Luis Da Silva is a senior at the Community Academy of Science and Health (CASH) in Boston’s Dorchester neighborhood. He has served more than 125 volunteer hours since joining buildOn, including building a school in Nicaragua and taking a stand to stop the violence in his community. This is Luis’s service story in his own words.
I live in Boston, but I was born in Cape Verde, an island off the West Coast of Africa. I remember having to get up while it was still dark to walk to school that was hours away. I also remember there being a lot of gang violence, so much that my mom decided to move our family to Boston.
My family had to sacrifice a lot to leave our home in Africa, but then when we came to Boston we still saw violence in our new community.
We hear gunshots sometimes, basically two blocks away. I’ve seen gun violence impact friends and family members. I remember thinking ‘what can I do to stop this violence around me, this unnecessary act of killing people?’ I decided the best way to do something was not to run away from it but to try to change people’s behavior, to educate them and work with them to prevent violence before it happens, which I got the opportunity to do when I joined buildOn.
“Even if it’s just one person, on one day educating kids, every little thing has a reaction that will continue to go down the chain until something greater happens and the cycle of violence is broken.”
buildOn was doing a service program focused on solving violence in the community, and as soon as I heard about it I knew I wanted to be a part of it. My family and I had tried running away from violence, and now I wanted to do something that would help stop it. During the program, we spent weeks learning about different types of violence and the factors that lead to it. We then took what we learned and made it into a curriculum that we presented to younger kids. Seeing the effect that curriculum had on the kids we were teaching was inspiring to me because it made me realize that I can make a change. Even if it’s just one person, on one day educating kids, every little thing has a reaction that will continue to go down the chain until something greater happens and the cycle of violence is broken.
buildOn has given me the chance to do many other good things for and with kids, like when I went on Trek to Nicaragua to build a school last summer. The village didn’t have a school, so the kids had to walk far if they wanted to learn or they just didn’t go at all. I lived with a host family, and I saw my host brother get up very early and remember watching him leave for school. I was like ‘that used to be me.’ I remember how hard that was for my family in Cape Verde. That made me work even harder on the construction site, so that my host family wouldn’t have to give up so much family time.
Spending time with my host family at night, laughing and playing games, was my favorite part of Trek. Everyone in my own family in Boston works at night, so we don’t have family time like that. Looking back, it makes me feel good knowing that my host family has more time together like that since the children don’t have to spend so much time in their day walking to school.
“Service gives you control over the problem — control that you don’t have when you hide from it.”
If I could give advice to someone who didn’t like what they saw in their community, it would be to do service. Service gives you control over the problem — control that you don’t have when you hide from it.
It can be eye-opening how little things that may seem like nothing to us, could be something greater to somebody else. When I serve, it makes people happy, and that makes me happy. If we are enjoying something together, it feels like we are a community.
buildOn has helped me realize that I want to continue to do service and be a part of the community into the future, and I hope to take some of the lessons I’ve learned through service in my future career. I want to go to college and study Criminal Justice and Business. I like Criminal Justice because I can continue to serve, and I’m interested in working in Business to help companies do better for the community. That way in addition to helping individual people on a day to day basis through community service, I will expand my reach and be able to make an impact on people on an even larger scale.