|Luke and Denali Miedema made St. Thomas their home for two years and through volunteer practices of their faith, they and other members of the Bahai National Center on St. Thomas have been serving the Kirwan Terrace Housing Community for many years.
They actually met in the Caribbean when they were in Dominica. Then they moved to New York shortly after for Denali to go to grad school.
“We really wanted to find a way to come back if possible so it was pretty cool that this door opened for us,” Denali stated.
Coming from New York City, they lived in the Bahai National Center on Crown Mountain Road because Luke was working as the property manager there. Denali worked as a middle school teacher at Antilles.
They both say that they learned a lot from the junior youth. Luke said, “They just taught us a lot about the potential of that age group to really inspire others to transform themselves and to do what they can to improve their neighborhoods. They really worked a lot as a group to better themselves and their neighborhood and be positive influences on the children.”
Julia Armbruster, a retired teacher and another member of the Bahai community has also helped with the Junior Youth Group over the years. She feels that the most influential lessons were learned within small groups of your own environment.
“That’s why it’s a Kirwan group. Kirwan Terrace group, not a island-wide group, because, island-wide is harder to relate to,” she said.
Luke and Denali said they left with many wonderful memories, especially the service projects including trips to The Humane Society, making smoothies to sell and sandwiches for children in the neighborhood while learning the importance of being an example for other children in the neighborhood. Other activities included bake sales, participating in the island wide clean up and their group sleepover at the Baha’i Center was a good memory also. They ended with a final time out of their many trips to the beaches.
“We’re here at the airport getting ready to go. But, ah, our hearts are staying here. That’s so cheesy, but it’s true,” said Denali. “We’re sad to go. It’s a hard place to leave. I think it really found it’s way into our hearts and um, y’know when you leave a place you start to reflect on just all the things about it that were such blessings.”
For more information on the Junior Youth Group, visit http://www.bahaivi.org/html/junior_youth.html