Realtor® Katiuska Villamizar: Helping Children in Haiti
FORT MYERS, Fla. – On her first trip to Destiny Village, an orphanage in Haiti, Katiuska “Kat” Villamizar was deeply moved by what she saw.
“I was awarded my company’s MVP Care Life Achievement award and, as part of that, I was selected to bring our donations to Destiny Village,” says Villamizar, an agent with MVP Realty in Fort Myers. She is also Florida Realtors®’ 2022 Humanitarian of the Year.
Destiny Village was founded by an American couple, and its CEO lives in Naples, which is how Villamizar and her brokerage got involved in the mission trips and organization.
“We all go to the same church,” she says.
Villamizar was scheduled to go to Haiti two more times, but the trips were postponed after the Haitian president was assassinated in 2021. More recently, 17 missionaries were kidnapped.
However, she says, “The orphanage is special to us because it’s a Christian orphanage. When you get into this orphanage, when you get into the Destiny Village, you feel the blessing. You feel the worship every morning when you are with these children.”
She notes that these children will not be adopted; instead, the mission is to “prepare the kids to be better citizens in Haiti,” she says.
And, while she can’t be there in person, she says, “I see myself as a strong advocate for this orphanage and I'm still working with them to raise funds every time I can. I personally sponsor three children and my brokerage sponsors 12 children each month.”
Villamizar remembers getting off the bus at Destiny Village and immediately connecting with one of the little boys who ran up to her.
“He asked me my name and then he told me his name. His name was Katilski, and my name is Katiuska, and that connection meant he didn’t leave my side,” laughs Villamizar. “I write to him, and the orphanage gives us updates and sends video messages to us. I sponsor Katilski, who is 10 years old.”
In addition to her work with Destiny Village, Villamizar has assisted the local Red Cross since 2010.
“I started working with this program because I noticed that they were helping people relocate after a fire in their homes. I thought, ‘I want to be on the disaster action team and help people,’” she says. Anytime someone lost their home to fire, she was part of the team that helped them find hotels, refill medications, provide clothing and refer them to the help they needed to get back on their feet.
She also delivers and has installed fire alarms into homes that either don’t have one or can’t afford to replace a broken one.
Villamizar had to go through training to become a member of the Disaster Action Team, including first aid and emergency planning. She helped share the knowledge she gained in training by participating in the Pillowcase Project, which required her to go to local schools and teach children about emergency plans in case of a house fire or other disaster.
As a government liaison for the American Red Cross, she also travels to other locations to help in cases of natural disasters.
She recalls, “I was at the Florida Realtors convention one year when I got the call to go to Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana to help after a recent hurricane.
“As a real estate agent, I think that there is so much we can do from volunteering to providing disaster help. We should be helping our neighbors to prepare for natural disasters, teaching them CPR and first aid. As professionals, we have a deep connection with our community.”
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