Rose’s Experience with the GO Project

Although this experience was a long time ago, it’s the service experience that has stuck with me most this past year. Last summer, I worked with a program, the GO Project, that gives struggling students from low-income families extra academic (and artistic) attention. By having access to private school facilities and experiencing more one-on-one attention in smaller classes, the students are able to catch up, and even excel, in school. I worked as an assistant to the art teacher with three classes, one in kindergarden and two in first grade. Although I had worked in a program similar to this one before, I didn’t really know prior to last summer how to assert my authority as a teenage counselor 0r how to manage a class at all. I learned so much working with the children over the course of the four weeks: how to talk to them, how to balance my role as a friend and as a superior, and how to talk to my superior, the teacher.

On the first day, six-year-old Martin came in with more energy and noise than I ever thought capable from someone his size. He was contrary, he talked back to the teacher, he made fun of the games, and he refused to sit still. But Martin, like most of the kids, would have his days of unexplained, mysterious solemnity. Sometimes the kids would hint at what was bothering them and sometimes their homeroom teacher would tell us; it tended to be a problem at home or earlier that day in class, but we never really knew. Martin could oscillate between eery silence, off-the-wall craziness, and intense anger. Over the weeks, though, I started to see a slight change in him. Instead of asking him to draw an entire forest scene (way to much to ask of him), I would only ask for a bunny and then a frog and then a pond. Because he now had some respect for me, he would obey, and come running to me shouting “Rosieeee!” when he finished. Martin and I became very close over the four weeks and I feel very lucky to have met him. I loved teaching Martin and Theodore (who played tic-tac-toe with himself the whole class and only drew Angry Birds) and Alexander (who, when introducing himself, momentarily thought his name was Lucas) and every student I met, and I hope I have a similar opportunity again.

Empty Bowls Project

Today I had a lot of fun creating a bowl for the “empty bowls” project at Friends. It was the first time I created a bowl and it was an amazing experience. I had the chance to design and shape every aspect of the bowl, to make it my own unique piece of art. It was a nice feeling because I was having fun and doing something that would contribute to helping others. People often think of community service as a job that they have to do but they fail to realize that it is possible to have fun and feel good doing it, and I realized that today. Thanks Empty Bowls!

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Cindy’s Reflection: Student Conference on Human Rights

This winter I went with the Amnesty Club to the United Nations to participate in a student conference on human rights. Many friends students made presentations about potential human rights initiatives at the conference. Students from many schools and clubs including Friends’ Amnesty members, played leadership roles in organizing the presentations for the initiatives and the direction of the conversations. Throughout the conference adults from Amnesty, the United Nations and other prestigious organizations spoke to us about what they do and how they do it.

Although attending and facilitating the Student Conference on Human Rights may not have looked like traditional community service, it fostered a sense of community among students looking to help others. We met students from as far away as Mexico who care about human rights as strongly as Amnesty club does. The interactions we had, both formal and casual, were inspiring and encouraging. Learning about how to organize behind an issue has helped me as I continue to try to fundraise and raise awareness about human rights issues, in Amnesty and independently. My favorite thing about the conference was seeing the thoughtful presentations of my peers from all grades. When we returned to school I felt pride in  my fellow members in a new way.

Marguerite’s Service Reflection

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I have participated in project cicero almost every year since I was a freshman. Project Cicero is an annual non-profit book drive designed to create school libraries for under-resourced New York City public schools. Project Cicero began in 2011 and has distributed over 1,800,000 gently used books to 10,000 New York City classrooms and libraries, reaching an estimated 400,000 students. Over 1,000 teachers come to select books at the event in early March every year. Project Cicero is also a partnership of New York City parent and student volunteers, The New York Society Library, Vornado Realty Trust, and The New York Post.

