Wendi Silverman and her daughter Amanda, 15 years old, went on their very first Bridges trip to La Guama, Dominican Republic in February with Temple Shaaray Tefila in Bedford, NY. Wendi’s older son Matt had been on a Bridges trip to Nicaragua several years prior, and it was “an incredible and life-changing experience” so when Amanda entered 9th grade, Wendi decided to join her daughter on the trip. She was somewhat apprehensive before going and wasn’t sure if she could handle the physical work. She also didn’t want to get in her daughter’s way.
Her fears were unfounded; both Amanda and Wendi had an incredible experience. Wendi says, “We loved the trip, immersing ourselves in the culture and the food. Amanda and I have a very special and mature relationship, and it was wonderful to be on the trip together because we got to stay together in the center at night and work on the same housing site. It was incredible to watch her work so hard on the house and connect with the families and the kids and other community members of La Guama. It was very special to [see how] the first day, everything was new, but by the end of the week, a beautiful bond was built through sharing and communicating with the people of La Guama.”
Wendi loved the experience working on the house for the family in La Guama. She says, “I love the idea [that we built] a home for somebody else…not a house but a home to raise a family and feel safe and feel protected. It was great to talk to the mom of the house especially. She has four kids, and one is a newborn baby…Every day we went to the river to bathe, and there were other families doing the same, mothers bathing their children. [It was nice to see] those mothers in their lives and me in mine, connecting. I feel grateful for everything I have, and I know those mothers do too in their way…We feel very connected to the La Guama community members.
I had never had an experience like this. It was so physical to work on the house, and I am so proud of Amanda and myself for the work that we did…and to know that you are contributing in such a positive way to the community…We were a small part of helping to provide a home for a family. It’s incredible [to think of] the ripple effect this work has.
I also think it was very impactful for the community to see the teenage girls on the trip doing physical labor [alongside] the men on the site and not thinking twice about it. They are role models showing that women can be maternal and emotional and work hard physically.”
Wendi sees the impact that the service trip has had on her daughter. She says, “For Amanda, going to a community so different from the one she grew up in and [meeting] people whose lives are so different from her own was important. She saw that the lives of the people in La Guama are beautiful [despite the disparities] and that in both societies we appreciate what we have…family, love, and a sense of community…we put values on things and don’t even realize sometimes that we are looking through our own lens.”
After the trip, Amanda and Wendi put together a Shutterfly book of pictures from the trip because they had to “share the experience.” Amanda is excited to return on a Bridges service trip next year; she has Wendi and the whole family’s support. Hopefully, Wendi will be building “Bridges” right beside her.