Melanie Moskow, a 2010 participant in the Dominican Republic (DR), one of VISIONS teen summer programs abroad, is sending hundreds of books she collected to a home in the DR for girls affected by HIV and AIDS. Melanie, a student at North Broward Preparatory School in Coral Springs, FL, launched an ambitious book drive after returning home from her summer with VISIONS. She wrote to ask us where in the DR to send the 400 books she collected.

About the same time we heard from Melanie, we heard from one of her directors last summer in the DR, Vicky Dibe, who had just returned from facilitating an educational trip for college students to the DR. Vicky was especially moved by the girls she met and the work being done to support them at Yiret, “a home for girls who have either contracted HIV from their mothers or do not have HIV, but their mothers/parents have died of AIDS.”

“Many of these girls,” Vicky wrote, “were found on the streets, abandoned by their sick mothers. Yiret houses about 30 young girls from 5 to 18 years old… During introductions, we asked… ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’ The girls’ answers were everything from engineers and doctors to ballerinas, singers, and actresses. They sang beautifully and performed a dance for us… we played and laughed together for the entire afternoon.”

The timing of Melanie’s query and Vicky’s email about Yiret made our reply to Melanie about where to send the books obvious. Melanie “carries on a legacy of post-program service, joining her impressive effort with those of many past VISIONS participants who, through fundraising and collection initiatives similar to [Melanie’s], kept on serving the host community after their programs ended.”

Teen service programs abroad and here in the U.S. are tremendous catalysts for such valuable far-reaching work. Hats off off to you, Melanie, for this impressive effort. Thank you for continuing to make a real difference in others’ lives.