June Project Leader Spotlight: Suray Perez & Semithe Chevelon

By Sherley Guerrier


June’s Project Leader Spotlight, or should I say spotlights, belong to the dynamic volunteering duo, Suray Perez and Semithe Chevelon. The life of a college student is pretty chaotic. Classes, extra-curricular activities, studying, and sleep become your life. Attempting to break out of the consistent schedule of everyday activities can be difficult. Semithe and Suray have defied the typical college student odds with their contributions to their community.

Coming to find out about HandsOn Broward was no difficult task for these two because they were on the search to serve. “Semithe and I were looking for opportunities to help the community that would fit our hectic college and work schedule. We looked online to many different websites and the only place that offered that flexibility was HandsOn Broward. The sign up was easy and we started volunteering right away!” Semithe said.

With the ease of signing up for opportunities on the calendar, Semithe and Suray got started using their knowledge of a different language. “Our first experience volunteering was helping the University of Miami with their health fairs. They needed translators and we really wanted to help the community in any manner. After we were done with this small project the sense of reward was unmatched. We knew that we could do more to help those around us. After a brief talk we decided that Broward was probably in need of volunteers also. So we went online and started to look for opportunities. Our first one was Martin Luther King Day, where we had a wonderful experience! A day we will never forget,” Semithe and Suray said.

Volunteering has the ability to open up many doors whether it be networking opportunities, building leadership skills, or simply overcoming shyness. “Volunteering has made me more confident and able to speak to others easily. I’m a very shy person but when I’m out there helping others that completely disappears, and I’m able to communicate with others very easily. I have also met some amazing people who have the same drive to help others and who have made me want to be a better person. And lastly volunteering has provided me with some stress relief from my hectic life, because for those couple of hours I’m free of my daily routine and helping those who really need it,” Suray said.

Becoming aware of other communities and meeting like-minded individuals through volunteering has helped Semithe personally. “Volunteering helped strengthen my ties with the community and has broadened my support network, exposing me to people with common interests, neighborhood resources and fun fulfilling activities.” Semithe said.

Semithe and Suray have served in their local communities and have made a huge impact. “Semithe and I have volunteered in many projects in the past, such as Rake and Roll [at Tomorrow’s Rainbow] where we got to wash miniature horses,” Semithe said. Semithe and Suray also served as Project Leaders at the AIDS Walk, as well as gardening for the community at Dania Beach PATCH.

As Project Leaders, Semithe and Suray have started their own project at a preschool and aftercare facility. “Our current project is with Greater Horizons Academy. We make arts and crafts with kids in aftercare. Our first craft was making pet rocks. The children had so much fun and they did not want us to leave! Our next upcoming event will be July 8th so we hope to see more people join us and experience the energy and creativity these kids have to offer!” Semithe and Suray said.

If you are a new volunteer and are curious about volunteering, Semithe and Suray say, “People might think volunteering is not for them, or that it could be boring. But from our experience at HOB there is never a dull moment. The reason why we continue our mission is because every time we give our time it is always fun. It could be a little scary the first time not knowing anyone, but the Project Leaders and those who are part of the event make you feel at home. Always willing to help and point you in the right direction. For those of you who are still undecided or feel a little shy, trust me, HOB has embraced us as their family and we couldn’t be happier. I guarantee you that your first event won’t be your last.”

Semithe and Suray noticed HandsOn Broward Project Leaders at projects and thought maybe they could do the same. “While at the Martin Luther King event, Semithe and I observed all these volunteers with red shirts in charge of the different stations. It sparked our interest in having our own event and how amazing it would be to come up with ideas for our own project. We asked what the next step to become a Project Leader was, and the following week we had [a training] where they go over different steps to have a successful project. At the end we decided that working with children would be a great experience and we cannot wait to lead our next event.” Semithe said.

Becoming a Project Leader may seem like something different from volunteering, but in actuality you are still volunteering, and also leading by example. “Being a Project Leader will put you ‘behind the scenes’ of that event. Your ideas will come to life when you execute that project. When Semithe and I selected our craft we were thrilled, but seeing that idea finished by the kids was an amazing feeling!” Semithe and Suray said.

When asked how to sum up their overall experience, the duo unanimously agreed with the reference to this quote by Gandhi which states, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”


June Volunteer Spotlight: Nicolas Berube

nbJune’s Volunteer Spotlight belongs to youth volunteer Nicolas Berube. Nicolas, 15, began volunteering with HandsOn Broward in October 2013, after learning about our organization at a volunteer fair. He originally started volunteering to fulfill his high school community service hour requirement, but has continued past his 40 required hours, and now gives his time regularly because volunteering is something he enjoys.

“I want to make a difference helping others. I feel that I continue to make a better society for every hour and minute I spend [volunteering],” Nicolas said.

Nicolas has volunteered at a variety of nonprofit agencies throughout Broward County, but has dedicated the majority of his time to FRIENDS Ranch. FRIENDS Ranch creates a permanent haven for horses that are asymptomatic carriers of Equine Infectious Anemia, preventing the needless slaughter and destruction of these noble animals. Even though Nicolas wasn’t originally a huge fan of horses, his volunteer experience with FRIENDS Ranch has been nothing but positive. When he volunteers there, his main jobs include cleaning the stalls and refilling their water buckets. “Of course I was uneasy the first time I went into the stall with a 1,000 pound horse, but all of them except a tricky few are kind and will gladly have you clean their stalls. The greatest part though is after we’ve almost finished cleaning out all of the stalls we head back to the front and watch as the horses run like crazy to the pasture,” he said.

Nicolas believes more volunteers should spend their time at FRIENDS Ranch – and not just for service hours, but to make a difference in the lives of the horses FRIENDS Ranch rescues. “People shouldn’t just get involved at FRIENDS Ranch for service hours, but mostly for the horses. Many of them have been neglected and a few harmed by their previous owners,” he said.

Nicolas has also volunteered his time with the Alzheimer’s Family Center, Kids Ecology Corps, and Miramar Community Garden. Of his volunteer experience with Miramar Community Garden, Nicolas said, “[The Miramar Community Garden] is great for providing the community fresh fruits and veggies, and has helped my mother greatly in starting her own garden, which I spent most of the time making, and now she spends most of the time tending.”

When asked what advice he has for new volunteers, Nicolas replied, “The only advice I would have for new volunteers is if you don’t enjoy what you’re doing find another thing. Find something that you love, but never stop helping the community.”

Thank you, Nicolas, for all the help you provide our community!

friendsTo further demonstrate what an awesome, service-minded volunteer Nicolas is, when we asked him to send along a picture of himself for the Volunteer Spotlight, he also included this photo. Nicolas wanted to be sure to point out how amazing the staff and volunteers are at FRIENDS Ranch. About the photo, Nicolas said, “This is the lady that is in charge on the weekend, that I’ve seen every weekend working hard through any weather, making sure the horses can go out every day and return with clean stalls.”