(Courtesy of PR4PR) They gave up their air conditioned homes, backyard pools and trips to the beach this Memorial Day weekend, as 15 students from Manhattan, Bergen and Rockland counties, all seniors at The Frisch School in Paramus, came to Puerto Rico to work with local youth in summer camps and to rebuild a community center as part of a partnership between the Orthodox Union’s NCSY and well-regarded local not-for-profit PR4PR.
On the second day of the mission, the students worked alongside five volunteers from Israel, 12 high school students from Boston, 13 students from Cornell and 30 local children to renovate a community center in Loiza that was severely damaged by Hurricane Maria in 2017. The community center is used by local children each day, providing programs and services designed to engage and keep them away from local gang violence in the community.
“This is a fun way to get involved and do something genuinely good,” said Joelle Solowiejczyk, 18, of Englewood, the student organizer of the program. “Jewish people tend to want to help everyone. For me, it is sometimes harder to find things in philanthropy that are fun ways to get involved. This trip is so important because we can help and make a difference in people’s lives.”
“I love helping people. It warms my heart. Who doesn’t like making someone’s life better,” said Noam Rothner, 17, of Teaneck. He said he was attracted to the program after several friends went on prior NCSY relief missions and told him of the good work students have done.
This is the seventh mission to Puerto Rico that NCSY has coordinated over the past year and part of its relief missions program started 13 years ago. It has run more than 100 missions since Hurricane Katrina.
“Tikkun Olam, doing something in the name of God to help build the world, is what these missions are about,” said Rabbi Ethan Katz, national director of NCSY Relief Missions. “These volunteers are the next generation of Jewish leadership. It is important to help cultivate and nurture them as they become effective volunteers and Jewish communal leaders.”
PR4PR provided the NCSY group with local expertise and assistance on the ground in Puerto Rico. PR4PR efforts were led by its local Director Levid Ortiz.
PR4PR is breaking the cycle of poverty, crime and dependency in Puerto Rico and transforming and empowering children who come from low-income and high-risk communities on the island. The organization has and continues to provide thousands of children a place to go after school and during the summer months, taking them off the streets and away from dangerous distractions. It achieves this vision by endorsing activities that promote self-satisfaction, tolerance, empowerment and self-sufficiency. To-date, more than 40,000 Puerto Rican citizens have benefitted from its programs and services.
“These young people are amazing. They are willing to leave the comfort of their homes and use their vacation time to help others. It shows the tremendous values they have,” said PR4PR Founder Henry Orlinsky. “Local children need so much and everyone can do something to help them. Acts of kindness like this are so meaningful. It will positively impact the lives of local families and the participants for a long time to come.”
For more information, visit https://pr4pr.org/pr4pr.org/.