Valencia Gundar: The Art of Service

Season #5 Episode #4

Episode Notes

Valencia Gundar - The Art of Service 

Special guest: Valencia Gundar – A champion for service that creates self-determination, she founded Smile Trust, an organization committed to serving unsheltered people in Miami, Atlanta and around the world.

Valencia Gundar and Rokki Bonner discuss Valencia’s motivation for the creation of Smile Trust and how her life experiences helped shape her approach to service. Valencia’s hometown, Miami, is integral to what motivates her - being of service to the many people who make up the diaspora of the city is of vital importance. 


  • Stay committed to the people you are serving


Valencia stays committed to the people she is serving - those are her people right there, every day. She doesn’t do charity work, rather she creates models of self-determination and restores hope. Her goal is not to serve people. Her goal is to provide resources for people so they can serve themselves and then serve others around them. She brings the tools and they serve themselves!


  • Focus on resources and tools to create self-determination


Val’s goal: When people walk away from an interaction with her, they don’t feel guilt. She understands the importance of self-determination in overcoming obstacles. Valencia believes that codependency is not healthy, and that's what many charities do, create codependency so that the people you serve become dependent on a system. It is critical to create a system that teaches people to stand on their own. 


  • Look for mentors - observe and learn


Valencia surrounds herself with mentors. She takes advantage of the opportunities to sit next to them and watch them work. Valencia has learned that mentors are not a panacea, instead, she takes the good pieces from them that fit, leaves the rest on the table, and goes on to her next challenge.


  • Don’t be afraid of your vision


A guiding principle for Valencia, is don't be afraid of your vision - do what it takes to get it done. When Smile Trust began, Val was of service every month, even if her resources were low. She understands the importance of being there consistently. No matter how big you grow, always stand in service to others. Today Val has teams, both in Atlanta and Miami. Regardless, you can still see her on a Sunday scooping out rice and working with the Smile Trust team. It’s humbling for her to get behind the table and help out. Never forget.


  • Listen to the people you serve


Valencia believes strongly in the tenet -  listen to the people you serve. Don’t build something for yourself, build it for the community you serve and the greater community you live in. No one should feel “less than”. Valencia is all ears any time an unsheltered person wants to have a conversation with her.



Valencia’s legacy is for communities to become self-determined around food - the organization is on its way; last year, Smile Trust touched 200,000 families with food across 4 countries.

Follow Valencia’s work on:

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keywords: impact, life, social impact, motivation, rokki, Valencia, Smile Trust, learning, people, personal growth, family, health, opportunity, wisdom, plan, unsheltered, homeless, food insecurity, incarcerated

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