Bruins B'Olam: Leeav Nagola
Bruins B'Olam is a blog series about Jewish Bruins around the world on Alternative Break experiences with UCLA Hillel. Alternative Break is a week-long immersive experience with students participating in community service projects with partner organizations. This year, Alternative Spring Break is going to the Dominican Republic on an education service trip; if you would like to join us or have more questions, please contact Jessica Jacobs at [email protected].
What can I say about my experience in Jamaica? I arrived at the airport and walked outside and the world seemed to relax. I felt at peace with myself and everyone that was with me as we began to embark on our journey. Every aspect about Jamaica made me feel at peace, and when we met the host families and the community it was genuinely like going home from school. The love and care Mama J (our host mom!) gave Zak, Noah, and me was more than I could have ever expected. I'll never forget the first thing she said to us when she met us - "My three sons!" and immediately embraced us. Without her the experience would definitely not have been the same, and I don't think Zak, Noah, and I would have become so close.
Starting my journey with the elementary school was absolutely inspiring. I walked into the room full of 4th grade students who were the most wild and unmanageable group I had ever seen. But when we walked in, all of the kids wanted our attention and approval, and they all tried so hard to prove to us that they could do their school work. One kid who (according to the criticism of another student) never does his work, came up to me and lit up when I told him I could help him. There was something magical about being able to see firsthand the effects of our help in the schools, and later a college student from Jamaica spoke to us about what we had done. She mentioned that when she was in 6th grade she got to experience Americans coming to her school, and the attention she got was what inspired her to learn, and continues to fuel her drive for education to this day. She said "you will never see the impact you have made on these kids. You won't know who's lives you have saved. But believe me, you are making a difference." Hearing her perspective was so powerful and added even greater depth to the experience.
We also painted a wall for the high school which was made even more fun by the number of Jamaican high school students who took an interest in us. They would all come and ask us questions, and this one boy Jay came up to me and really loved my company. He just wanted to hang around with me and talk, and at the end of the day he hugged me and went away smiling.
What I want you to take away from this is not that I have changed the world, because I am definitely far from that, but rather that I was able to give and get an experience that is unlike any other. Just as much as I could influence those kids in Jamaica, they influenced me. I have returned holding Jamaica in a special place in my heart. I have a better perspective on the struggles the world faces. But most importantly, I have a deeper understanding of the impact that one person can make on the world. Not by changing the whole world, but by changing it for one person.