This past March, my modeling agency competed in the annual Model Beach Volleyball tournament on South Beach. Though I decided to opt out of actually playing, (any sport involving balls and I don't mix well, trust.) I made myself useful and cheered on our team through every round. I like to believe I helped contribute to winning the tournament.
As a prize, the winning team won a paid-for trip to Haiti through The Jack Brewer Foundation (JBF Worldwide). The trip was organized through the JBF's Global Ambassadors Program which is designed to connect influential individuals to philanthropic organizations. Jack himself is a five-year NFL veteran who established this foundation to empower women and children living in impoverished and underdeveloped communities by enabling food security; promoting access to education and cultural exchanges; assisting in medical aid and disaster relief; and building peace.
I had been wanting to go on a mission trip for years but never took the initiative and it seemed like this incredible opportunity just fell in my lap.
Before leaving for the trip, there were many concerns from my family about the dangers that are associated with visiting a 3rd world country. Granted, yes there were very realistic threats, but I knew I was going with a well-established foundation that had been doing this work for years. I knew I was in good hands.
A group of about 100 ambassadors landed in Port Au Prince, Haiti, the countries capital. Individuals from all different professions- from models to yoga instructors, to musicians, to retired NFL players; all came together.
st. lukes hospital & sports center
We spent the first few days in Port Au Prince. On our first day we visited the JBF Worldwide sponsored nationwide cervical cancer program at St Luke's Hospital. As a woman, this visit especially made an impact on me. Learning that it is one of the only, if not the only, hospitals that provides treatment and screenings for cervical and breast cancer blew my mind. This program aims to save an estimated 3,000 lives a year.
Later that day, we visited the Olympic training Sports center to hang with some of the local youth athletes and donate 500 pounds of baseball equipment to Haiti's first national baseball league. Everyone was so kind and grateful towards us.
Hope Centre Orphanage
Our visit to the Hope Centre Orphanage in Delmas was a highlight for every body on this trip. We were able to donate water, dozens of boxes full of Nike and Puma gear, and 10 computers to the orphans of the Hope Center as part of Karen Civil's initiative to give them education and technology access.
During this visit, the foundation was able to launch YesJulz Little Rascals Music Initiative, which will bring music resources and training opportunities to underserved youth. Julz was especially proud and overjoyed as she herself is in the music industry and was able to give these children the gift of music.
visit to city soleil
Probably the most anticipated and planned out part of the trip was our visit to City Soleil, considered widely to be the poorest neighborhood in the Western Hemisphere. As you can imagine, this was hard to digest. Though most of the children were over-joyed and affectionate towards us, I couldn't help but feel completely heart broken for the extremely poor conditions they were living in. Their strength and love towards others despite their hardships was so inspiring to me, and I can only hope that we gave as much to them as they did to us.
Some captures by me on my Sony A6300 of City Soleil below.
tree planting project
Together, we planted 150 Moringa Trees! The oil from these trees are harvested to serve as a natural remedy for malnutrition in Haiti. Because it has so many amazing benefits, it is also known as a miracle tree! This project also aimed to address Haiti's deforestation crises.
On the last day of the trip, we had a boat day to celebrate the work of the Jack Brewer Foundation. Looking back on this trip, it was truly one of the most rewarding experiences and I'm so thankful that I was able to be apart of it along with 100+ incredible individuals. I have to thank Jack himself and the diligent team behind JBF Worldwide for putting together such a seamless and goal-driven trip. Looking forward to next year. For more information about The Jack Brewer Foundation or to make a donation click here.
Being a New York born-South Florida raised child consisted of trips back and fourth visiting family periodically. Every trip included the "look how big you got!" from the great aunts and "what are you up to nowadays" from the older cousins. This trip was no different, but with the additional excitement of finally introducing my boyfriend of 5 years to my family and sharing the news that I'm moving into my own place next month! (own as in my name on the lease...eep!)
Our first stop in the city was a NYC tradition for me, Artichoke Pizza. My mom and I have been going here for years and crave it after each time. Now known for going viral on Facebook, this joint on the corner truly lives up to its fame. You don't even have to like Artichoke to like this pizza, promise! Down the street from Artichoke was the 14th St. entrance to The High Line (pictured above). We took a nice stroll on the once abandoned rail road track that is now consumed by lush greenery and modern design.
That evening we were able to catch Alvin Ailey's season opening show and it was absolutely stunning. Being a dancer myself, I find such an immense amount of joy from watching others dance and perform. I know how amazing it feels and I can't help but feel so happy for those dancers who are living their dream! So fluid, so creative, so graceful...I left feeling incredible inspired. Isn't that the goal of art? To inspire? Job well done.
@oliviapw x @simoneyshot
I knew going to New York that I wanted to meet up with a photographer and try to get some lifestyle/street shots. After posting on my Instagram about the trip, Simone reached out to me and we made it happen! We met at Union Square and I told her we were planning on grabbing lunch at Chelsea Market. So we started walking and I'm thinking to myself "wait, but where are we going to shoot?" so I ask Simone and she says "on the way!". So that's just what we did. We crossed some roads, passed some street steam, and checked out some plants...Before you knew it we arrived at our lunch spot and went our separate ways. I love how things work out sometimes.
Photos by Simone Hamilton
NYC is known for having some of the best sushi restaurants in the country so of course we had to indulge. Another old time favorite and every NY trip MUST is making reservations at Sushi Azabu. My mom took me to Sushi Azabu years ago and it has ruined every other sushi place for me forever. Now known for being a Michelin Star Restaurant, Azabu is in the basement of another restaurant and has an almost hidden entrance. We kept our spending to a minimum (keeping in mind we were moving in a month $$) but boy we could have easily spent $500 just on some damn raw fish. It's THAT good.
(p.s. PRO TIP- even if it's not on the menu, ask for the Umeshiso roll and they will make it for you. It's Pickled plum and Shiso Leaf. Unlike anything you've ever tasted and you'll never want the taste to end. TRUST.)
Each piece of sushi is handmade with fresh (and still warm) sushi rice, a small dot of Wasabi under the fish, and Soy Sauce brushed lightly on top. The fish simply melts in your mouth like butter.
Central Park was on our top priority list for the trip, but we never even considered biking it until we saw the bike rental right outside of the park. Let's just say...we were GAME.
I would have to say that this bike ride was the highlight of the trip for me. We got so lucky with a GORGEOUS day, and when I say gorgeous I mean just perfect. Just hot enough, with a cool breeze, birds chirping...you know, the whole nine yards. I really used this time to be present and enjoy the incredible nature that surrounded me.
All in all, this was such an enjoyable trip for me, especially being able to share it with my best friend and boyfriend. Definitely planning a trip back sooner rather than later.
If you have any recommendations, or questions about my trip comment below!