OurBRIDGE: Empowering Refugee And Immigrant Children In Charlotte

Children from war-torn, economically and environmentally disadvantaged countries find comfort at ourBRIDGE, a non-profit after-school program in Plaza Midwood. Sil Ganzo, native Argentinean and founder of ourBRIDGE, said children can “embrace who they are, be confident, improve their self-esteem, and have help with English, and their homework.”

The nonprofit provides an inclusive and welcoming environment. Within the four colorful walls decorated with the children’s drawings, they are free to play and learn science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) related concepts while coping with a new culture, social expectations and exploring their surroundings.

Ganzo founded ourBRIDGE in 2014 after working for a similar for-profit company, In Goode Co. “The owners decided to close the center,” Ganzo said. “I decided to transform the idea for a non-profit. I wanted a cultural and social, emotional component.”

Charlotte is the biggest refugee resettlement city in North Carolina, welcoming 600 refugees annually. The children enrolled at ourBRIDGE are the faces of 40 countries, each equipped with diverse cultures, traditions and languages.

ourBRIDGE services include chauffeuring children from school and home, providing homemade snacks, and individual English and STEM tutor time. Additionally, students receive social and emotional support which include teaching them basic American societal behaviors, as well as experiential learning, where children interact with the community. These services are offered to immigrant, refugee and first-generation children living in nearby neighborhoods.

ourBRIDGE offers an open space to have in-depth conversations about significant events, such as the recent presidential election. Many students asked Sil, “Do I have to go home?” and “Are my parents going to get kicked out?” Volunteers baked an “everything will be OK” cake, a small gesture that made a huge impact on the children.

Originally posted on my blog at theodyssey.


Countdown: Reunited with Okinawa

In a monIMG_20140521_111805647th and 5 days I will finally be able to taste the exotic foods, touch the warm sands and clear water in Okinawa and hear the beautiful language known as Japanese. But most importantly I will be reunited with my family.  It has been 3 and a half months since I last saw my family. You can imagine the joy I feel knowing in a couple of weeks I will be able to embrace my mother and sister.


I know they are missing me from the constant texts and photos I receive from them.Yes, yes I did teach my mother how to use multiple texting apps before I left in August. I am beginning the countdown until I am reunited with my family again for the Christmas holidays.

Let the countdown begin!




AmericaFest Countdown Begins Now! (Update)

ImageAmericaFest will be taking off this weekend, lasting from Saturday 28th through Sunday 29! The 28th AmericaFest, located on Kadena will be available only for military personnel and SOFA status dependents, we are expecting 30,000 to 50,000 people to takeover the Flighline! Sunday 29th AmericaFest will be literally open to everyone and their moms, including military personnel, their dependents and the Okinawans!

The next few days volunteers, vendors, etc. will be preparing the Flightline for tons of fun including food, drinks, bouncy houses for children, and more! The fireworks will go off on Sunday 29!

3 Doors Down will be a headline! Don’t recognize them? Check them out here!

For your convenience there will be shuttles coming from these places on Kadena, if you live off base just park your cars in the parking lots near these areas and the shuttles will take you the rest of the way.  Below are the Shuttle pick up times and location for Saturday and Sunday:

Shuttle Schedule: Saturday, 28 June

• Kadena Elementary School 
• Rocker NCO Club 
• Olympic Mall 
• Exchange Drive-Thru ATM (shuttles every 30 minutes)

First pick-up at 2:40 pm 
Shuttles arrive every 20 minutes 
Last pick-up at 7:40 pm 
Express drop-off begins at 8:45 pm

Shuttle Schedule: Sunday, 29 June

• Kadena Elementary School 
• Rocker NCO Club 
• Olympic Mall 
• Chibana Golf Course

First pick-up at 12:40 pm 
Shuttles arrive every 20 minutes 
Last pick-up at 7:40 pm 
Express drop-off begins at 8:45 pm

Also important to note is what you can and can not take on the buses including: 

 “Please leave backpacks, banners, signs, cans, glass bottles, coolers, alcoholic beverages, camera lenses 300mm or greater, narcotics, firearms, knives, explosives or any other weapons or items that could be perceived as a weapon. Diaper bags and small purses will be allowed.”

For more information about AmericaFest visit this website: Kadenas AmericaFest 2014

Rant: Finally Soft Hair

For those of us living in Okinawa I know you have to understand the pains we go through to control the poofy, dry, rained on hair given to us by Mother Nature on this island. The humidity doesn’t help with this situation at all, the humidity here is worst than the humidity in Jacksonville, NC. I have yet to wear my hair straight and down without it retracting into a big poof ball on my head. Not only that but the conditioners shipped here do not even help to soften my curly hair texture.

ImageFor example, my main hair conditioner is Herbal Essenes: Long Term Relationship; it comes in a red bottle, big or small, back in the States this is my go to conditioner. Normally it leaves my hair feeling soft, clean and moisturize, but since purchasing this same product here on the island my hair has felt anything but. I was afraid to use any of the conditioners I bought for fear of my hair becoming too hard. I could not even begin to detangle my hair under running water like I would normally do. So as you would expect my hair was a tangled mess and because I am new to the island I could not exactly go to a hair salon for a quick fix. You may be wondering what I have been doing to my hair if I haven’t been detangling or conditioning. I just opted for using the tap water and some coconut oil for moisture; however this did not last long since I wasn’t detangling my hair.

So it left me with two questions.. is it the water making my hair hard or is the conditioner not getting the job done?

Tonight I tried something different, it is apparent I have to change my hair regimen here in Okinawa, so I went back to the kitchen and started experimenting with my oils again!

I mixed my extra virgin coconut oil with my virgin Avocado oil, (you can find these products at your local grocery store or you can purchase it online at this website mountainroseherbs.com) next I added my Herbal Essence: Long Term Relationship to the mixture.

Coconut Oil, Avocado Oil and HE:LTR

Coconut Oil, Avocado Oil and HE:LTR

This mixture was a blessing, it was exactly what I needed to tame my naturally, curly locs.

Meet my waves. haha

Meet my waves.

This is what I have to work with.. plus the humidity.

This is what I have to work with.. plus the humidity.

I applied the mixture to my hair, took my bath and WA-LA it was soft enough for me to detangle my curls and place in my braids. I have never been so happy.



I hoped this helped some of my curly haired beauties out here on the island, or in general!

180 Tales of Summer

Good Morning America.

Good Evening Japan.

After travelling thousands of miles, getting on four different airplanes; being stuck in the airport, flying over 15+ hours and being stranded in Tokyo, I am excited to share my adventures abroad in Okinawa, Japan with you on my blog 180 Tales of Summer. I will be posting blogs, pictures and videos of my adventures around the island. I was born into a military family and have traveled my entire life, it is something i look forward to in my future career as a International PR/Journalist. My family has recently been stationed in Okinawa, Japan and so far have adapted to the customs i.e being able to count yen and understanding the basic language.

Speaking of language Konnichi Wa is one of the world’s most well-known word meaning good afternoon in Japanese, so to spice up your Japanese vocabulary here is a word for the day: Ohayo, means good morning, used before 12 pm.

Follow my blog for videos and pictures of the Japanese culture and food.

Domo Arigato (thank you)