Maya’s Summer of Service

This summer I interned over at the Correctional Association of New York City, a non-profit dedicated to prisoners rights. They are made up of three collations: The Prison Visiting project, The Juvenile Justice Project, and the Women In Prisons Project. I mostly worked with the Women In Prisons Project but I also did some research for the Prison Visiting Project.

The Women In Prisons Project is trying to get a bill passed in New York state called the Domestic Violence Survivor’s Act. This bill would allow judges to break the mandatory sentencing requirements for a person who is convicted of a crime as a result of domestic violence. It also advocates for alternate to incarceration programs in place of prison. 75% of women incarcerated women in New York state crime was committed as a result of domestic violence. By sending these women to jail, the criminal justice system is further punishing them for being abused. If the Domestic Violence Survivors act is passed it will result in women having better access to rehabilitation. Also it is a cost effective bill because less people would be in prison. I spent my days organizing advocacy letters about the people to the state congress and state assembly members urging them to support the bill.

I also did some work with the Prison Visiting Project. I looked through past reports on solitary confinement. I looked for analogies used to describe solitary confinement. I made a list of the most effective analogies. The Prison Visiting Project is planning on publishing a report on the abuse of solitary confinement and will use the analogies I found as inspiration for their own analogies.

“For Friends the Testimony of equality begins with the belief that the Light is present in us all. All are deserving of respect, no matter what our differences. When we respect the Light in ourselves and others, we encourage all to turn inward for guidance and truth.”

I believe this quote perfectly embodies my experience at the correctional association. There is a serious stigma in our society about criminals. Many people think we should just throw them in prison so they are out of sight and out of mind. It always struck me that prisoners are among the most powerless people. While many prisoners commit crimes and deserve to be punished, they have a right to a humane prison environment. I also believe that some people are imprisoned who are innocent or for whom other forms of rehabilitation may be more appropriate. Many of my colleagues at the Correctional Association were formally incarcerated. They had experienced the injustices of our prison system. Now they are woking on the other side, trying to better the awful system they had to withstand. I learned that people’s past mistakes don’t define them, the important thing is what they learn from them. By mindlessly throwing people to the inhumane prison system, we are not giving them the tools they need to become successful members of society.

Teaching Children to Swim

This summer I helped teach children to swim at a local pool. The kids I worked with specifically were 3-7 years old and were very beginner swimmers. All of them had to wear “bubbles”, flotation devices that were strapped onto their backs, whenever they swam because otherwise they could not stay afloat on their own. Each lesson session was 2 weeks long and at the first lesson the kids were often so nervous they would cry the entire time in the water. I taught each kid how to kick, swim on their front, swim on their back, and jump off the side of the pool. Maybe, if they were brave enough, they would jump off the diving board at the end of lessons. Near the end of the two weeks, we would have the kids swim a lap of the pool without the bubbles or a noodle, all by themselves. We were right next to them walking alongside the entire time, just in case they needed help but almost all of them could swim by themselves by the end of the two week which was a huge improvement from crying on the first day.

I think my work is reflective of Woolman’s quote “Stewardship is a coming together of our major testimonies. To be good stewards in God’s world calls on us to examine and consider the ways in which our testimonies for peace, equality, and simplicity interact to guide our relationships with all life.” Being a competitive swimmer and knowing to swim myself started with swimming lessons at a town pool as well, I feel it is necessary to give back to a community that gave me so much. Additionally, teaching these kids to swim is only a step further to making drowning no longer the leading cause of death in children.

Interning with Free the Children

This summer I interned at the head quarters of Free the Children and their associate organizations.  Free the Children is an organization started in Toronto by a 12-year old, named Craig Keilburger, who read an article with the headline: Battled Child Labor, Boy, 12, Murdered.  The story was about Iqbal Masih, a former child slave who had traveled around the world speaking out against his former captors.  When he returned to his home in Pakistan, Iqbal was murdered.  That day, Craig went to his 7th grade class, stood up and said “I don’t know much about child labor, but I want to know more. Who’s with me?” 11 kids raised their hands, and that was the start of Free the Children.  Craig and his friends began to meet in Craig’s house to learn about the issue of child labor.  As they gained more and more information, they began to speak in classrooms and conference halls, in front of students, labor unions, and government officials.  Their biggest grant came from the Ontario Federation of Labor who pledged $150,000.  This enabled the organization to run for a number of years.  But now, 18 years later, Free the Children is now a world-wide organization.  They now have events called WeDays throughout Canada, the United States, and the UK.  A WeDay is a large scale event to honor world changers.  20,000 students who have done both a local service action and a global service action get to go to this event to be inspired! I was lucky enough to be able to volunteer at one of these events on September 20th in Toronto.

