Over the summer, I went to a camp called Indian Brook, which is a camp within Farm And Wilderness Camps. Indian Brook is an all girls camp for girls ages 9-14. Each girl is required to go on a trip during her time at camp. For 13-14 year olds, the trips are for 5 days. There are hiking trips, canoeing trips, rock climbing trips, farm service trips, and trail service trips. This summer, I was on the trail service trip. However, this year’s trail service trip was different from the past years. Instead of just making trails, we helped repair the trails on Farm and Wilderness property that were damaged by Hurricane Irene.
We cleared the trail from fallen trees, leaves, and anything else that was in the way. We spent approximately 4-5 hours for 5 days making trails. After we were done clearing trails, we hiked back approximately half a mile to a wooden shelter, and cooked our own food using a whisperlight (a small camping stove), and made fires. Each day, after we finished making parts of the trail, it was nice to think that after we were done with it, it was nice to know that people would walk on these during their summers. Although it was a lot of work, it was definitely rewarding at the end of the day. It was a great experience, however there were some stressful times.
The first day, after we built a nice, long trail. When we got back, we met the camp director. However, she told us that the trail we built was in the wrong place, and that we had built a trail in preserved land. However, that just motivated us to do better the next day, and we did twice the work that we planned to. After doing this, I understood the importance of giving back. I loved hiking on the trails that other people had made, so it felt very good to make trails myself. Not only did I benefit from making trails, I learned many other things such as things about camping, such as how to make a fire, or how to turn on a whisperlight. I highly enjoyed it, and believe we helped out our Farm and Wilderness community.
This summer I participated in a community service program with 360 Student Travel and spent a month in Ecuador and the Galapagos. At the Foundation Davis Orphanage in Quito, my service group painted walls in four school classrooms and played with the young children over the course of one week. I formed a connection with a seven year old girl named Talia despite the language barrier. I taught her various english words (“la hierba” is “grass”, “un regalo” is ” a gift”) and she taught me some spanish. At the end of my visit to the orphanage, Talia gave me “un regalo”, a glass marble to remember her by.
My group traveled from Quito by bus to Latacunga, another town in Ecuador, where we worked at a Senior’s Home. We interacted with severely disabled seniors by reading books to them, playing card games, and dancing with those who were able. My group then traveled to the Amazon Rainforest where we helped to set the foundation for the building of a hut for teachers who teach English to the local children. We carried heavy loads of timber and rocks up to the site, and dug the foundation for the hut.
Next, we went to San Cristobal in the Galapagos where we worked at a local school. We worked to clear the area of unwanted rocks and dead plants to make room for a new classroom. We built columns to hold up the roof of the classroom and laid a foundation of rocks for the floor. Our final destination was Santa Cruz Island, where we helped to reforest the natural habitat of the Giant Tortoise and Darwin Finch by planting endemic tree species at the Ranchos Primicias Reforestation Project.
I enjoyed my time in Ecuador and the Galapagos. I formed unexpected bonds as I worked with members of the local communities, which contributed to a truly memorable experience. By the end of my stay in South America I felt a great sense of accomplishment.
This summer, as part of the Rustic Pathways Medical Service Certification Program, I traveled to Thailand where I earned my certification in Wilderness First Aid and CPR. While there, I experienced Thai culture firsthand, learned how healthcare is administered in rural areas, and helped diagnose and treat easily preventable diseases including diabetes, heart disease, and bacterial infections. I chose this particular program because of my interest in medicine and my desire to help other people. Although medical treatment has improved in Thailand, availability of high-quality care, particularly for elderly patients, could still be improved. After researching many programs, I felt that this experience would fulfill all of the criteria I was looking for in a medical and leadership roll. Not only did this experience enhance my skills and knowledge about medicine, but I was also able to apply these skills and work hands-on with people that needed my help.
