Giving Back This Holiday Season

Hi Guys! Happy Sunday!

I hope everyone had a GREAT and long Thanksgiving weekend, whether you spent it with family, friends, significant others, etc.

As we all know, Thanksgiving is a time for us to all be thankful/grateful for everything we have in our lives at the moment. It’s a time to really step back and realize how many blessings we truly have compared to those that may not be as fortunate.

That being said, in today’s post I’m going to be speaking about an event that Diego and I put together this past Wednesday in order to be able to give back a little during this holiday season to those that are less fortunate.

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The Process to Gather Supplies & Put Everything Together:

This event was something that Diego and I had spoken about doing together for a few years now since we had gotten together. We always knew we wanted to be able to help out the homeless around New York, but it was just a matter of actually planning it out and right timing. Last year we got pretty close to doing something, but for one reason or another, it never ended up happening.

So, this year, we knew for a fact that we wanted/needed to make it happen. Just amongst ourselves, we had played around with the idea for a few weeks leading up to November, but it wasn’t until November 1st that we actually made it known to people through our social media accounts what we were actually trying to do (which was to create care kits for those that were homeless and then pass them out around the streets of New York). We asked our friends/followers to contribute and/or donate any supplies and money that they could, while also (if they could) donate their time to help us put everything together and come out with us to distribute everything.

Time went by super fast which was a bit nerve-racking because we weren’t sure if we were actually going to have everything in time to make our event happen, but thankfully, everything happened the way that it was supposed to, and before we knew it, it was Tuesday, November 20th and the day that we were putting all of our little care kits together.

Each care kit came with: 1 sandwich, 1 water bottle, 2 snack bars, 1 pair of socks, 1 hat, 1 pack of tissue, 1 small bottle of hand sanitizer, a sweater or jacket and a cup of hot coffee if they wanted it.

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We didn’t actually have a set number of care kits that we were going to make, we just knew we wanted to make as many as we possibly could with the amount of supplies that we had.

After putting everything together, we ended up seeing that we were able to make a total of 47 care kits for people.

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Wednesday, November 21st: The Day We Passed Out The Care Kits:

Diego and I knew that we wanted to be able to go out and distribute everything that we had the day before Thanksgiving in hopes that it would be/feel slightly more significant and memorable to these people (not to say it wouldn’t have been significant regardless, but nonetheless). Unfortunately for us though, we realized a little too late that we were going out for this on one of the COLDEST nights of this Fall/Winter season thus far.

There was about 8 of us that night going to pass out all of the care kits and although it was freezing outside, and we had ended up starting slightly later then what we originally intended, we continued to try to stay optimistic….

Like any major event that you end up putting together in your life (especially when it’s a first-timer), there was a lot of nerves and excitement building up around the entire thing.  Excitement, because we knew we were doing a good thing (or trying to) for these people that we didn’t know, but knew needed it. And nerves, because none of us had ever done anything like it before, so we didn’t necessarily know how to go about doing it.

There were also a ton of other things going through our minds about it like how to go about approaching these people and how to truly even decipher if they were homeless or not (without trying to accidentally offend anyone), etc. But, before we knew it we were in the city and it was officially time to pass out the care kits.

We went all over the major parts of the city like Penn Station, Madison Square Garden, passed Times Square and Bryant Park, Grand Central and even up to 51st street (which actually ended up being our last stop), which I am proud to announce that we gave out every single one of our care kits to people that we saw that night!! 😀 (scroll down to see pictures from throughout the night).

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Our General Experience From The Event:

Thankfully, I think I can speak for everyone when I say that although we were all super nervous in the beginning, we were all pleasantly surprised by the end of the night at how smoothly the entire thing went, and also at how unbelievably grateful everybody we encountered was.

I don’t exactly know what I expected, but I definitely don’t think it was to get as positive a reaction as we did from pretty much everyone we gave a care kit to that night. I’m not really sure why, but I just didn’t. The reactions from most people were stunning, in the best way possible. Although there were SO many different ones, 2 examples in particular stood out to me the most…

The first woman we saw and gave a care kit to, Charmigne, was probably the sweetest woman I had ever met, especially for someone in her situation. I went up to her with Diego’s nephew Aden, simply asking if it was okay with her that we gave her one of our care kits. She answered, “of course,”  which then followed by her asking us our names. We introduced ourselves, she introduced herself, and then she continued by commending us on the work we were doing. She said it was amazing to see us, such young people, walking around attempting to help people like them, especially since it was more than she had seen people of higher power (our government) do for people like them (her words).

