Our 2020 Leadership Dinner, to be held on April 23rd, will honor the service-oriented leaders of tomorrow. Dylan Eichhorn is one of seven young people who will be recognized.
From Bedford, NY, Dylan Eichhorn has traveled on four Bridges service trips and has been incredibly impacted by his experiences.
Dylan’s family became involved with Bridges through their church. His mother, father, and sister all went on trips and, when he came of age in his first year of high school, Dylan joined the ranks and went on his first trip to Nicaragua.
On his first trip, Dylan was surprised by the community members. He says, “The people are grateful for everything they have, and they make the most of what they have. There is clearly a value placed on family and a subtle warmness of connection.”
Dylan returned three more times in high school, all with his father. He says, “Connection [with people] kept bringing us back. There are always a few people that you connect with who give you a different perspective and a different understanding of life. You bond with someone you’ve never met, who lives thousands of miles away from home, who speaks a different language, [through] the little things like passing someone a water bottle or moving bricks down the line. It’s not easy to do [in such a short time] in the US…, but the Bridges experience puts you out in the world and forces you to make relationships. [All the community members] are so warm, so it is easy to do.
[On the trip during my senior year of high school, I [bonded] with an older man, Felix Picado, on the worksite who was always looking out for me during the week. I [spoke] a lot of Spanish with him. We developed a sort-of father-son bond, though I was on the trip with my dad. The last day, [we] planted a tree together right outside the house we built. It was a special moment.
It was also very important to me to have gone on the four trips with my dad, Eric Eichhorn. [Being there with him] was both a source of comfort and a special bonding week. Eric, Dylan’s father, says, “On each trip, Dylan took on more and more of a leadership role, not just on the worksite, but also in his connections with the community and his participation in the evening reflections. The experiences Dylan had on the Bridges to Community trips, particularly his time spent with the Nicaraguans, have provided him with valuable life insights as he goes forward. He has continued to stay in touch with many of his friends in Nicaragua and I know he will go back.”
On a personal level, Dylan has taken the lessons he learned on his service trips to heart and applies them on a daily basis. He says, “I’m very grateful for Bridges and the opportunity they have given me and so many others to see the world and work on bettering themselves and greater society. [I learned] to be more considerate and understand that people go through difficult challenges in their lives, and it’s not always obvious, but you have to treat people with respect and recognize that people come from all walks of life.
[Bridges] has also raised my awareness of the need for service [and] made me a more socially conscious person. It’s driven a sense of hard work in me and the [importance] of having a community full of people you can trust and respect.
I’m so grateful to my church and former pastor, Paul Alcorn; his presence on these trips has opened my eyes and helped me to go beyond doing the work [on the worksite] to think and talk about what we were seeing and experiencing. It helped me retain my lessons and understanding.”
Paul Alcorn, Dylan’s former pastor and Bridges trip leader says, “I think Dylan’s thinking [on the Bridges trips] went something like this: Wow! What have I gotten myself into? To… Wow! I can do this. To… Wow! I can help others do this. To… Wow! I have a responsibility to do this. To make a difference. Dylan has learned and grown and is an example for the rest of us to follow.”
Not only has Bridges affected how Dylan treats others, but it directed his studies and goals for the future. A sophomore at Penn State, Dylan studies Film/Video and is minoring in Spanish. He says, “Bridges had a significant impact on my decision to continue studying Spanish. I started Spanish in middle school, but I never practiced it until going to Nicaragua with Bridges. Building relationships with people when you can speak their language is essential, and the opportunities to connect with [community members] on Bridges trips inspired me to keep studying Spanish.
I have always wanted to pursue film as a career. My passion for film [connects] to Bridges because I think it is so important to shed light on problems like socioeconomic poverty in our world and people who are in need. Not everyone goes on a Bridges trip and sees it [firsthand]. With film and documentaries, you can shed light on problems in [developing countries] and expose the problems that people don’t see. I’d love to [help shed light on the problems] in Nicaragua one day.”
Dylan has also been impressed by Bridges’ impact on our partner communities. He says, “I got to visit the first Bridges house I worked on two years later. The house was beautiful and completely developed from our work; it was beautifully painted, and the kids were playing in the front door. The homeowner was so grateful and ran to bring a picture of us she had hanging in the house. It was so great to see that her family had a sense of security, living in a comfortable place. Bridges takes steps every year to improve the [community members’] lives and health and helps establish self-sustaining communities.”