By Jenna Bagcal
A Little Neck teen is using his Eagle Scout service project to give back to refugees this winter.
At the end of summer 2018, 16-year-old Dani Heba was inspired to help refugees after past trips to Syria opened his eyes to the hardships that people faced in the war-torn country.
“You can’t help but feel sympathy for the people in Syria,” said Heba, who shared that he is of Syrian and Egyptian descent.
Heba, a Life Scout in Troop 153, said that before a Life Scout reaches 18 years old, he must complete a service project in order to advance to the rank of Eagle Scout. According to the Boy Scouts of America website, a Life Scout must “plan, develop, and give leadership to others in a service project helpful to any religious institution, any school, or your community.”
His aunt introduced him to the Arab-American Family Support Center (AAFSC) and he proposed his idea to donate school supplies, hygiene items and winter clothing to refugees.
The AAFCS was established in 1994 as a non-profit, non-sectarian organization which aims to “provide culturally and linguistically competent, trauma-informed, multigenerational social services to immigrants and refugees.”
“I had a meeting with the president of the organization and he liked my idea so they were willing to be the beneficiary of my project,” said Heba.
In early December 2018, he began collecting items through two collection boxes in Alley Pond Tennis Center and Keller William Realty on Francis Lewis Boulevard. He also hosted several collection events at local churches and enlisted the help of his fellow Scouts to collect items and hand out fliers.
The teen said that the collection will end this weekend after about a month and a half of accumulating items for refugees. Since Heba started the project, he said that he has collected a “garage full of items” for donation.
Once items are delivered to the AAFSC, the organization will donate them to refugees in need this season. Heba will also go to the support center to talk to some of the recipients and explain his project.
Heba has been a Scout since age 9 when he joined the Cub Scouts with one of his “closest friends.” He transitioned to the Boy Scouts at 10 years old and has continued his involvement through middle and high school.
“At first I was shy about joining but after the first few meetings, I really liked it and I really wanted to do it,” said Heba, who added that joining the organization has helped to build his character, make friends and break out of his shell.
In his spare time, the Brooklyn Tech Junior said that he enjoys playing tennis, piano, basketball with friends and “spending time with the people I care about the most.”
Reach reporter Jenna Bagcal by e-mail at jbagc