KINGS POINT, N.Y., August 13, 2014 - Finishing finals at the end of third trimester is always exciting at Kings Point. Usually, it means that it is time to go home. However, ten midshipman of the U.S Merchant Marine Academy gave up two weeks of their short vacation to volunteer in Cartago, Costa Rica. One midshipman Nina Demet, ‘17, made an even bigger sacrifice, giving-up her entire vacation before flying to out to California to join her first ship for sea year. “It was tough not being able to see my family very much this year, but I am glad that I chose to volunteer,” said Demet. “Volunteering with kids at an orphanage did more for me than I could ever do for them.”
Rear Admiral James A. Helis, Superintendent said, “We are very proud of these midshipmen. Consistent with the Academy motto, ‘Acta Non Verba’ translated ‘Deeds not Words’, they have demonstrated their commitment to serving others.”
The volunteer, trip which was organized by Midshipman Nadeem Shariff and coordinated by the commandant’s staff, was financed by the Midshipmen Morale Fund. The group’s goal was to help others while gaining skills that make them better leaders and better global citizens. “I really enjoyed my time in Cost Rica,”said Midshipman Jennifer Jimenez, ‘16. “I got to interact with women my age who spend so much of their time teaching students with disabilities essential life skills. I’m glad I was able to learn the culture and I was humbled by the experience.”
The midshipmen spent their first week in Cartago working at the largest special education school in the country. Five of the midshipman spent their days helping teachers with lessons and activities for students with physical and learning challenges. Midshipman Darin Zacharias, ‘17, helped teachers manage the students by changing and feeding them, and supervising them in the playground. While some midshipmen assisted the teachers, the others cleaned the playground and repainted the school.
They spent their second week volunteering at a large orphanage that housed 128 children from birth to age 18. Five of the midshipmen, along with a few other volunteers, set- up activities that allowed the children to interact with each other and learn new things. Midshipman Alec Dinh, ’16, played soccer and basketball with the children. The rest of the midshipmen worked on rebuilding some of the rooms in the neglected housing facility. Midshipman Benjamin Hladick, ‘16, led the way by reconstructing two walls and completely removing a closet and building a new one.
The midshipmen agreed that trip was the most challenging period in their time at Kings Point, but working together they overcame language and cultural barriers. “As mariners, we often find ourselves traveling the world, but we don’t usually have an opportunity to absorb the culture or help the local community while we are transferring cargo,” said Shariff . “This experience was extremely educational and fulfilling - I am glad were able to make a difference.”