While volunteering this summer in Zimbabwe, one of OVS’ new seniors Jay Mizrahi convinced one homeless child to enter a local orphanage. He bandaged up another with nothing but a ratty pair of gloves, expired antiseptic cream and military grade bandages.
In addition to working as a make-shift doctor, he worked 15-hour days caring for lions and taught kids the basics of how to read and write.
This is just a small part of Mizrahi’s summer, the two months of which he spent working in Zimbabwe with ALERT, a volunteer organization dedicated to increasing the dwindling lion population in Africa and helping the community thrive.
Yet Mizrahi still feels he did not make enough of a difference.
“When you think about these programs and you see Africa you’re like ‘I want to go change something, I’m going to go save someone,’ ” Mizrahi explained. “I didn’t do that. I didn’t save anybody. If anything, I feel worse than when I left because those kids are still starving.”
While he was drawn to OVS by the sun and surf, it is his passion for service that will drive him while he is here.
Mizrahi joins OVS this fall from Mexico, as one of two new students to join the class of 2015. He heard about OVS from two former students.
With a complicated education background of three boarding schools and one public school during his high school career, Mizrahi was ready to a find a place where he could thrive.
While visiting his sister in Santa Barbara, the warm weather and, of course, surfing, swayed him into researching OVS. He could tell immediately that it was a good fit for his style of learning and personality.
“For such a young guy he’s got a lot of life experience and maturity. He’s had to really travel in his own life, not just physically,” said Associate Director of Admissions John Valenzuela. “He’s had a long experience that he’s had to make some changes for. That hopefully can help be a role model to some of the students here at OVS.”
While in Zimbabwe, Mizrahi worked with kids at a local orphanage, at a school teaching basic math and English, and with homeless kids, feeding them and teaching them very basic skills from school. He also tried to convince them to join the orphanage.
In two months, he managed to convince one homeless kid to join.
“If one of these kids is willing to commit to going to the orphanage it’s just amazing,” he said. “Zimbabwe has an 80 percent unemployment rate so if these kids learn basic skills and then move on to get a job it’s really a success.”
He also worked with lions, hoping to reestablish the wild population, which has decreased by 50 percent over the past four to six years. After all, “what is Africa without a lion?” he said.
Throughout the year he will fundraise to help contribute to ALERT’s plan to raise $8 million in support of the dwindling lion population.
After he graduates this spring, Mizrahi plans to return to Mexico for a few days, then continue on to Bali for a month and finally back to Zimbabwe. He plans to go back to continue his work in Zimbabwe due to the amazing experience he had this past summer.
He will spend six months — given that he isn’t deported by the government — working with his lions. He then hopes to continue on to do a six month anti-poaching unit in South Africa and to continue to make a difference as he did this summer.Share