Tomas Acosta retired in Valencia, Spain following his law enforcement career. He worked as a police officer and later in youth relations at the sheriff’s office in Naples, Florida. After coaching youth baseball for many years in the United States, he crossed paths with Valencia Astros Coach Juan Garcia Puig. From there, Acosta hit the bases as a coach with Astros.
“I’ve never been involved in coaching in that sense, being so diverse with different nationalities. With most of them, some kids, they do show up and they’re just beginning Spanish, but they might be better in English and that work pays off,” Acosta said. His team of 18 young people are from all over the world. He speaks both English and Spanish during his practices, and says the kids learn the language as the season progresses.
“Here, just the culture, the environment, the European sense of growing up, it’s different. These kids, most of them are pretty well educated in a sense [with manners], that sort of thing. It’s a lot easier to tell you the truth. You’ll get a couple of knuckleheads here or there. But nothing compared to the States where sometimes it’s difficult. It’s real difficult. It’s just the culture.” (Left) Billy, a bilingual player from Texas, leads the team in stretches before the game. Acosta said he lets the kids be independent while doing exercises. (Right) Acosta helps Oliver with being able to throw. Acosta said he has a show not tell method of coaching and he’ll often demonstrate the action himself.
The final game for the youth Valencia Astros team was on Monday, June 19, 2018. The game was a friendly between another local team, The Pirates. The Astros won the game.
Laps around the bases is a commonplace during practice. Occasionally, the kids will do sprints. The ages of the team range from 7 to 11.
More coaches have been added to the coaching team. “The other gentleman is from Venezuela. He’s seeking political asylum here, so he’s been here about a year. He loves baseball. He’s helping me out,” Acosta said. “They’re volunteers. I’m legally the one on people. The one in the black shirt, Miguel, he’s got two kids here. The other one, no. He just enjoys the game.”
Syracuse Mens Basketball
At age 10, Deynaba Farah moved to Syracuse with her family as resettled refugees from Somalia. Initially, she struggled with her identity as a Muslim in America — and with how to balance two cultures. Now 21 and more certain of herself and her identity, Deynaba is determined to give back and invest into her own community.
Along South State Street, in Syracuse, N.Y., Deynaba Farah and her family live just beyond the Carrier Dome in an apartment complex with other Somali families.
Halima Abdikhadin, 9, stood up in front of the classroom to copy all of the notes off of Farah’s board. The students are expected to behave well, sit straight and copy Farah’s notes. Each student is provided with a book of letters that she orders.
Deeza Adan and Ikran Kahiya sit along the wall silently after their classmate, Shaniyah Ali, misbehaved during their class time.
Farah reads "The Seerah of the Prophet," an Islamic text, at their weekly book club. She hosts one book club for the boys and one book club for the girls each weekend. She hopes to one day have these children not only know about their religion but feel comfortable being Muslim in America.
Each school day Farah works not only with school kids, but with her family and community members as well. A pile of shoes sits alongside the consistently open front door as kids come in and out of her apartment for back to back classes.
Bed Stuy Vollies
The Bedford-Stuyvesant Volunteer Ambulance Corps works out of a trailer in a Brooklyn, answering the occasional 911 call, and training the next generation emergency medical technicians.
Thirty years ago, James Robinson had just emerged from the Nostrand Avenue subway station when a neighbor told him his 7-year-old niece had been hit by a car nearby. He rushed into the crowd of people surrounding her and jumped into the ambulance with her.
His niece, Cynthia Lomax, was surrounded by modern life-saving equipment, Mr. Robinson said, but, “The attendant didn’t even know how to turn on the oxygen.” Before the ambulance reached the hospital, she was dead, he said.
That began Mr. Robinson’s effort to bring emergency care to Bedford-Stuyvesant. In 1988, Mr. Robinson and a partner, Joe Perez, founded the Bedford-Stuyvesant Volunteer Ambulance Corps, also known as the Bed-Stuy Vollies, to serve the neglected neighborhood.
