Jonathan and his son, Sam Sharf, 18, have been on two Bridges service trips together. In 2018, they went to Nicaragua and, in 2019, traveled with us to the Dominican Republic. Jon had an incredible experience. He says, “I wish I had gone on a Bridges trip earlier in my life; I really enjoyed it. The interaction with all of the people on the trip and the cooperative nature was terrific; we were all there for a shared purpose: to help the local people living in impoverished conditions…Everyone on a trip like this has outstanding character, and it is so encouraging to be around.
Though I wasn’t surprised by the conditions that the local people were living in, I was reminded that people are people. The locals love their children very much and want them to get an education and do well in life. They have a real love of community and self-supporting, and it was so interesting to experience that firsthand…The trip exposes you to other people and what they deal with.”
More than his own experience on the trip, Jon sees how the Bridges experience has changed his son. He says, “I saw a tremendous amount of growth in Sam. He was triggered by the positive influence of the people on the trip with us and the experience itself…it opened up his eyes, and I watched him blossom throughout the week. Sam speaks Spanish, and it was great to watch him engage with the people, especially the children, communicating effectively and helping to build this bridge between our two communities.
When we came back from [our first trip to] Nicaragua, he was a different kid. Sam was a leader on the football team [at the time] and came back and asked himself, ‘why am I spending time doing this?’ [On the Bridges trip], he had seen all of the work there was to do in the world. It enlightened him to want to use his skills to serve the greater good.”
Sam decided to quit the football team and throw himself into other activities to benefit others “more assertively and overtly.” Jon says, “Sam has become politically active and says he wants to work in the campaign environment to create change…He has developed some really interesting perspectives on where the world should be. Sam is thinking about things and influencing other kids. He has made a lot of new friends who are politically active and interested in what is going on in the world. He has always had these abilities, but he is putting them to good use. I’m taken aback by the growth I’ve seen in him…and I credit a lot of that to Bridges.”
Sam is currently in his first semester at New College of Florida studying political science and physics.