 My job at We Day Toronto was to be a “Crowd Pumper” which means that it was up to the 500 of us to set the tone for the event, so we were supposed to wildly cheer at everything.  This idea is perfectly summarized by this instruction from our cheat sheet: “On Your Feet! GO BANANAS!”.  I was lucky that my group was assigned to the floor of the event space, and even more lucky in that there was an open seat that was 5 rows from the stage. This meant that over the course of the event I was standing 1 bodyguard away from Demi Lavato, got a high five from Scott from mash, and spoke to Jacob Artist from Glee.

Walking into the giant stadium for the first time was awe-inspiring.  I had never been in a stadium that big (25,000 seats) and it looked so big!!! On every seat there was bag with items from sponsors: sun glasses, refillable water bottles, and, my favorite, impact bracelets that, when you clapped your hands, would light up.

Looking back over the event, the one speaker who stands out the most in my mind is the Canadian Astronaut, Chris Hadfield, who was the first Canadian to walk in space and the first Canadian to command the International Space Station.  One highlight from his speech was when, to give us a sense of what the landscape of space looks like, the lights were turned off and we were told to clap our hands.  As I turned around, looking at the sea of lights, 20,000 of them, I was struck by the shear enormity of what this represented.  Every single light represented a person committed to making a change. As Craig put it, “we are the generation that we have been waiting for.”  Every single person in that room knew that they could change the world, that is 20,000 world changers.  If you look at Martin Luther King Jr., you can see how much one person can do, not by himself though, every great leader needs just as great followers, and those people in that room are going to be world changers.  As Martin Luther King III, the older son of Martin Luther King Jr., had everyone in the room chant, “I believe… All across our nation and the world… We… Are gonna be… a great generation.” With a room filled with people like that, as Chris Hadfield said, “The sky is NOT the limit.”  Everyone in that room, and everyone reading this, has the potential, no, the obligation, to change the world!!!!

Links:

What is WeDay

The Impact of WeDay

Chris Hadfield singing a song he with the barenaked ladies from space (They sang it at WeDay)

Molly Burke

 

This post is not yet complete, more will be added.

Michael’s Experience with ParksNYC at Chelsea Park-9/11 Day of Service

The Class of 2017 spent Sunday volunteering as a way to honor all those who served  during 9-11.

This was a really enriching experience for me.  At this event, over 70 parents and students gathered to help out. I got to plant some shrubs with some of my classmates, and had a great time. I was still a new kid, then, and meeting my classmates outside of class helped me meet a lot more people and learn some more names. Everyone was extremely eager to help out, and I feel happy to be a part of such an amazing community of students at Friends. I cannot wait to go back and see the difference that I have made when they are all grown up.

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Sabrina’s Summer of Service

This summer I worked at Sheridan Fencing Academy. They run camps for all ages during the summer as well as regular classes. I worked at the camp. I assisted the main coach by helping the kids with their technique and making corrections, helping to make sure all the kids were safe, refereeing the kids during competitions and games, as well as answering the phones.  http://www.sheridanfencing.com/

For Friends the Testimony of equality begins with the belief that the Light is present in us all. All are deserving of respect, no matter what our differences. When we respect the Light in ourselves and others, we encourage all to turn inward for guidance and truth. -Friends Seminary Faith and Practice Handbook. This idea of light really spoke to me during my service experience.