“As I was driving throughout the city, no matter where I went, I always remembered that the people in my hood was being disserviced,” Mr. Robinson said.
For years, the service was a vital part of the emergency response system, showing up at the scenes of the many shootings and health emergencies. But in recent years, the crime rate has gone down. There are fewer 911 calls overall and the demand for the Vollies has diminished.
The corps struggles to stay ahead of its bills. Only one of the three ambulances runs, and the Vollies are always searching for funds to keep that one operating; even with a volunteer staff, it costs about $250,000 to keep it supplied and its gas tank full.
Still, said Mr. Robinson, “I’ll retire the day I die.”
The service operates out of a trailer with a leaky roof on the corner of Marcus Garvey Boulevard and Green Avenue. The lot is littered with desk chairs, tables, tarps and training equipment and encompassed by red, white and blue metal fence. There, Mr. Robinson, now 76, focuses on offering classes to train his recruits for the Emergency Medical Services certification exam.
Once a chronic drug user, Mr. Robinson took classes in emergency medical response at Long Island University after his niece’s death. “Even though I wasn’t trained, I wanted to be trained,” he said.
Many mornings, trainees line up in front of the trailer, waiting for Mr. Robinson, known as Rocky, to give them the plan for the day. They raise their hands in a stiff salute as he rolls forward in his wheelchair.
“Who are we?” he shouts.
“Family,” the cadets respond in unison.
More than 1,000 students have passed through his program. They quickly move on, he said, to become police officers, firefighters, doctors or paramedics. “Eventually they graduate and they don’t come back,” he said. “I don’t get mad, because they graduated.”
Students pay $500 for the three-month program. There are government subsidies for those who cannot afford the classes, as long as they pass the state exam. Mr. Robinson said that the actual cost of running the classes can be as much as $1,500 per student, and that many students slip through without paying him the full $500. Though there are occasional donations, usually Mr. Robinson foots the bill.
Mr. Robinson has needed emergency medical care himself. In 1992 he went into cardiac arrest. The fire department emergency team that responded included several people he had helped train.
At the emergency room, he was treated by Dr. Timothy Sutton, a graduate of the first E.M.T. class he had hosted. After nine years of dialysis he needed a kidney transplant. The donor was Reggie Crawford, another of his students.
“They refused to let ‘the commander’ die,” he said.
“What do we do?” Mr. Robinson shouts from his wheelchair.
“Save lives,” the cadets respond.
Mr. Robinson later explained what keeps him going.
“There ain’t no greater high than saving a life,” he said.
James Robinson, 76, known as “Rocky,” is the founder of the ambulance corps, which has been struggling financially.
The Bedford-Stuyvesant Volunteer Ambulance Corps is located at the intersection of Marcus Garvey Boulevard and Greene Street, in a residential area of Brooklyn.
Mr. Degeyndt, left, and Ebony Copeland, right, treat a patient who was hit by a car on Fulton Street. Mr. Degeyndt is a recent graduate of the Bedford Stuyvesant Volunteer Ambulance Corps and Ms. Copeland is a current student. The Corps takes pride in their students real time experience in the field.
The operation runs whenever volunteers are available and the ambulance is “at 800,” or fully stocked with medical equipment.
Using a patient simulation mannequin, Alonzo Culbert, 30, practices CPR.
Mr. Robinson is legally blind. The print on his phone is fairly large, and he often struggles to read it.
Ebony Copeland, 31, prepares the gurney with a new sheet for the next patient. The hospital often shares supplies like sheets, bags and oxygen tanks with the ambulance corps.
Jakeem McKenzie, 24, left, assists Mr. Degeyndt, right, while he loads a patient into their ambulance. The patient had suffered a mild heart attack.
Atma Degeyndt, 38, right, records information after an Officer Yanaris Mark, left, was kicked by a suspect.
In February of 2015, 18 students traveled to Sasle in Jinotega, Nicaragua to build two homes. The small town of Sasle is nestled in the mountains of Nicaragua and many of the homes are made of spare materials.