Saturday and Sunday I arrived at the Hotel Pennsylvania (where the even is held) and helped organize thousands of books for the incoming teachers. Even though the entire area was filled with tons of volunteers chaotically shuffling around to set the books in the right area, I found the task to be rather relaxing and fun. I enjoy organizing and cleaning, so setting up the books for the teachers was not a difficult task. Once we were done, tons of teachers rushed in with giant suitcases that would be soon be filled with books for their students. After the teachers were finished filling their bags to the brim, we opened up more boxes of books and started the same thing all over again. I have always liked participating in project cicero because books are being reused for a good cause. All I need to do is organize and set them up for the students at under-resourced schools to receive the materials they need and deserve.

Abby’s Service Reflection

Since August, I have been one of the leaders of a group called the Network. The Network was started around three years ago by a small group of high school students who wanted to create a safe space for LGBTQQIIAP teens in New York City. An individual’s membership in the Network is confidential in order to create a safe space in which kids who may not necessarily be out don’t have to fear they will be outed before they are ready. Anyone who falls anywhere in the acronym can be a part of the Network, even if they are just questioning. The group has a private Facebook group that can only be seen by it’s members and people can only join if they are invited by an existing member. People post links that are relevant to LGBTQ rights and issues as well as post personal and individual opinions and experiences. Each month there is a Network meeting, usually hosted at someone’s house, where any LGBTQ teen can attend. The two other Network leaders and I plan the meetings, choosing a discussion topic and writing discussion questions and/or activities for the meeting. Similar to one’s membership, things said in the meetings are meant to be confidential to further foster a feeling of safety.

 

Being a leader of the Network has been one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. I’ve met kids from all over the city from numerous schools and a multitude of different backgrounds. Most of the members don’t have access to a resource like the Network, and I’ve felt honored to to have a larger role in helping to create a safe space for them. The Network is one of the only spaces, if not the only one, these kids encounter in which they are part of the majority rather than the minority. Many do not have accepting family or do not feel comfortable in the environments they’re in every day. Many are still grappling with their identity or are not yet sure where exactly they fit in the acronym. For these reasons, the Network is so important because it can help foster confidence and a feeling of security that allows it’s members to accept themselves, be true to who they are, and even gain the courage to come out and be open about their identity. The discussions at the meetings are always amazing, with numerous different opinions, point of views, and stories being shared throughout. I leave each meeting feeling moved, inspired, and with more knowledge and perspective than I had when I walked in. My involvement with the Network has left me with a motivation to continue work with LGBTQ youth in college and afterwards. I am endlessly grateful for the chance the Network has given me to give back and support so many people who never cease to inspire me.

 

Jordanian Experience and Working with FoEME: Jack

Our trip to Jordan during spring break this year was most likely the best experience of my life. I have always been fascinated with the culture and the language of the Middle East, but Jordan exceeded my expectations of what it would be like. After spending some time at King’s Academy and the amazing city of Amman, we had a little change of pace and went to an eco-park run by FoEME also known as Friends of the Earth Middle East.

FoEME is an inspiring organization for multiple reasons. The goal of FoEME is to protect the fragile environment in the Middle East while also bringing together the people of the region. The most important of the environmental projects they are working on is conserving water in a region that does not have much to start with. When you look at that mission, an understandable reaction is to shake ones head. Can a grassroots organization really save water in a desert environment while also advocating for peace in one of the most unstable areas in the world? They definitely can, and have. Unable to tap into the power and recources that many big organizations have, FoEME has relied on persistance and word of mouth. A great example of the success they’ve had is their work with ending the RedDead Sea project. The plan was to dump large amounts of Red Sea water into the Dead Sea to offset the Dead Sea’s shrinking size. FoEME knew this was not a good idea because it would upset the ecosystem of the Dead Sea and would cost Jordan money they simply did not have. Because they refused to give up, FoEME was able to get the project canceled despite its support by many powerful organizations like the World Bank. Even more impressive than their environmental work though, is their ability to unite people from places in conflict, such as the Palestinians and Israelis.

