtown” movement. This movement began with a few students wanting to make a difference in the community. What once started with a small group passing out food to the homeless in downtown Miami has expanded to a joint undertaking with MSA National. Now there is a Miami chapter created and I have the pleasure to interview two of their directors:

Tell me about yourselves:

 Hi, I’m Rabiya! I am a recent graduate from Florida International University, an aspiring physician, avid humanitarian, shop-o-holic, oh and I also work in the emergency room at Baptist Hospital. I am the Assistant Director of Project Downtown Miami, a college-student run organization that offers food, amenities, and most importantly-company to the homeless population in Downtown Miami. I believe that everyone has the capability to make a difference, what some may consider a small action may significantly impact another.  I’ve always lived by the motto that I’m going to change the world, and one day I hope to achieve this goal.

Hi, I’m Zehra! I recently graduated from Florida International University and am currently working on getting my Doctorate in Physical Therapy. When I’m not stressing out about my next test, I enjoy photographing and napping. I got into photography my sophomore year in high school and was so fascinated every time I stepped into a dark room. Due to the craziness of grad school I barely have time to photograph but do it every now and then for family and friends.

Have you encountered any barriers? How did you overcome them?

We’ve encountered a few problems within our time with Project Downtown Miami. One of the major ones was being forced to relocate. We had been serving under the metro rail at downtown Miami for almost 10 years. Due to construction and other restrictions government officials forced us to move. We searched around for many areas but didn’t have any luck. We also had the problem of communicating with the homeless about where our new location would be. After talking to several people around the area we were able to find a new serving spot a few blocks down from our original spot. We had people stationed from our old spot to the new spot and were directing the homeless people. Its been about 4 months since we’ve now been in our new location and we’ve been trying to make the best of it.

Why did you choose to specifically help the homeless?

I believe that there comes a point in everyone’s life that they need a helping hand. This is small act every week really impacts the people we encounter.  Having volunteered with the organization for almost 4 years now, we’ve gotten to know the people we help out and their individual stories. A lot of homeless people are often treated as second class citizens because of preconceived notions and negative stigmas, at Project Downtown we treat people as people. Pot of vegetables

What woman has inspired you?

Ellen Degenerous, she’s always helping out and giving back to the community. Oh and let’s not forget her awesome dance moves!

What goals do you have for this project?

Our main goal is to provide comfort to these individuals. Yes, a meal once a week means one less meal they have to worry about but our main priority is to build relationships with these people. Homelessness often causes people to be alone. Many of them don’t communicate or socialize with their family and friends. After providing a warm meal for them every Friday afternoon, we stay around with the volunteers and talk to them.  Sometimes all these people need is company, someone to hear them out. And we are happy to be able to do that.

What advice would you give to other girls?

Never let anyone tell you that you are not capable of something just because you’re a girl. I have come across several people who have told me that I am not capable of something or should reconsider what I’m ding because it isn’t “lady-like”. I say use this as motivation, if you really want something you should not let anyone stop you from pursuing it.

How can others help with this project?

Anyone is welcome to come and volunteer at Project Downtown Miami, we go and serve every Friday at 6PM in downtown Miami. We have a facebook like page called Project Downtown Miami, where we post weekly updates and news on how to get involved, also you can contact me-Rabiya at!

project downtown

Spreading kindness is contagious and hopefully you get inspired to volunteer and make a difference in your own neighborhood. Spending time to help others is like a natural cleansing for the soul. Go ahead, smile and make a positive change in the world. Tweet & Share

Volunteering with the Peace Corps

lorenas host family
“I love my family host, they were the greatest of the greatest”

Life is full of challenges but one of the most rewarding parts of it are the experiences and knowledge you gain from them that make you a stronger person. My good friend Lorena joined the Peace Corp in 2013 and her journey throughout her 2 year commitment has been full of tests that sometimes made her wonder if she was truly making a difference in her community. But one thing is for sure, these were the two best years of her life and she wouldn’t hesitate to do it all over again.

Lorena moved to Miami, FL at the age of 12 and she earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Florida International University and a masters degree from NOVA southeastern University. Her passion is to travel and learn about new cultures all over the world. She backpacked all over Europe twice and learned to speak German as well. She joined the peace corps in 2013 and worked in the community economic development section in Peru.

