Inspired to Make a Difference

Tue, 01/26/2016 - 3:44pm

In January 2015, I had the incredible opportunity to travel to Poland with other students, as a junior intern, for USC Shoah Foundation’s and Discovery Education’s Auschwitz: Past is Present program, commemorating the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.

Visiting Poland was one of the most impacting journeys I have ever experienced. In five short days, I learned so much about the Holocaust and also myself. Listening to Holocaust survivor Paula Lebovics recount her story of surviving Auschwitz as a child. Learning from my instructors on using IWitness to better understand history. Also, visiting local museums learning about Jewish life in Poland before WWII, all contributed to my realization of what really happened and what I could do.

I think visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial Museum had the biggest impression on me. At the former concentration camp, my eyes were opened not just to see and feel the pain more closely, but to realize that I had the power to do something about it. One year later, I still recall the faces and places that I came in contact with in Poland.

I still keep these experiences and lessons close to my heart. They keep the fire burning within me and that one day I may be able to somehow help those neglected in the world. One of the things my community and I do often is go downtown into Center City and give food to those less fortunate. It’s one of the small ways we help our community in need and show them that we do care. I have taken upon the responsibility to do something for those who we often times ignored. One year after learning so much from my trip to Poland, I can be sure that even the smallest of acts can make a big difference in someone’s life.

Ruth Hernandez