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She then proceeded to ask Aden if he prayed, he said yes. She asked him if he would mind saying a prayer with her, which he got a little nervous and said that he didn’t pray out loud around other people. But she saw the rest of our group standing at a distance behind us, and asked him if he would feel more comfortable doing it if everyone from our group did it with us, to which he said yes. So, I called them all over, we all held hands, said a few things we were grateful for, said a few of our hopes for her and the people that we were going to encounter that night, and before we knew it, we were on our way. But not before she was nice enough to let us know certain areas in particular to head to, to be sure we saw others in her situation to be able to give our care kits to.

The second example was actually one of the last experiences we had of the night, and it was these 2 guys Eric and Shan who were just as grateful as Charmigne was, but they also just kept questioning why we were out there, in the freezing cold doing what we were. We responded by saying that we wanted to do what we could to give back a little this holiday season, and they were just in awe. They couldn’t believe we had actually willingly wanted to be out there, and expressed to us that it was people/kids like us who were actually slowly but surely saving the world…

Who would’ve thought? Our small gesture of wanting to put together these little care kits for people, would really be enough to have them completely look at the world differently, at least for a little while. I don’t know about anyone else that was involved, but for me, those 2 examples alone were enough to make the entire 5 hours that we were walking around, 100% worth it. Obviously there were a ton of others, but these were the ones that stood out the most for me.

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Overall, we were all so unbelievably happy at the positive responses we had continuously received throughout the night, not only from the people that we had given the actual care kits too, but also from our families and friends that had known about us doing this.

And I think I can speak for everyone when I say that it was definitely a humbling, eye-opening experience for us all, because although sometimes we may say we are thankful for everything in our life, we do also sometimes tend to take for granted the “little” things like having food, shelter and clothes. Things that we sometimes don’t even think twice about, because we never really had to. An experience like this definitely puts all of that into perspective.

Personally, I wish that we could’ve done more, but you know what? Looking back at it, considering we managed to be able to give out every single care kit we had, I don’t think we did bad at all. Plus, this was our first time ever putting something together like this so it was definitely a learning experience, and there’s always next time to be able to try doing something more, bigger and/or better.

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I really want to just take a second to thank every single person that was involved in helping put all of this together….whether you had donated money, or actual materials/food, or even just donated your time to be able to come out with us and pass everything out….thank you SO much; because without you guys, we wouldn’t have been able to make it happen. Irene, Jailene, Victoria, Tabatha, Chris, Mom, Tyler, Genaro, Pablo, Leslie, Alfred, Miyenia…thank you to all of you. You guys really did not have to help us in the individual ways that you did, but we are both so unbelievably grateful that you did. Thank you for helping us put our first little event like this together and making it as much a success as it was, and hopefully next year, or sometime soon we can put together an even bigger and better event.

I really hope you guys enjoyed this post. Please like, share, follow and comment, and I’ll see you guys in the next one!

-Xoxo, Leo Girl ❤

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23 Things I’ve Learned At This Point of My Life

In light of my 23rd birthday today, I thought it would be nice to share with you guys 23 things that I’ve learned this past year and throughout my life in general thus far.

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In no particular order:

  1. Always put yourself and your happiness first, no matter the person or situation.

2. Don’t be afraid to take risks.

3. Not everyone is going to have the same mentality as you (regardless of in a positive or negative way).

4. Always make time for yourself at some point in the day, whether you’re reading, writing, going to the gym or doing something as simple as a skincare routine, it’s necessary for you to take care of yourself first to many extents.

5. Be grateful for everything in your life, whether big or small.

6. Don’t take things so seriously in life or personal.

7. Sometimes its okay to just walk away (from a person or situation).

8. Not all friendships are meant to last, no matter how long you’ve had them.

9. It’s okay to spend and enjoy time by yourself sometimes, in fact, it’s kind of necessary.

10. Don’t be afraid to lean on the people around you, whether that’s family, a significant other, or your closest friend(s). I 100% get not wanting to feel like a burden to people with your problems, but there are people around you who genuinely care about you and want to be there for you (even if it may be a handful or select few of people, they ARE there).

11. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes and fail.

12. Give yourself credit when it’s due, no matter how big or small the accomplishment, task, etc. is.

13. Treat yourself occasionally! Obviously try not to go overboard, but everyone deserves to be treated sometimes. Don’t wait for someone else to do it for you, do it for yourself. Get a mani/pedi, do some retail therapy, whatever it is that you want. If you know you’re a hard-worker and you deserve it, then why not?

14. Don’t ever be sorry for who or how you are. Unless you know it’s a bad habit or something that you need to change, but don’t ever let someone make you feel bad for being a certain way because chances are, you’re that way for a reason.

15. If you never try and put yourself out there, you’ll never really know what you’re capable of (in any/all aspects).

16. The type of energy and vibes that you send out towards people and to the world in general, is exactly what you’re going to get back. Nothing more, nothing less.

17. It’s okay to not always be okay. You don’t always have to be strong all the time, no matter what people or society in general may say or make it seem.

18. Everyone does things at their own pace, “Just because you took longer than others, doesn’t mean you failed or aren’t good enough.” Therefore, don’t compare yourself to anyone else.

19. Don’t let your issues and/or mistakes define who you are because they don’t. Learn from them and move forward with your life (to the best of your ability).

20. Make the best out of everything currently in your life, whether it’s a situation you’re dealing with or material things you may have (or lack thereof).

21. Hard-work NEVER goes unnoticed (believe it or not), someone will always recognize it and give you credit for it, trust me.

22. Have fun and do things that make you genuinely happy, because life is too short to do anything BUT things that make you happy.

23. It’s just a bad day/week/month/year, not a bad life. Don’t take a shitty day(s) and make it seem like you have a horrible life. Take whatever’s happened to you on that day(s) and use it to have better days later on.

Thanks for reading!

-Xoxo, Leo Girl ❤

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Making The Most Out of a Bad Situation

By now it’s been about 2 weeks since all of the craziness that’s gone on in the Bronx and circulated pretty much all of the local news outlets on a constant loop. I, originally, was not at all going to speak on this, which I know a ton of people have been saying constantly lately, but I most definitely was not. For those of you that don’t know, this blog has always been a space for me to be as open, honest and creative as I’d like, BUT, when it comes to crazy, controversial topics like the stuff that’s gone on in the Bronx, I prefer to steer clear of it altogether. Not because I’m scared of sharing my opinion, but because I don’t like to speak on things that I don’t have all of the facts on. I find that most people who do that end up making themselves look dumb, and I’m not about that. That being said, I’m not going to directly speak about the events that occurred in the Bronx recently, but I am going to indirectly refer to it and give my general thoughts on what happened, how it made me feel, what’s next, etc.

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I’ve never been one to hate or be ashamed of where I come from (the South Bronx), in fact, I’ve actually always been proud to tell people that that’s where I’m from, in spite of all the negative things people tend to say and think about it. My thought has always been that there are good and bad places everywhere. Good and bad things that happen everywhere. Good and bad people everywhere, it’s almost inevitable, and I had grown up here in the South Bronx where things like gang violence, shootings, etc. happened on a regular basis.

I was always a firm believer that even though the South Bronx has its rough edges, as a whole, it’s come SO far from where it once was 10, 20, even 30 years ago. Hell, I was so passionate about that that I wrote my entire senior project in college about that; a 10,000+ word, 30 page paper/story on just exactly that (which I got an A on btw 😉 ) because I was determined to make a point. As a whole, the Bronx has made SO many positive changes in an effort to make it a better place. But I guess sometimes it’s true what people say, that the more things change, the more they stay the same…

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It’s not at all a secret the events that have occurred here in the Bronx recently, so much so that a lot of it has actually gone global. And from what I’ve been seeing and hearing, a lot of people are upset and annoyed because they’re questioning why everyone seems so surprised about the events that have occurred, as if any of this is anything new. Like these things in the Bronx haven’t ALWAYS been happening, and you know what? They are 100% right, it’s nothing new, and nothing that a lot of us have not seen and/or heard before, but that reasoning or “excuse” will NEVER make things like what’s happened okay.

