Roxy Azuaje: A catalyst for change
“People want to create change, but they often don’t know how”, says Roxy Azuaje, community training manager at Catalyst Miami. Hardly did the Venezuelan-born artist and photographer know how much change she would create when she arrived in Miami. Equipped with her camera and lots of enthusiasm, she soon became involved in various outreach programs, teaching young adults how to use the art of photography to express their thoughts and ideas.
Six years later, she works more behind the scenes, facilitating Catalyst Miami’s leadership development programs. “It is amazing,” she says of the program. “We give people tools. We show them that they all have something to give back to the community. Many of the participants do in fact become community leaders; they not only learn to identify problems and issues in their lives and in their community, they also start to develop solutions to create positive change.
As a staff member of Catalyst Miami, Roxy also makes sure to connect her participants to other programs and opportunities. “Part of my job is having big ears to connect individuals with opportunities that would enable them to utilize their skills.” As a result, “many participants stay involved with us, some even start helping us as volunteers.”
“Others become stronger advocates for their children; they get involved at their schools and in their education, and some even strive to participate in local grassroots movements,” says Roxy. She recently received positive feedback about some participants who started volunteering for another organization to register voters. “The communication and leadership skills they acquire through our programs are invaluable.”
Another element Roxy really likes about the leadership training programs is that the whole family can get involved. “Two of our programs offer sessions for adults and children,” she explains. “When the parents learn about democracy, the kids learn about it, too. Ideally, that leads to a meaningful conversations between the parent and child once they get home.”
But what if the children are too young to attend? “We also provide childcare,” explains Roxy. “We try to cut down most of the barriers that might prevent residents to participate.” Although Catalyst Miami’s participants come from many different backgrounds, most face similar barriers to engagement: childcare, transportation, or simply not being able to provide a healthy, nutritious meal for their family.
“In most cases we also refer our participants to another arm of Catalyst Miami or another organization,” explains Roxy. “Our goal is to show them how to find and access resources and opportunities. Working for Catalyst has taught me so much. There are so many different ways to look at a situation and as many ways to create positive change.”