Alisa Swidler and two of her daughters, Rosie, 15, and Ava, 14, went on their first Bridges trip to La Guama, DR in February with Temple Sharaay Tefila. Passionate about philanthropy, Alisa has volunteered both locally and in different countries around the world working on food poverty, global health projects, schools, blood banks, and clinics and, as a mother of five, Alisa usually takes at least one of her children on these projects. She says, “I feel like I am in a position where I can give back so I should be giving back as much as I possibly can in all sectors…there are so many opportunities to give back, both globally and locally.”
Despite Alisa’s extensive philanthropic work around the world, Bridges’ service trips especially called her attention. She says, “I love the fact that it was doing something tangible. We were not just donating our time, but doing something physical. We were able to see the impact we would have…The DR was the most incredible experience. On my trip, there were forty teenagers all of whom were ready to work…Everyone was there for the right reasons, and no one complained about anything…Everyone [involved] was such good people.”
The experience was an incredible bonding experience for Alisa and her daughters. She says, “It adds another component when your children are learning alongside you. We were learning together…An experience [like this] gives [my children] exposure and a world view. It helps them realize that the world is not just about their town, where they are living right now…it’s important to think very big [and realize that] our day-to-day problems are nothing compared to what many people have to contend with and I think my children have picked up on that.”
When Alisa returned from the DR, she says, “I could not stop talking about the trip.” She remembers several moments that stand out in her mind. Alisa says, “The first was at the end of the trip. The matriarch of our family stood up and thanked God for sending us to her community. There was so much crying, and it was very intense to think that we spent just eight days of our life, which is almost nothing, and did something completely life-changing for this family.”
The next moment, Alisa explains, was about her daughters. Ava, at just 13 years old, worried her a little bit because she knew the hard labor on the house would be demanding. Her fears were unfounded. Alisa says, “Ava was a star and became the mayor of La Guama. Her Spanish became really good. She would walk up and down the road in the community saying hello to every single person. She was just so genuine and hyper-engaged. [We brought nail polish] and she painted everybody’s nails. It was an amazing thing to watch from a 13-year-old.”
Alisa is also proud of Rosie who returned from the DR so touched by her experience that she decided to join another Bridges trip to the DR in July and fundraise for the organization. Alisa explains, “Rosie came to me and showed me that she had set up a page on the website to raise money for her trip fee. She wanted to pay for her trip on her own and decided to set her goal at $10,000 to try to raise some money for Bridges programs as well.” At the time this article was published, Rosie had raised over $12,000 for Bridges. Alisa says, “I am so proud of her for raising the money and for wanting to raise it on her own.”
Alisa was also impressed by her daughters who told her that the Bridges trip was “the most amazing holiday [they] had ever been on.” Alisa explains, “I have taken them all over the world, and the fact that they valued this experience this much is amazing. [They both] want to go back on their own…which is such an amazing thing. They were in a place where they worked eight hours in the heat, froze at night, showered in the river and yet, that was their best holiday.” Rosie will return in July to the DR with Bridges and again in February with Ava on the Temple’s next trip.