As part of this program, I was able to use the skills I learned in the classroom to help treat people in need of medical assistance. One memorable occasion was when we went to an orphanage and worked with the children. Although there was a language barrier, there was still a strong connection with the children. At the orphanage we measured their pulse and respirations while sitting down and resting as well as after running around. It was a very special occasion because I could feel how excited the kids were that we were there and took an interest in them. Another rewarding experience I took part in, was testing the salt in peoples’ homes to ensure that it contained iodine. One morning, as a group we walked through a village and visited approximately one hundred homes where we asked for samples of their table salt. After we collected the samples, we went back to our base house and tested the salt to see if it was iodized. If a sample did not contain iodine we supplied the family with new iodized salt. Salt must contain iodine, because that is the mineral that allows your thyroid gland to produce two important hormones that prevent thyroid disease, which causes symptoms such as weight gain, feeling tired and depression. Taking part in this experience, truly made me feel like I was making a direct difference in these family’s lives.
Another momentous occasion was when we went to a hospital and worked directly with elderly people. We measured their height and weight, checked their blood pressure, tested their blood type and blood sugar, and gave them free food. If any of their measurements were abnormal, we gave them medicine necessary to treat the problem. This was truly a memorable moment for me because it was moving to see how grateful they were that we were volunteering to help them.
In summary, this program was an amazing experience and something that I will remember forever. I would highly recommend this program for students who are interested in a medical and leadership program that requires patience and love for people. This was a truly rewarding experience.
Watch this video I made about my service experience in Peru.
This past summer I volunteered at the Correctional Association of New York. It is a not-for-profit organization located in Harlem. The Correctional Association works to create a more humane and effective judicial system. It is the only private organization that has unrestricted access to prisons. The organization uses this power to expose abusive practices in prisons and to educate the public as well as policy makers about the conditions of prisons. For example, through this unique power, the organization found that the medical and mental problems of prisoners were being ignored. The Correctional Association has three principal projects: the Juvenile Justice Project, Prison Visiting Project, and the Women’s in Prison Project.
While at the Correctional Association, I worked on the Women’s in Prisons Project. Currently. The Women’s in Prison Project is working with women who have survived abuse and incarceration. The vast majority of women in prison are survivors of domestic violence. These women have been sent to prison for defending themselves against their abusers. Other incarcerated women were forced to engage in criminal activity either to survive or out of fear of being harmed by their abuser. More often than not, these survivors of domestic violence are viewed at perpetrators rather than victims, resulting in longer sentences without a chance for parole. The Women’s in Prison Project works to ensure that domestic violence is taken into account during all stages of the criminal justice process. The project is also working to make sure prison programs are more humane and sensitive toward the trauma and abuse suffered by these women.
The work I did at the Correctional Association consisted of working on a number of integrated and strategic efforts of the Women’s in Prison Project. I helped coordinate a mass mailing to women who are incarcerated in New York’s five female prisons: Bedford Hills, Albion, Taconic, Bayview, and Beacon. I also worked on two research projects. The first project involved parole practices in New York and the manner in which they are carried out. During the parole hearing of a prisoner, he or she, presents his or her case before a panel of three members of the parole board. However, more recently parole hearings have been conducted via online videoconference instead of in person, which creates an impersonal distance the inmate and the board. I researched the nature of these hearings while at the Correctional Association. For my second project I researched the legislative representatives of domestic violence and social justice organizations that support the Coalition’s Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act. Additionally, my work included outreaching to members of the Coalition for Women Prisoners.
Although I enjoyed all the work I did at the Correctional Association, the highlight of my experience was sitting in on a meeting with Assemblyman Aubry. Assemblyman Aubry is the chairman of Correction in the New York Assembly and has worked to improve its justice system. Aubry came to the Correctional Association to discuss the upcoming year at the Assembly. It was interesting to hear the perspective of someone who works in the system. At the meeting, I also heard about all of the other projects that Correctional Association is working on.
Working at the Correctional Association has shown me how important it is to fight injustice, even in a system that is supposed to enforce justice. It was inspiring to help these women who were sentenced unjustly and do not receive proper treatment. This experience has taught me how women are treated unfairly and how to stand up for them.