As a peace corp. volunteer Lorena helped artisan groups, agriculture associations, and other small businesses owners improve their income through better practices. She worked closely with local, regional, and national leaders to ensure that her work in Peru is sustainable. Part of working in the peace corp. included living with a host family and adapting to the new life style of her new community. Lorena lived with her host family where approximately 15 family members share 1 bathroom and the closest city was about an hour away. While pursuing her goals as a peace corp. volunteer she was faced with daily challenges that sometimes made her think if she was really making a difference. There was no plumbing or gas so most homes had stoves that looked like an internal bon fire which can cause unwanted lung and health issues. They would wash clothes in the canals and most floors, indoors and outdoors, were made of dirt. While Lorena chose this journey in the economic development section to help students, artisans, and her local businesses have a voice, she also collaborated with other students in her communities. We take things for granted such as paying bills online and having the trash picked up on a regular basis but these are just a few things that don’t exist in rural towns where Lorena stayed. It was eye opening and a struggle to see that while 1st world countries are building skyscrapers, the 3rd world countries are suffering from malnutrition and diseases. It was hard to see if making a positive change would even be noticed or embraced with such large social gaps.

lorenas children

But it was love that helped her get thru these tough times. The love of her host family and the love she has for making a difference for their future generation.  She cared so much for her host family as they were indeed her only family while she was in Peru and just like a family would do – they looked after her and she, in turn, looked after them as well. This bond only strengthened her desire to work with other local peace corp volunteers to bring new cooking methods to peoples households,  create a local banking system, and help her family live a healthier lifestyle. In the end, Lorena touched the lives of many business students, collaborated with local and regional municipalities, and made friendships that will last a lifetime.

These peace corp. volunteers help save their communities with their passion, love and heart. It just takes one person to make a difference so that others can get motivated and get engaged which is what I think Lorena has achieved. Coming back home to the United States has inspired so many of her closest friends, neighbors, and acquaintances to get out there and change the world.

lorenas family birthday

Lorena has faced many challenges but she came out of this journey a new person with amazing experiences that she will never forget. Living two years in a rural community with little to no connection to the outside world is very hard but pushing thru these challenges makes you accomplish goals you would have never thought of. I invite you to go out and start volunteering. It doesn’t have to be in the Peace corp but helping others will help you establish new strong relationships and help make your community a better place!

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Mother and Daughter Health Journey

mother and daughter

“…I take life one day at a time and always push through no matter what it is I face.” – Mary-Ann

This mother and daughter duo have gone thru some very difficult times but with a lot of love and a lot of support from their family and friends they were able to overcome this long journey.

“Everything was going well, I was 20 years old and I had just been accepted into Pharmacy School. About a week later the news came – my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. I remember being so afraid when I first heard it. From then on we started taking care of her as much as possible and preparing for her mastectomy.

During that time I went to see my doctor for my regular checkup and that is when the nurse practitioner felt a lump on my throat. She gave me an order for a sonogram and that is when the results showed there was a mass on my thyroid. I was sent to get a biopsy, and I went to my doctor to review the results the day before my mom mastectomy was scheduled. The doctor then told me I had thyroid cancer and that I needed to remove my thyroid as soon as possible. I would also need radioactive iodine treatment, intended to kill any of the remaining thyroid cells.

Moving now to my mom, the doctors were able to able to remove all of the cancer cells from my mom and was able to go home after two days in the hospital. They sent her oral medications to reduce the chance of the cancer coming back but thankfully she wouldn’t need any radiation or chemotherapy. Once she recovered a bit more we gave her the news of my thyroid cancer.

We immediately started looking for a surgeon who specialized in thyroid cancer and found on that many had recommended. Exactly two weeks after my mom recovered I went into surgery. The surgery went well as they were able to remove everything that had to be eliminated including some lymph nodes around it that it spread to. I spent about three days in the hospital before I went home.

About a month and a half later I went back for my radiation treatment, under which had to stay isolated in a hospital room for 24 hours. Once that was over I had a pet scan done which showed that my body was finally clear of any cancerous cells. I was given a pill to take very morning to substitute the function of my thyroid gland.

About a month later, I started pharmacy school. The first semester was really tough, especially since it was so different from what I had been used to in school before and I was still felling strong symptoms from my treatments. But I got through it. I just finished my second year of pharmacy school and both my mom and I have been in remission for two years. There are still days when I don’t feel very well, but I take life one day at a time and always push through no matter what it is I face.”

I personally know Marry-Ann and am so happy for her and her mother. I admire how strong they were during the whole process from the initial consultations to the final procedures. Just learning you or a loved one has been diagnosed with something is scary but it is important to think positively. I know that she will strive in Pharmacy school and will demolish her goals!

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Thank you all for visiting my page. Today, the millennial women are taking charge of making a difference in the world. This blog is dedicated to them and how we can continue to live healthy and confidently. I am always inspired to learn about all the amazing women, especially those facing difficult challenges. It is the story and perseverance they share that I hope will inspire you all. I have a great group of friends whom I love to blab about all the time. Philanthropy is also a big part of my life which is why I am also sharing the PinkBetty movement.

By combining modern knowledge with our passions, we can learn to grow positively and reestablish a balance that will help us lead a healthy and confident lifestyle. Whether you are just cruising by or need to uplift yourself, thank you for reading!