My time at the eco-park and working with FoEME was inspiring. Everyone I talked to from the organization was knowledgeable and passionate about what they did. While at the eco-park we engaged in a combination of activities from helping make a bird house out of used bottles, to having tea with Bedouins, to swiming in a sulfur pool, to biking along Golan Heights which boarders Syria, Israel, and Jordan. The Golan Heights was perhaps the most beautiful and eerie place that we went to in Jordan. The cliffs, combined with the Jordan River, provided a spectacular view – but there were also subtle reminders of the problems the Middle East faces. On the other side of the Jordan River, in the middle of the cliffs, was a long and threatening fence, built by Israel. The fence reminded me that the area is still in dispute and that Israel does not feel comfortable keeping their borders open. Unfortunately, this fence also creates a barrier towards peace. We were standing about 100 feet above the Jordan River, but according to FoEME, the Jordan River used to be that high until Syria built damns further upstream to block much of the water. Golan Heights is a perfect metaphor to describe the situation in the entire Middle East. The Middle East has a lot to offer in terms of its beauty and its history and its people, but economic and political problems plague the region and keep it from being what it has the potential to be.

My entire experience in Jordan from staying at King’s Academy, to working with FoEME, to camping with Bedouins was unforgettable. The Middle East is an incredible place that sadly gets a bad reputation. Although the region certainly has its share of problems, I urge people to go and visit so they can better understand the situation and hopefully change the misconceptions that come from living in America, a country that often seems sadly Islamaphobic.

Link to the FoEME Website: http://www.foeme.org/www/?module=home

Photo 1: A picture of our group in the bird house that I mentioned earlier in the post.

Photo 2: The view afte taking a 5 minute walk away from the eco-lodge. Much more green then in most of Jordan

Photo 3: The view from the cliff we were standing on at Golan Heights. The Jordan River is clearly not what is used to be

Photo 4: A picture of the fence that Israel built on the Golan Heights.

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Brock’s Service Reflection

A couple of month’s ago I partook in the Martin Luther King Jazz Concert. The MLK Jazz Concert is a performance that aims to help the Friends Shelter. The concert has been around for at least twenty years and is basically run by Bob Rosen. The concert was a great success. There’s nothing like playing music for a good cause! Jazz 1 opened the show with a few tunes. We played well and got to talk to a few of the experienced players. After us, the Meeting House Big Band performed and they were truly amazing! It was great to see Bob playing. I was very glad to help out in preventing homelessness. It really sucks to see people without homes on the street. It’s great that Friend’s does their share in aiding this cause by providing fourteen warm bed’s.

Brigitte Seeley-Messick’s Summer of Service Response

I spent this summer working at Columbia University Medical Center on 168th street and  Broadway in the Division of Nephrology & Rheumatology. Nephrology is the study of the function and diseases of the kidney. I really enjoyed my service because everyday was different. I worked under a nephrologist and the regulatory manager of the division so I essentially did whatever I was assigned but I also went on rounds with the various nephrologists. My jobs ranged from taking the height and weight of patients, to entering notes, to making graphs, to making the patients as comfortable as possible, to organizing clinical study binders to organizing entire closets full of medical equipment. Overall, I spent the majority of the time either helping out in an appointment or on rounds. I was an extra set of ears for the patients and an extra set of hands for the doctors. This helped to move appointments and visits along. Considering my own medical history I was able to offer insight that the doctors often were not knowledgeable about to the extent that I was. I also did some office work like filing and filling out paperwork for clinical trials and doing general organizational tasks around the office, but that was not what I spent the majority of my day doing.

Whereas last year I did a lot of office work, this year I spent most of my time with the doctors seeing patients. I went to every intensive care unit in the hospital and visited every patient that had notes on their sheet about their kidneys. While it was hard seeing people in such terrible conditions, helping them and talking to them, and doing all that I could for them, was easily more rewarding than anything I have ever done. Seeing these patients makes you reevaluate your life and all that you have. Every time I see these patients and I humbled. I renewed my interest in medicine and payed more attention in the past so I could absorb as much material as possible. I plan to do pre-med in college and so that work is the perfect preparation and exposure. The work environment is unlike any other because all of the work is group work. The work feels important and you feel needed while giving back. That feeling is priceless and the experiences I have had working with these doctors all while performing service for the past two summers are invaluable.

Note: I could not add pictures because I could not take pictures of the patients I was helping.