Leela’s Experience with Homes of Hope and the Equality League.

Towards the end of July, I was lucky enough to travel to the Dominican Republic and help build houses for two lovely families. I went with an organization called Homes of Hope. This organization works with youth groups under the ages of 18, and researches families in dire need of new homes. For a week, along with forty other kids I helped build two houses. They split the kids into two groups, team A and B. Each group was assigned one house, along with construction crew workers and mentors to help watch the process. There I helped paint the house, use a nail and hammer to put in the frame, walls, and doors, screwed the frame of the house into the ground, cut out the windows, and more. We worked in the heat of the day, but building was not the only thing we did. We also got to talk amongst and play with the kids there. Seeing the poverty there was heartbreaking, but also inspiring. I brought a little portable printer with me to print out photos of the kids. From ages 4-15, kids would tap me on the shoulder and pose for photos. The look on their faces when they received a photo of themselves was honestly amazing. At the end, after we had put lots of sweat and work into the houses, a small group of kids (not including myself) took the two families to a grocery store. Their reactions were insane; they had never planned in advance, never had enough money to buy whatever kind of food they wanted, so the experience was new to them. While they left, the rest of us finished decorating the inside of the house. We added furniture; beds, sheets, tables, chairs, etc. We even added a planter outside so they could grow their own vegetables. At the end, right before we showed them their houses we all went around and shared our experiences with each other. The family was so grateful, even though there was a language barrier, we could all clearly understand what they were saying. Finally, as a symbolic gesture we handed them their new set of keys and watched them unlock their door. They struggled for a while, because they had never had set of keys. Afterwards we knocked on the door, symbolizing how we were then guests in their new house.

I also had the pleasure of getting to work with an organization called the Equality League. This organization helps advance women’s rights and fight gender discrimination through sports. It is a fairly new organization and has not yet become public. The Equality League hopes to achieve many goals such as: ending the Iranian Stadium Ban, stopping sexual abuse in sports, the gender pay gap, and more. The League is enlisting the help of famous athletes and even Nassau survivors in hopes of achieving these goals. My friend and I have been volunteering all summer long and helping with certain aspects of it. I went to events, helped out by making social media templates, website elements, and more.

Both acts of service were very meaningful to me, and I hope to do more service such as Homes of Hope and the Equality League in the future.