One of my greatest struggles while volunteering, was trying to remain patient and not get angry at the kids. The majority of the kids were young boys whose ages ranged from 6-12. Often times the older boys would stick together and purposely leave the younger boys out. In addition, the younger boys would often not listen and sometimes could not follow basic safety instructions, endangering themselves and others. However, while getting to know everyone I found things that I liked about each of them. This helped me be able to teach them and not get frustrated with them. When I found something I liked about the student or found out something that would make me able to teach them better, I felt that I was finding their light and because of that I was able to do my job better and they enjoyed fencing more. For example, there was one boy who had fenced before and he was not listening to our instructions because he thought he knew everything about fencing. He complained a lot and would not do anything we said. However, after a few days he started asking questions about what he could do better and he started applying them. While he still believed that he was an amazing fencer, him asking a question made me respect and find the light in him. Although sometimes it was difficult to find the light and it took a lot of work, it is an extremely important thing to do when doing anything, not just service. This is because it can help you look at the world differently and open up your mind. It might take some digging, but in almost everyone you can find their light.

 

Sammie’s Summer of Service

This summer I was an unpaid intern at the Teach For America national office. Teach For America take college graduates and trains them to be teachers in underprivileged schools and communities throughout America.  I worked in their admin department which is responsible for opening and renovating offices all over the country.  Because TFA is a constantly expanding organization they have a need for a department like this.  I had a few projects that I worked on. The first was that I sorted through thousands of photos and uploaded them to flickr. The flickr link was sent to all of the people responsible for opening up new offices and they used the photos as examples and ideas for what they want their office to look like. The second project was I made a furniture catalogue that was also sent to the people in charge of decorating the offices so they can order furniture for their office. My final project was i made a mood board activity that my supervisors will take with them when they do focus groups on what employees in a given office to feel like and what type of vibe they want it to have.  I also had to make sample moodboards.

Teach For America’s message really relates to the part of the Quaker Quotables quote speaking to equality “All are deserving of respect, no matter what our differences. When we respect the Light in ourselves and others, we encourage all to turn inward for guidance and truth.”  Teach For America believes that no matter where a person is from or what their background is they deserve a quality education.  Teach For Americas goal is to give everyone a quality education.  This is an organization whose mission is worth supporting.

Erik’s Summer of Service

This past summer I worked in the Brussels office of Retrak, a charity that helps African street children in Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania. My main duties consisted of helping run several fundraisers in Brussels. The main event I worked on was a sleep-out event, in which we rented out a local British primary school for a weekend and invited several families from the Brussels area to participate. I helped the children build huts from cardboard boxes to sleep in for the night, so that they could learn more about the conditions of the African children, whom Retrak helps. I also helped the kids to play, and set up makeshift games, such as soccer with balls made out of newspapers. I also set up a giant plastic bag filled with empty plastic bottles for the children to jump in; this activity gave the children an experience of what it would be like if one had to sleep in there, similar to the experiences of many African children. I helped prepare and serve a dinner of rice, beans, and crackers, much like a typical meal that African children would eat. Finally, I supervised the children for the night, as they slept in their cardboard box “huts.” For the entire fundraiser, I also was the photographer. Overall, this event not only raised money for Retrak, but also gave the Belgian children and their families insights into the lives of many African children. It made me realize how important the work of Retrak is in helping these children.
During the rest of my time working with Retrak, I assisted in planning, publicizing, photographing, and running three other fundraisers at various soccer tournaments in Brussels, with competitions, raffles, and bake sales. In another part of my work, I researched and wrote up several case studies on success stories of children, whom Retrak has helped with food, medicine, housing, education, and social programs. My case studies have been used in Retrak’s publications and website. This work with Retrak has made me feel like I have made a difference by spreading awareness of the plight of many African children and by raising funds for Retrak’s programs.
Retrak Kids

Retrak Kids

Retrak Kids

Sc3 Summer 2013

KayakThis past June, I attended the Student Climate and Conservation Congress (Sc3), which is a weeklong congress for kids in Junior High and High School. The congress is located near Shepherdstown, West Virginia at the National Conservation Training Center (NCTC). Sc3 is run by the Green Schools Alliance, a global network of schools working together to educate the world about environmental issues. The goal of Sc3 is to “empower outstanding student environmental leaders with the skills, knowledge, and tools, necessary to address natural resource conservation challenges and better serve their schools and communities.” Nearly one hundred and fifty teachers and students from around the country attended this conference, and I’m sure that every one of them left with the ability to change their community.

