The Teen Heroes column is sponsored by the Helen Diller Family Foundation. To learn more about the foundation’s $36,000 Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Awards, visit http://dillerteenawards.org.
WASHINGTON (JTA) — By combining her love of soccer with her community service requirement, Rachelle Murciano helped change the lives of impoverished girls in Ecuador.
Murciano, 14, spent three weeks over the summer in the capital city Quito with El Centro de la Nina Trabajadora, or the Center for the Working Girl, running a soccer camp for 20 girls aged 8 to 13.
“I’ve been [to Ecuador] and seen the poverty and little kids selling candy in the street,” said Murciano, a Floridian whose mother is from the South American country. “I wanted to do something different for my community service hours, incorporate my favorite sport and share it with girls in Ecuador.”
Prior to her departure, Murciano raised all the money necessary for running the camp — over $3,000. The funds were used to hire a coach, arrange transportation, and purchase uniforms and soccer equipment as well as arts and crafts supplies and snacks for the campers.
Most of the girls must work to help support their families, but by providing them with a reprieve of fun and play, she said, “You’re treating them as girls not as adults, and the relationships [that develop] are very special.”
Currently a ninth-grader at the Scheck Hillel Community School in North Miami Beach, Fla., Murciano has a full course load and is also trying out for her school’s varsity soccer team. But she is already planning to return to Quito next summer and hopes to raise double the funds for her camp.
“It was extremely rewarding to know that I really made [the girls] happy and gave them fun,” she said. “It’s something they teach us at school, to not only become the next Albert Einstein, but to become better, well-rounded people. There are some people who don’t have anything, and it’s really important that everyone help.”
Murciano recently spoke to JTA about her hero, the latest teen trilogy that she’s been reading and what tikkun olam means to her.
JTA: Who is your hero and why?
Murciano: My mom because she is super selfless and won’t think twice about helping someone in need. She’s the first one to help others, and she inspired me to do this camp.
What do you think you want to be when you grow up?
I don’t know; I’ve been through many phases. Maybe something that has to do with art like an interior designer or an architect.
What’s your favorite Jewish holiday?
I like Rosh Hashanah because I feel it’s a fresh start and a way to forget the last year or take what you learned into the new year.
What kind of things do you like to do for fun?
I play soccer. I like hanging with my friends and my family.
What’s the latest book that you read for pleasure?
The “Divergent” series by Veronica Roth. I liked the romance and action.
What does tikkun olam mean to you?
To repair the world, to help it become a better place. [Last summer] I wasn’t repairing the whole world, but I was helping these 20 girls and their lives.
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