Raquel Lesser is a creative using her passion for literature to create libraries in homeless shelters across New York and support refugees in central Africa. Her journey began with volunteering in a homeless residency library in Schenectady, New York, as part of the High Five Program with Volunteers of America. After witnessing the lack of educational resources and isolation that homeless individuals were facing, she started a book drive. Raquel and her team transformed the corner of the shelter into a library by collecting donated and sourced books. Encouraged by this, she expanded her efforts to shelters in the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Manhattan, gathering hundreds of books to bring joy and knowledge to those in need. 

She is also the founder of Dare for Genocide Awareness And Hope (DFGAAH), an advocacy organization collaborating with the organization I-ACT. Through DFGAAH, Raquel raises funds, submits art, and sends books to refugees in central Africa, offering them hope in the face of adversity. In collaboration, she has reached refugees in Rwanda, Chad, and Darfur, spreading awareness and providing much-needed support. In 2018, Raquel's contributions were recognized with a local Jefferson Award for DFGAAH.  

Why does Raquel choose to give back? Service is a part of her life because she understands. She faced many health challenges since she was a child and has learned to cope with a learning disability, but her love for writing and learning fuels her desire to make a difference.

Do you have a story about your community service work? Or can you shine a spotlight on someone in your community? If so, please send us your stories so that we can share them throughout the year and inspire each other. Writing, audio notes, and video are gladly accepted!