When I first learned about this conference, my one reservation was that I thought “what if it’s just a bunch of tree-huggers wanting to protest for climate change?” However, the conference was far from that. The amount of diversity found at Sc3 was amazing. Kids from both urban and rural societies in dozens of different states participated. Just walking around the NCTC campus was inspiring on its’ own.
About half of the conference was focused on lectures by various speakers. These weren’t ordinary boring classroom lectures, but engaging speakers who interacted with  us throughout. I consider myself to be more focused on the science aspect of the environment than anything else, but every talk that was given sparked a whole new interest in me — whether it was Comedian Pete Dominick talking about how the media portrays news, or PBS host Carl Safina reading excerpts from one of his many books written about parts of the ocean. When we weren’t listening to talks, most of our time was spent in project groups. At the beginning of the week, we roamed around to different rooms in the NCTC, and in each room there would be a discussion about a topic related to the environment. Each topic was led by teachers who came from schools equally as diverse as the kids. Some of the 10 groups I participated in were transportation, food, and government/media. Eventually, we decided which discussion we liked to participate in the most, and “Locked-In” to it. For the rest of the week, we worked with our project group to create a presentation for the last day. I chose to lock-in to the government/media group. We decided to put together a video that promotes action on environmental issues, and we interviewed many of the Sc3 speakers. In addition, we made a toolkit that each student could take home after we presented, and use as guidelines for taking action in their own community, and talking to local government representatives.

Many of the students I met at Sc3 I am still in contact with, and talk to about various sustainability issues.  I also participated in campfires each night, a beautiful kayaking trip down the Potomac river, and a service project in Sheperdstown where we cleaned out invasive plant species from a stream. There were even workshops varying from learning about bats to watching bees under a microscope. Going into this congress, I never thought that I would come out with such a plethora of knowledge about a topic that seemed fairly simple to me before. The environment isn’t about everything that’s green — there is much more to it than that. During the congress, I had the opportunity to talk to Margaret Watson, President and Founder of the Green Schools Alliance. One of the main questions she had for anyone was “how can you make a positive conservation change in your community?” Thanks to my attendance at Sc3, I feel empowered to make that change.

I hope that I will be able to share the video my project group created with our Friends community, and figure out how we can take our own action through initiatives like writing to a representative about NYC sustainability, or protesting laws that aren’t helpful to the environment. I would also like to note that my participation at the Sc3 was made possible through the Friends Student Summer Scholarship, and I want to give a huge thanks to the donors.

A link to many photos I took while at Sc3 can be found here.

Atticus Wakefield’s summer service reflection

Atticus Wakefield
Deanna Yurchuk
Service Reflection

Over the summer I worked with a program called The Road Less Travelled. The Road Less Travelled is a service learning program which sends high school students around the world to do service in a certain place, then to have an adventure in that country. I participated in their El Sendero program. The El Sendero program sends students to Costa Rica.
The first day of the program was spent in San Jose, the capital, buying food and meeting my fellow travelers. After that day we transferred to the school we were going to work at. The school was a two hour drive into the heart of the eastern Costa Rican jungle. As our bus pulled in we were greeted by the beaming smiles of the local kids. It was their last day of school before a two week break and they were in the middle of an intense water fight. After about twenty minutes of talking with some of the more audacious kids the teachers at the school brought all the kids together in the small class room. Before they performed their D.A.R.E presentations we introduced ourselves by name, in spanish to everyone. After that the kids left to swim in the river and we cleaned out the classroom to set up our beds where we would sleep for the next week. Once we were done setting up we started our first half day of work. For the next nine days we worked on a variety of different projects including digging trenches for water overflow, breaking down old wood walls and reconstructing them with concrete, mending desks, painting and rebuilding broken paths.
Before I started this project I viewed service as a chore, just another thing that is required for school, but once I saw the happy look on the students faces’ as they looked at their renovated school I realized that service changes people’s lives. Service helps those in need, and makes those people feel important. I was so happy looking back on what I had done to help the school. “Gracias para todo,” a little boy named kevin told me, No i said back, “gracias.” I thanked him, he showed me what helping others truly means and how much care and work can affect someone for the better.

More pictures are available at this link.

Acknowledgements: None.