It’s so much bigger THIS TIME because of all of the graphic pictures and videos that have been shared non-stop on not just one or two, but ALL social media outlets. It was 1000 times MORE publicized then your average news coverage stories that you see on Fox 5 News @10 every night.

Kids and people in general are scared to come outside because of how publicized these things have been and never knowing what’s going to happen after they leave the comforts of their own homes. I know I personally felt like that the past two weeks. I don’t think my anxiety had ever been so high before. I was paranoid all of the time; on the trains, walking near some people, walking home by myself at night, etc. I had a panic attack at LEAST 3 times that week because of it all. And to some, that may be silly or stupid, especially since I was born and raised in this city, but I think it’s a legitimate fear especially with how frequent these incidences were occurring and how close to home they were. No one should have to live their life like that. I am 1000% a believer of not living life in fear, because doing that is only going to make you miss out on things that life has to offer you, but this was a whole other level, as we all witnessed.

What has our world truly come to when there are grown ass men (and women) out here preying on kids? Not only that, but kids out here killing kids, ACTING like their grown. And for what? Because they were being bothered by them? For superiority purposes? To make some sort of statement and put fear into the eyes of other kids and their families? As a community, we’ve got to do better. In recent years, and months even, there have been more parents having to bury their kids then the other way around, and it NEEDS to stop. All of these fake thugs wandering around the streets jumping and killing people for absolutely no reason. People really need to learn that not everything needs a reaction, and sometimes you really just have to let shit go because it’s not worth losing your life over, or someone you care about.

People really think that it’s all fun and games being out in the streets, doing the crazy shit they do…..until they get caught and arrested. Then what? Who’s going to be there for you when you’re locked up and don’t have anywhere to go or anyone to turn to?

But to the same extent you almost can’t blame some of these kids (not fully anyway), because it all starts at home. Who’s around them. What they’re seeing. What they’re parents are allowing, what these people are bringing around them, etc., the list can go on and on. These people/kids also turn to the streets seeking some sort of comfort and entertainment that they’re not receiving at home or otherwise. I’ve seen it in SO many kids for years working at the after-school/summer camp that I did, and it is SO sad because these kids would much rather spend their time out in the streets with their “friends”, doing absolutely nothing productive as opposed to actually trying to make something of themselves and their future.

Personally, I would never use that as an excuse, because if I were to be brought up in a shitty environment, with shitty parents, no money, etc., that would only motivate the crap out of me to do and want better for not only myself, but also my future family. And I’m not at all trying to downplay it, because I know for a fact that it wouldn’t be easy, but at least you would do the smart thing which is to be above all of the BS that you went through and see around you.

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I’ve got to believe for my own sanity that change is possible. It can and will happen; it’s going to take time, but it will. We need to make a SERIOUS change, mainly in the way these kids are brought up nowadays because they are the future. Kids nowadays are constantly isolating themselves indoors on their cell phones, Ipads, tablets, etc. wasting their youth away. They should be outside experiencing parks, camps, museums, actual HUMAN INTERACTION, ANYTHING that is going to be entertaining and beneficial to them later on in life and keeps them off the streets getting themselves into trouble.

Times like these always makes me reflect on my life and the people around me. It really puts things into perspective that nothing in life is guaranteed tomorrow, not even your own life. It shouldn’t take things like this to happen for you to be grateful, but it’s almost like another one of those inevitable things that tends to happen. Be grateful for everything and everyone in your life today. Give your loved ones a hug and kiss and tell them how much you love them and how much they mean to you. Don’t take things for granted. Don’t go to bed upset. Do things that make you happy. Right the wrongs in your life at the moment, because life is way too short and precious to let it pass you by with nothing to show for it and have petty things ruin it.

In times like these it really does take a village to make change happen. And as cliche as it sounds, we need to be the change that we wish to see in the world. It starts with us. The Bronx is NOT a bad area, it’s the people in it that are making it bad, and this change will only happen if we continue to band together the way that we have been doing during recent events. What we were all able to accomplish when we came together for a common goal in recent events was truly amazing; imagine what else we all could do if we continued to work together at other common goals, and that is NOT limited to just making a change in the Bronx.

Take what’s happened and use it as motivation to humble yourself, be grateful for everything you have RIGHT NOW, and try doing something to help out in making a difference for the future. You never know what you would be able to do or start on your own, or with other people.

-Xoxo, Leo Girl ❤