Today we’d like to introduce you to Victoria Orindas.
Victoria, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
While serving our community, I (Victoria Orindas) faced one of the most persistent social issues, homelessness. Understanding the detrimental impact the ongoing pandemic had on the homeless population, I decided to focus all of my effort on ameliorating their current situation. Since the majority of non-profit organizations had discontinued or reduced their operations in March 2020, the homeless population was left without the support system they were originally relying on. I initiated a separate biweekly event that consisted of handing out “care packages” to our displaced friends in downtown Orlando. The care packages include a cloth mask, hand sanitizer, deodorant, two fruits, two healthy snacks, a bottle of water, and a notecard with an encouraging hand-written message. During the implementation of this new service project, I was surprised to see how many students were eager to donate and get involved. We even received the support of several local media outlets.
Our efforts were highlighted through interviews and features on News 13, News 6, and UCF Today. Furthermore, we were awarded the “News 6 Getting Results Award” for this biweekly “care packages” event. With additional funds received, we were able to purchase the necessary products for another successful “care packages” event. After months of hosting this “care packages” event, Eric Camarillo (the CEO of SALT Outreach) and I got in contact, and this way I discovered the local non-profit called SALT Outreach. SALT Outreach was one of the few non-profits that had continued its operations despite the hardships brought by the pandemic. After volunteering with them throughout Summer 2020, I witnessed first-hand just how impactful their work was. From here, I approached their leadership team and collaborated with them to help expand SALT’s operations and serve more individuals in need. In July of 2020, I partnered with SALT Outreach to found a chapter of this organization at the University of Central Florida, with the help of a few UCF students, which is called SALT Outreach at UCF. Here, we bring together student leaders on UCF’s campus who strive to provide respect and dignity to Orlando’s homeless population, strengthening the mission of SALT Outreach.
I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, many local and student organizations have halted their operations. The pandemic impacted many opportunities that students had. Many internships and community service opportunities were canceled due to them being face-to-face. The UCF chapter of SALT Outreach has managed to open up many opportunities for students to volunteer face-to-face. Since we are one of the few student organizations that are able to provide face-to-face volunteering opportunities. Many other student organizations benefit by having their members volunteer at our events. Not only is this of great benefit for students, but it also allowed SALT Outreach to substantially expand its operations. Since they had a consistent source of student volunteers, they began operating four days per week instead of three days.
Since then, SALT Outreach has been growing and expanding its services. They will be launching a laundry trailer to ensure that our homeless friends are able to keep their clothes clean, and that would not have been possible without the support of the UCF chapter and our community. Additionally, since COVID-19 cases have been rising, we took the necessary measures to keep everyone safe at our events. Everyone at the events is required to wear a mask and is required to maintain 6 feet of distance from each other. SALT Outreach and the UCF chapter have helped in making the fight against homelessness a community effort. For example, SALT Outreach at UCF has facilitated partnerships with student organizations such as Humanity First UCF and Honors Congress. Together, and with the assistance of our members, we can provide SALT Outreach with donations that they need to continue helping the homeless population. To add to the combined community effort aspect, we ensure to refer our homeless friends to the appropriate resources depending on the specific services that they need, and that would not be possible without the help of all of the organizations in our community, such as IDignity, Straight Streets, and UCF Village Mentors. Overall, the challenges that we faced due to the pandemic have helped us establish SALT Outreach at UCF to help fight an issue that we are passionate about.
Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
SALT Outreach and its UCF chapter provide free showers to homeless people via a mobile shower trailer as well as clean clothing from a mobile clothing trailer. Additionally, we offer haircut services, free toiletries, health check-ups, and blood pressure screenings. As an organization, we aspire to reduce and remove barriers to the employment of the homeless by providing interview training and job application assistance to help restore the hope these populations may have had before times grew tough. Through the numerous services we offer, we aim to provide students with a unique volunteering experience that will employ their skills for a noble cause. In addition, it will provide them with the necessary knowledge and experience to grow as leaders.
As of October 2020, we are a Registered Student Organization at UCF and consist of over 130 active volunteers. Together with SALT Outreach, we are hosting four events per week, all while strictly following the social distancing rules other guidelines set out by the CDC and local health agencies. Through our efforts, SALT Outreach at UCF has expanded tremendously. Recently, we partnered with UCF Village Mentors and are assisting individuals with enrolling in college and other postsecondary programs, financial aid, and their applications to scholarships. We have a few volunteers on the spot with personal laptops assisting homeless individuals with the technology they may not possess themselves. We have also partnered with Hearts for the Homeless and host blood pressure screenings twice per month. If the individual is found to have hypertension or hypotension, we refer them to Shepherd’s Hope or Grace Memorial. We have also received many donations from student volunteers and other student organizations such as Honors Congress, MaskOn Project, Humanity First UCF, One at UCF, etc. As one of the leaders of this organization, I am grateful to have the opportunity to use my creativity to initiate projects that benefit UCF scholars and our homeless friends in Orlando. It is even more humbling to receive so much support, whether that be through our partners or our work that has been featured on NSM Today, Burnett Honors College in Honors This Week, UCF Knightly News and to receive the title of the RSO of the Month.
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: saltoutreach_at_ucf
Image Credits:Personal Photo- Victoria Orindas (SALT Outreach at UCF, Founder & President)
The 1st row on the left- Five board members. From left to right: Luciana Orindas, Leeann Figueroa, Victoria Orindas, Naim Shaqqou, and Maria Rivero
The 1st-row; picture on the right- Luciana Orindas (Treasurer & Co-Founder)
The 2nd-row; picture on the left- Naim Shaqqou (Vice President & Co-Founder)
The 2nd-row; picture on the right- Maria Rivero (Secretary)
The 3rd-row; picture on the left- Leeann Figueroa (Outreach Officer)
The 3rd- row; picture on the right & the 4th row are pictures taken by Kamilla Idelguzhina (Instagram @by.stravnw)
The 4th-row; picture on the right- Kamilla Idelguzhina (President Assistant) & Elizaveta Letisheva (Outreach officer assistant)