You might call Linda Dwyer a professional at community service. The current patient coordinator of nonprofit Living Hope Haiti and PTSA President at Miami Palmetto Senior High School, Dwyer has, at times, acted as a big sister, court liaison, mountain guide and behavioral specialist… all before earning her Master’s Degree (it was in counseling psychology). Post-degree, the mom of three worked at long-term drug rehabilitation facility for female inmates and their children and became a “short term foster parent,” taking in children who were recently removed from their homes and hosting them for up to three weeks. After relocating to Florida for her husband’s job, Dwyer immediately jumped into the local public schools, taking on roles at Palmetto Elementary and Palmetto Middle before moving on to the high school.
Bridging the Gap
Dwyer’s work with Living Hope Haiti was solidified further when she traveled to the country to see firsthand how the organization’s work is changing lives. “It is overwhelming to see how little people have in a country so close to us,” says Dwyer. “But to see people who are truly to helping those they have never met, and to see it changing lives for the better, is exciting.” One example? After seeing that communities were cut off from basic needs such as schools and markets during rainy season due to the high river, a team from LHH built a bridge using local resources and townspeople to do the work. “Now, during the rainy season, people can get safely from one side to the other to continue selling their goods at the market and allowing children to go to school,” she says. “Donated funds built a bridge that is saving lives.”
Back To School
Another focus of Dwyer’s passion are local public schools, where she has worked to initiate and evolve programs from elementary to high school and to be inclusive of all children no matter their physical, mental or emotional limitations. “I’m proud when I see children happily enjoying things that I was a part of creating,” says Dwyer. “To see children proudly wearing spirit wear that we created, thoroughly enjoying an event, using supplies for which we fundraised, learning in classrooms that our advocacy fought to receive… all of these things and more make me proud.”
Though it may not seem easy, Dwyer says the first step in helping others is actually very simple. “Jump in and help! Don’t wait to be asked,” she advises. “Contact whatever group that appeals to your heart and ask ‘What do you need?’ If you find a group that can be trusted, giving $5 a month can literally change lives. In America, with our excess of everything, it’s hard to remember that even in our community, children are in need.” Beyond money, Dwyer says giving anything from time to talent can not only make a difference in others’ lives but in your own as well. “It’s a win-win. Give of yourself and the joy you receive will far outweigh your sacrifices. Try it out. You’ll see that I’m right.”
Living Hope Haiti (livinghopehaiti.com); Miami Palmetto Senior High PTSA