Monday, March 25, 2013

Turning adversity into advocacy

Experiencing homelessness was anything but expected for Mariame Rodriguez and her family. Having recently relocated to Miami-Dade County from Connecticut to care for her mother, the toils of unforeseen circumstances left her with limited hope as she struggled to find a home in early 2006. Rodriguez, a mother of two children with serious health problems, a nurse and a caretaker, made a fearless phone call to the homeless hot-line holding onto the belief that “when one door closes another one opens.” 
Rodriguez lived in a homeless shelter with her family for six months then moved to transitional housing for a year and four months. This made a lasting impact on everyone in her family. “My kids suffered,” Rodriguez says. “They went through a lot and didn’t have trust or confidence. It created insecurity that, to this day, I’m still trying to break out of them.”
With every effort to instill positivity in her family’s life, Rodriguez searched for various community resources that could assist them during their time of transition. She and her eldest daughter attended a college fair presented by New Futuro where she received information on college access. At the fair she also made a connection to a program that reminded her of home: Catalyst Miami's Parent Leadership Training Institute (PLTI). She was initially attracted to PLTI because it originated in her hometown. “It originally came from Connecticut, so it sparked an interest and curiosity.” She then learned about the leadership, community service and advocacy components of the program, which appealed to her even more. She and her family decided to join.

Until she found Catalyst Miami, Rodriguez was uncertain as to how to move forward. Today, the future is bright for this social change maker. “The PLTI program has opened my mind to the possibilities that are out there,” she explained. “There are a lot of families that go through a lot. Now, with the knowledge I’ve gotten from PLTI, I can do more and I can help more.” 
“Homelessness is a big problem and the solution is really difficult to find, but we need to continue the work to end it. A leadership class can give parents the knowledge to protect themselves and their children and their communities. It can give a voice and the opportunity to become great advocates. It only takes one person to make a change, working with Catalyst has helped me grow as a person."

Today Rodriguez shares information on housing, social services, and other community resources that can aid children and families. She believes her wonderful family makes her the richest person in the world. Mariame Rodriguez has knowledge and heart, and the community is better because of her.
If you have an interesting story about your connection to Catalyst Miami, please contact Sarafina Robinson at

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