Community is different in the Dominican Republic: immediate neighbors and family is what constitutes community, and supporting one-another is how one is engaged, and the volunteers are the foreigners who come in form of humanitarian aid. That’s perhaps why Hergit came to community engagement as we know it here a little later in life – there was no such tradition or model in her childhood. But once States side, enjoying all the trimmings that come with success as it is too often defined through the possession of material things and opulence, she somehow felt that there had to be more to it than this. There had to a reason greater than her own self. There had to be a way through which she could participate in life as a shared, collective experience.
Greater than that still, as she had been a first-hand witness to abject poverty in her own country, she understood the privilege of geography, and how misery is a relative term. But if there’s one thing that is as universal as it is undeniable, it’s the plight of sick children, how unjust it is – regardless of circumstances – and the desire to provide them with a sliver of childhood, hope and dream before they’re taken away much too soon. That’s what drew her to the Make A Wish Foundation – the grace of fulfilling a terminally-ill child’s dream; to allow for a momentary reprieve from the harsh reality.
Her engagement in the community is also articulated through her desire to help “those like her” – whether it be in the fight for equality for all through the Human Rights Campaign, facilitate access to the citizenship though Ya Es Hora! or access to education through the Public Education Foundation, for which she was spokesperson in the Hispanophone community for years before joining the organization as a staffer. The purpose of herengagement: to be part of a collective movement that affects positive change in the community in which she lives.