Palmetto High School senior Noah Liebling did a lot of physical labor this summer in the Dominican Republic. He was there with the Blue Mission organization helping a rural mountain town get running water.
“We built a water system for a town of 70 families that had to walk five-and-a-half miles each way to get water,” he says. “We laid piping and at the top of the town we built a tank out of concrete.”
Liebling went on the trip along with his friend Joey Carrillo, who also attends Palmetto. The group stayed in the town’s school building and slept on cots. The work was not easy, with a morning shift starting at 8 a.m. and lasting until noon. They would take a couple hours for lunch, then get back to work and put in seven-hour days of hard labor. The townspeople worked alongside them.
“They were working for themselves,” Liebling says. “They were going strong while we were eating lunch.” The group trenched four miles and then laid pipe.
“We completed it,” he says. “We saw the water delivered to their homes.”
The last day, the students were able to shower using water from the main tank. Liebling says it was one of the best showers ever.
“We were taking freezing cold showers in a dripping faucet the first 10 days,” he says.
After the work was done, they would socialize with the townspeople.
“We had a Kid’s Day,” Liebling says. “I juggled in the Kid‘s Day. After we finished our work, we had a garage sale. We brought clothes we knew we wouldn’t want back. We sold shoes, clothes, everything. They needed everything.”
Most of the students brought white tee shirts and old jeans to work in. Because of the local culture, they had to wear long pants and shirts while working. Liebling says he learned several life lessons while there.
“I just learned, don’t take anything for granted,” he says. “And also, the more people you have, the faster you get things done, and cooperation helps a lot.”
Coming from the U.S., it was a cultural shock for him to see how incredibly poor Third World countries can be. This isn’t the first time Liebling has volunteered for a building project.
“I went to New Orleans and built a house with Habitat for Humanity,” he says.
He went with members of Beth Am and two other temples, one from Virginia and the other from North Carolina. They were in New Orleans for five days, building a home near the Ninth Ward.
“I thought it was awesome; I had never been to New Orleans,” he says. “It’s an awesome town and I was with friends.”
At Palmetto, Liebling’s volunteering isn’t quite as physical. He’s a peer educator in the Health Information Project and a member of Key Club and the National Honor Society. He coached a girls’ basketball team in the Beth Am League. He took on the task to help his father, who runs the girls’ league and needed one more coach. He and a couple of friends coached the team. He has played in the Beth Am League since he was in the fourth grade.
Liebling hopes his future includes attending the University of Florida, where his brother, sister, mother and father were all students. He also will apply to North Carolina, Michigan and Texas, all schools with big Division One programs. His goal is to attend law school and focus on maritime law.
By Linda Rodriguez Bernfeld