I am Lee Sandler, I am twenty years old, and I am from the sunny city of Tel Aviv, Israel. Being a woman from Israel automatically means that I have had to serve in the IDF (Israeli Defense Force) for two years, whereas men serve for three. I have done so previous to my studies, which I began this Spring. When most people hear that I was in the army they immediately get this connotation of something violent or fierce, they instantly ask me if I was in combat and practiced “Krav Maga”. I always get amused when hearing this, because little do they know that my position in the military was the equivalent to a social worker. I was in charge of making sure lone soldiers were well treated, I was there to help soldiers with their financial problems, and helped families in need. I have been giving back to the community ever since I can remember and having that job for two years really opened my eyes and exposed me to a lot of people with incredible stories. I did not want coming to American University to stop me from volunteering. As a result, I happily joined the CSLP program.
Since the launch of the semester, I have been volunteering at M.O.M.I.E.’s; an organization located in front of Howard University. This is an after school program for underprivileged children that runs from 16:00 – 18:00. As a volunteer at this organization, I help the children complete their homework after school, give them a snack, and play with them once they finish their work. Most of the children attend a bilingual school that includes English and Spanish. I am connecting my experience at M.O.M.I.E.’s to my Cross-Cultural Communications class I am taking at SIS. All the children come from different backgrounds allowing me see a lot of interactions between different cultures, happening at such a young age.
I was wonderfully surprised to see how accepting the community of the children were. On my first day there, one of the kids approached the male organization leader asking him what was on his face. I was so pleased to see that when he answered the kid with a smile explaining that he was wearing makeup, the kid responded curiously “why are you wearing makeup?” The organization leader just explained that he wears it sometimes to make himself feel pretty. The kid just answered with a satisfied “oh!” and a big smile, exposing his tiny teeth.
People always say that kids are cruel. I believe that children are not cruel; they are just curious. Therefore, when an adult answers the kid’s questions honestly and truly explains everything, a child is more likely to understand and not jump into cruel conclusions. This approach allows a child to be more open to difference. M.O.M.I.E.’s is a very welcoming community that appreciates the unique variance in people different cultures and ethnicities brought to the table.