Friendship Circle Summer Camp

Submitted by Nell, Jane and Laura:

“Stewardship is a coming together of our major testimonies.”  At least that is what John Woolman thought—even though he said these words all the way back in1770, they still hold true today.  His words challenged us to think about  the ways that we actually live the testimonies through the relationships we have with others. How can the testimonies that are so much a part of our Quaker education be manifested through stewardship?

We decided to spend  a part of our summer working with a population that is often marginalized—a group of human beings whose light often is not admired—though it should be. We decided to work with autistic children through the organization Friendship Circle.

Overview of Program:

This summer we volunteered at the Friendship Circle Summer camp for one week. The Friendship Circle is an organization that strives to help children with autism by creating opportunities for them to interact with others through educational and fun activities. The organization utilizes teenage volunteers who help run these programs and act as counselors who encourage the children to participate in them. During the year, the Friendship Circle offers weekend programs such as the Sunday Circle and Friends At Home to continue to help these children during the school year.  Click on the links to learn more about the programs they offer.  The summer camp we volunteered at was five and a half days long and consisted of various activities in art, cooking, sports and music. We also went on a two trips to the Intrepid and an arcade! Each volunteer was assigned to a child with autism and helped them throughout the week. By the end of the camp we all had bonded with our “special friends” and made a real connection with them.

Nell with Justina and Julia on a toy boat at the Intrepid

Nell with Justina and Julia on a toy boat at the Intrepid

Nell:  Going into the Friendship Circle camp I was a little unsure of what to expect because I had never volunteered with kids with autism before. I found out about the program through the Oblivion where it was listed under summer community service. After meeting my buddy and doing some arts and crafts, I really was amazed at how well we both interacted. My buddy really enjoyed soccer, dancing and music and felt great helping her through these programs. She also loved going to the Intrepid museum and interacting with the exhibits. After the camp ended I felt like I really accomplished something great and helped someone who really needed it. My buddy and I were able to interact and learn from each other which was an interesting experience. Overall, I really enjoyed the program because I was able to gain a new perspective and learn more about autism.

Jane and Justina pose for a picture

Jane and Justina pose for a picture

Jane:  I was nervous when I arrived at the Friendship Circle camp on Sunday. I wasn’t sure what my experience for the next five and a half days would be like because I had never worked with an autistic person before. However, after Justina and I met, talked and did an art project together I had a better sense of what it is to be autistic. Although autistic people have a hard time connecting with others, it is not impossible. That was shown to me in the times she would take me dancing around the room (she loved dancing) or when we would work on an art project. We also has a great time at the Intrepid together, as shown in the first four pictures.  It was a great experience to learn about autism, and how, over time, an autistic teen can learn to connect with others.  I learned a lot from Justina, and I would recommend working at the Friendship Circle for a fulfilling experience working with peers of a similar age but with totally different life experiences.

 

Julia and Laura with a plane.

Julia and Laura with a plane.

Laura:  I first heard of Friendship Circle through the non-profit day at Friends last year.  I volunteered at their Sunday Circle program on Sundays during the school year, and the director encouraged me to be a counselor in her camp. As it turned out, Jane and Nell had heard about the opportunity as well, so it was great to have Friends well represented!  On the first day, I was extremely excited to meet my “special friend.” All I knew was that her name was Julia and she wore glasses.  When I finally met her, I realized that I knew her from volunteering at Sunday Circle.  She seemed to recognize me, but kept on repeating “I’m being shy.”  However, throughout the week I got to know Julia better as we did fun activities like art, water sports, and baking. Soon, she opened up, and when she said that she was being shy, I was able to reply, “Don’t worry, you’re not being shy Julia!” One of the highlights of my time volunteering was our trip to the Intrepid.  It was amazing how Julia’s eyes lit up when she could interact with exhibits and make her signature peace sign pose in all of the pictures I took.  Oddly enough, my other most memorable moment with Julia was when she threw a tantrum at the end of the day because she didn’t want to go home.  It was stressful in the moment because she was screaming and I had to figure out a way to convince her to leave. I had never seen her cry before! However, I realized afterwards she was upset about leaving because we had had a really great time together.  And it dawned on me that it was difficult for me to say goodbye too. I had learned so much from her and it was her light that allowed me to see so much about myself and my place in the world. So I hope I can keep in contact with Julia at Sunday Circles throughout the year!

Julia's signature peace sign.

Julia’s signature peace sign.