“Your big opportunity may be right where you are now.” -Napoleon Hill
“This moment—this day—is as good as any moment in all eternity. I shall make of this day—each moment of this day—a heaven on earth. This is my day of opportunity.”
Last weekend, I had the opportunity to volunteer at the NEDA walk in Miami. Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate out of any mental illness, and if we can help bring additional awareness to this important cause, more individuals can receive the help and support they need to overcome this awful disorder. Seeing so many individuals come together for a wonderful cause was truly beautiful, but knowing that even more individuals will receive the medical attention they deserve is even more beautiful.
Seeing as yesterday was International Holocaust Remembrance Day and the 71st anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz, it is only fitting that we take some time to remember those whose lives were so tragically taken away, all too soon. I was fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to listen to Michael Marder, a Holocaust survivor, share his personal story yesterday afternoon. This incredible man was able to survive nine different concentration camps, but unfortunately, no one in his immediate family had such luck.
Hearing Michael Marder tell his story reminded me of just how important it is to continue to share such stories so that we never forget about the atrocities that took place not too long ago. And with that, I’d like to introduce you to part of the Gottheim family. The woman in the photo is my great aunt (my grandmother’s mother’s sister), and pictured alongside her is her husband and three children. Unfortunately, they were never given the opportunity to tell their names, so all I have is a last name to go off of.
The Gottheims lived in Poland, but upon hearing of a potential German invasion, they made the necessary plans to make the trip to America by boat. When they arrived to the docks, each member of the family was inspected to make sure that they were in good enough condition to travel. However, as it turns out, one of the children had an ear infection and wasn’t allowed to board the ship. The father told the mother to take the other two children to America, and he would follow shortly after, once the child recuperated. The mother refused, and instead suggested that the father take the other two children to America, and she would follow shortly after, once the child recuperated. The father also refused, and the general consensus was to wait it out together, and make the trip as a family, once the child got better.
Unfortunately for the Gottheims, the German invasion came sooner than they had expected, and the family was murdered in their home before they were able to escape to America.
11 million people were killed during the Holocaust, 1.1 million of whom were children. 6 million of these individuals were Jewish, and others who were targeted and murdered include persons with disabilities, people from the LGBTQ community, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Roma, Slavs, political opponents, and plenty others. So many of these people died without their stories being told, which means to us, they will sadly forever be nameless and faceless. Like the Gottheims, millions of lives were cut short, and who knows what kind of greatness these people could have gone on to achieve?
One would think that we have since learned from the Holocaust, but it was not the first act of genocide to take place in the world, and unfortunately, it was not the last. If we do not remember the atrocities that were carried out just a few decades ago, we will be bound to have history repeat itself. We must never forget the Holocaust, and we must always speak up whenever we see any one person or any group of people being targeted by others. We owe this to the Gottheims, to all of the people who perished during the Holocaust, and to the survivors like Michael Marder who have dedicated their lives to spreading the word about the inhumane treatment they endured.
Martin Neimöller, a well-known pastor once exclaimed:
“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”
A few weeks ago, my brother, grandfather, and I traveled to the Canyons and Park City in Utah to ski for a few days with some of our cousins and uncles. When we arrived, the weather was nice and cold, and much different from Florida’s typical weather—so we were in for a bit of a shock, to say the least. Granted, I had also never seen so much snow in my life, so it was pretty exciting getting off the plane and looking around at so many mountains covered in snow.
We hopped into a car and made our way to Canyons Village, which is around 45 minutes away from the airport. On the way, we passed Salt Lake City as well as the Utah Olympic Park, which was built for the 2002 Utah Winter Olympics. As you can see in the bottom left photo, we were able to see one of the ski jumps that was used during the Olympics, and is still currently being used for practice. Upon arriving at the Village where we were staying, we unloaded our bags, and walked around outside—enjoying the incredible weather. Although we didn’t ski our first day here, we stopped by the local strip consisting of restaurants and small shops. And of course, we stopped for dinner along the way. After a long day of traveling, we were ready to turn in for the night, eagerly (and anxiously) awaiting the opportunity to ski the following morning!
After a long, but exciting day in Lisbon, Portugal, my sister and I hopped on another plane, and made our way to Barcelona, Spain. Although I studied abroad in Alcalá de Henares (near Madrid) for a summer semester during college, I didn’t have as much time to explore Barcelona as I would have liked. Ever since, I have always wanted to return to this beautiful city, and finally had the opportunity to do so.
Upon checking in to the hotel and dropping our things off in the room, my sister and I walked through the city to find a restaurant recommended to us by a local. On our way, we passed the immaculate Casa Battló, which will most definitely be discussed in an upcoming post.
When we finally found the restaurant, we didn’t waste any time! We ordered Spain’s famous patatas bravas (potatoes drizzled with a delicious aioli sauce), as well as fried calamari, sangria, and of course, seafood paella. The food was just what we needed after a long day of traveling, and it was the perfect way to start our adventures in Barcelona.
After canoeing in La Boquilla, we took a tour of a local school, Boca Azul, which is supported by Foundation Casa Italia. Boca Azul is a school that serves more than 300 children in La Boquilla, and they serve the poorest children who are in the need of the most help. The children who attend Boca Azul are between the ages of 1 to 14 years old and receive a full-time education, school support, one meal per day (which makes this the only place in the city for children to receive a free meal), first aid and medical attention, and after school activities. Keep in mind, this is an area where most children in similar situations would not receive any sort of education or medical attention, so Boca Azul is an incredible organization helping children who would otherwise have no hope for a brighter future.
Boca Azul was founded by Guiseppe Mazzoni, a long-standing Official and General in the Italian Airforce and his wife Rosy Soprano. Having moved from Italy, Rosy explains, “It was more than absolute poverty and malnutrition. The absence of any family support for these children abandoned in the street and ignored by all really opened our eyes. We had to do something.” Rosy and Guiseppe created a cultural center known as the Foundation Casa Italia in the city that promotes Italian culture, with hopes of increasing locals’ knowledge of Italy and its culture. Through their foundation, they have been able to start Boca Azul, which is the only school in the area that teaches Spanish, Italian, and English for free.
The children in Boca Azul spoke and sang to us in Spanish, Italian, and English, and some of them even put on a show for us! It was truly an incredible opportunity to see such a great school and to meet Rosy and Guiseppe. They are such selfless individuals who have dedicated their lives to helping provide these children with childhoods and futures that they deserve.
To learn more about Boca Azul, you can visit their website at: http://www.casaitaliaong.org/it/indexEN.html