by Madeline Scher.
For star Lehman volunteer Abel Gomez, not even the most dangerous city in the world could stop him from his commitment to service.
Originally proposed as a Lehman L.I.F.E. trip, it was cancelled due to low registration. But Gomez didn’t let this stop him. He traveled to one of the most unsafe cities in the world: San Pedro Sula.
21 year-old, Gomez, a senior, has volunteered in soup kitchens, homeless shelters, and a day care. He has participated in service projects in places such as Cincinnati, New Orleans (twice), and Florida.
He has even lived with an undocumented Mexican family and worked in the fields with the migrant farmers. He has helped build homes, a soccer field, and a school.
“I have many more plans for volunteering in the future. I’d love to explore the whole world,” said Gomez, who is studying photography and anthropology.
His sense of adventure took him to Honduras over winter break.
“The fact that it is the most dangerous city in the world only made me want to go even more,” he said. “It’s a culmination of the thrill of being in a new place where you might not be safe all the time, where you’re meeting people who live in a completely different reality, and where I can make a difference for the better all while learning about the world and myself.”
For eight days, Gomez helped build a soccer field and a school for children by working with an organization called Students Helping Honduras (SHH).
A normal day consisted of working from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., mixing cement, moving cement blocks, digging, and carrying buckets of water. A short break at noon for lunch, and then back to work made for an intense day of physical labor.
The highest homicide rate in the world, gang problems, and extreme poverty may have given Gomez “a sense of fear of the unknown” as he ventured to San Pedro Sula, but this was soon forgotten as he interacted with the locals, and most of all, the children.
“The kids were hard working and so mature. I could tell all they wanted was love,” he said.
Gomez talked about one 7-year-old girl named Avi who had to look after her 3-year-old brother all day. When Gomez bought her snacks, candy and drinks, she would always go feed her brother first. “She was the sweetest child and I can not wait to see her again, he said.”
The trip to Honduras gave Gomez a sense of perspective. “It taught me not to take things for granted because people around the world are so happy with much less. I didn’t even see people complain. There was so much joy and love and it was so contagious.”
His community service is influenced by a group called Connected Spontaneity, which he and some friends created after organizing an art show in a Bronx apartment. The exhibit showcased over 20 artists, many from Lehman. The night was a success, and he and eight others decided to live life with “connected spontaneity” in mind.
“It is the idea that everything in the universe is interconnected,” he said. “It is really about having awareness and acting on it.”
Gomez said helping those less fortunate is a way to reflect and work on qualities such as empathy and patience. Traveling and learning about other cultures has allowed him to relate to things and people he might not have otherwise had the opportunity to.
“One day,” says Gomez, “I hope to have my own organization that takes kids around the world to do community service in an unprecedented way.”
“This is just the beginning,” he said. Gomez already has a trip planned to Puerto Rico for spring break as a part of Lehman L.I.F.E.
* In a previous version of the article it was said that Abel Gomez went by himself to Honduras. This was inaccurate. We apologize for the mistake to Mr. Gomez and to any one who was affected.