Ava & Rosie Swidler: 2020 Leadership Dinner Honoree Highlight

Rosie (left) and Ava (right) in La Guama in February.

Bridges to Community’s 2020 Leadership Dinner will honor a group of seven young people who are stellar examples of passionate, service-oriented future leaders. 

From Briarcliff, NY, Rosie, 16, and Ava, 15, have traveled on multiple Bridges service trips. They have also raised significant funds for Bridges’ vital programs. 

Rosie and Ava became involved with Bridges through their synagogue, Temple Shaaray Tefila, and traveled on their first trip to the Dominican Republic in 2019 with their mother. It was a formative experience for the sisters. Ava says, “I’d been on a trip like this before when I was younger, but I didn’t really understand what was going on. I understood this trip. It was inspiring to see the change we were making in the lives of the community members.” Rosie adds, “I met the people I was making a difference for, which is different than other charities [we have been exposed to]. I could see the difference I was making in their lives.”

Rosie and Ava loved forming relationships with the community members in our partner community of La Guama, DR. They brought nail polish on the trip and painted women’s nails as they walked through the community. Rosie says, “It was a way to bond with them and to interact off the worksite.”

Additionally, Ava says, “Everyone developed a really special relationship and bond with the children [in the community]. Their faces lit up when they saw someone was making an effort to get to know them. It was cool because we were helping to create their home and a foundation for their lives, the place they will grow up and live.” Rosie concurs saying, “It was so special because we don’t speak fluent Spanish and [the community members] don’t speak English, but we were able to communicate through something other than language.”

The trip also opened the two sisters up to new experiences they hadn’t had before. Rosie says, “I loved going to the river in La Guama to bathe with the community members. It felt like we were all one community. Most of us hadn’t experienced that before.” Ava adds, “I liked going to the river too because we got to see what the locals experience to bathe.”

The experience is still impacting them. Rosie says, “During the nightly reflections in La Guama, we thought about what we would change when we went home to the US. Water is such a big issue in La Guama and people are constantly worried about running out. I use a lot less water now and try to conserve as much as I can [after being on the Bridges trip].”

Ava has been similarly impacted. She says, “When we were in La Guama, we were told to never waste our food because it could have gone to people who really need it. I definitely took that back home and always think about that. Now I always get the right portion and finish all the food on my plate.”

It was such an important experience for Rosie and Ava that they were inspired to fundraise for Bridges’ projects. They reached out to their contacts and used social media after their first trip to raise $13,500 for Bridges’ programming. They also worked with Solight Design to have solar-operated lanterns donated to the community in La Guama. Rosie says, “All pieces of support are equally important. The lanterns help houses without electricity so families can work into the night. Donating funds helps to build more houses and going on Bridges trips builds new connections and puts everything in action.” Ava says, “Our family has always been involved in charity. Especially our mom; she taught us to give and not take. We think to celebrate her legacy we should continue that and give.”

Ava and Rosie’s trip leader, Rabbi Jason Nevarez, says, “I remember their mom (of blessed memory) saying that their children would help amplify in helping to make this world a better place. I have only seen these qualities in both Ava and Rosie. Each, in their own ways, see the people around them, but not the color of their skin or their nationality. Rather, they see their humanity and the best in them. They continue to carry on their family’s legacy of making this world a kinder and better place.” Their father, Joshua Swidler, adds, “Rosie and Ava have had the most incredible experience through the Bridges program. While giving of themselves to a community far away, they have received even more in return through the love and thanks of the local community in La Guama. We could not be prouder of their contributions and their commitment to helping others.”

Rosie returned on a Bridges trip in June and both Ava and Rosie attended a trip in February of this year where they worked on construction of an elementary school. Over the course of their trips, they have noticed the impact Bridges has had in the community of La Guama. Rosie says, “Bridges has impacted the way the town is structured. Bridges helps form leaders and leadership roles in the community and that makes them a better community and stronger politically as well. Building the school is also important because improvements to education allow community members to get better jobs and return to La Guama to affect more change in the community.” Ava says, “Bridges’ name symbolizes so much: the connection between communities. Bridges connects the more fortunate to the less fortunate and creates a balance where people are encouraged to help others.”