Children from a Haitian orphanage playing with bicycles that they received from Sarah Fiske. (Rilden Desamoures)
by Suzanne Kurtz Sloan
WASHINGTON (JTA) — Sarah Fiske, 16, grew up hearing stories about her father’s longtime friend who runs an orphanage in the Haitian town of Ouanaminthe.
Last year, when she needed to come up with her required International Baccalaureate Personal Project, Fiske, a junior at Scheck Hillel Community School in North Miami Beach, Fla., knew she wanted to find a way to help the children at the orphanage.
Her project began with an email sent “to everyone I knew,” and some she didn’t, like the Miami Beach police chief, asking for donations of any new or used bicycles. In just a few months, the word “just spread” and Fiske collected more than 50 bicycles before arranging to have them shipped to Haiti. All the bikes would serve the same purpose, she said, of helping the children travel more easily the many miles to their school — especially as no other modes of transportation are available to them.
Helping the children get to school “gives them hope and leads to a brighter future,” said Fiske. “Seeing how the kids benefit [from the bikes] and seeing the results, that’s big.”
Fiske’s own future is bright. While junior year at Scheck is hard, she likes her English and U.S. history classes and is close to her family that includes two younger sisters.
“It feels really good to have an impact,” said Fiske. And her dad, “is really, really proud.”
JTA caught up with Fiske recently and spoke to her about meaningful Jewish experiences, favorite holiday traditions and whom she would like to someday meet for lunch.
Can you share with us a meaningful Jewish experience that you have had so far?
When I spent the summer in Israel with Alexander Muss High School. To live the history of the Jewish people was really cool and made an impact on me.
What is your favorite Jewish holiday?
Passover. I like being with my family. We have a big seder on the first night with one side of my family and another seder with the other side of my family on the second night. At my cousins’ house there is always a surprise, always something crazy with Elijah!
If you could have lunch with anyone and tell him or her about your service project, who would it be?
I’ve never met the director of the orphanage; it would be cool to meet him and talk to him about [the project].
What advice would you give to other teens when planning an IB Personal Project or other service project?
Choose something that you are really passionate about and something bigger than you. Make a difference with your project and see it through every week.
Do you have any future plans connected to your IB Personal Project?
I’m thinking about reaching out this year and doing another [bicycle drive] for another orphanage [in Haiti]. There are a lot of orphanages there in bad condition.
What kind of things do you like to do for fun?
I like to hang out with my friends, go to the beach, workout. I like active stuff.
The Teen Heroes column is sponsored by the Helen Diller Family Foundation, which is dedicated to celebrating and supporting teens repairing the world. To learn more about the foundation’s $36,000 Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Awards, visit http://dillerteenawards.org. Please tell us about teens who deserve attention by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.