Over the summer, I volunteered at the Winchester Project in Camden, London. The Winch is a nonprofit daycare facility for underprivileged youth in London. The children who go to the Winch come from a variety of backgrounds; some live in single-family homes or have absent parents, and others live in council houses. The Winch provides children with authentic relationships with children to offer a safe space while encouraging growth in character and learning. My role at the Winch was to help out the volunteers in their activities and to provide extra help during the two weeks that I was there. Although the Winch runs throughout the year, it is most busy during the summer, so the volunteers offer day trips for the children to go on. Working at there was overwhelming at times, when having to dissolve arguments between crying children or having excited kids throwing paint everywhere, but at the end of the day, having children wanting to stay and help clean up or read instead of going home proved how much of a haven the camp was for these kids.
For more information about the Winchester Project, please see http://thewinch.org/
Some of the kids having a dance party outside.
This summer, I volunteered at the Children’s Museum of the Arts. CMA is “committed to celebrating the artist in every child and promoting access to the arts for all children regardless of ability or socioeconomic status because we believe the arts are critical to child and youth development and to strong and vibrant communities” (CMA Mission Statement).
I assisted with two classes. The first was “Animating Outer Space and Beyond,” on Governors Island where kids learned to use iStopMotion and a variety of animating skills to create scenes of outer space. They would then have the chance to create their own films using the techniques they learned. Each morning we took the ferry from lower Manhattan to Governors Island. The classes where held in what used to be U.S. Naval Officer housing now outfitted with filming stations, and a screening room. The second week I assisted with “Claymation” at CMA’s main location in SoHo. Here I assisted teachers and helped kids with clay and other materials to create their films.
My time volunteering never seemed like work because I was doing something I really enjoyed. It was great helping teach younger kids how to express themselves through new forms of art.
Over the summer, I had the opportunity to travel to Costa Rica and volunteer. I travelled with Rustic Pathways on their “Heart of the Jungle” program for two weeks around the area of Osa Peninsula. During the two weeks I was there, I participated in various community service projects; there was no main project, unfortunately. However, some of the volunteer work I did involved painting bathrooms at an elementary school, making and installing a cement floor for a family’s house, gardening at an elderly home, painting fences, cleaning up community playgrounds, and collecting garbage from the beaches surrounding the Pacific Ocean. Besides volunteering, we also ventured through villages and kayaked around small islands. Overall the trip was a good experience since I had never been to Costa Rica before, and not only did I enjoy what Costa Rica had to offer, but I also gave back to the community too.
Throughout my trip there were many highlights, but in particular one of my favorite parts of the trip was when my group and I cleaned up the community playgrounds. It was my decision to go on a trip where community service was involved, I could’ve chosen to go on a trip that involved no volunteer work, but I didn’t want that. What made my trip so meaningful and special to me was the volunteer work my group accomplished and completed there. When we were cleaning the community playgrounds, I felt a certain kind of gratitude and fulfillment because I still see myself as a kid and I know that kids are influenced by the tiniest influences. So, removing garbage such as an opened condom wrapper or cigarette butts made me feel better because I knew that the kids playing on these playgrounds wouldn’t have to see such images at a young age. Besides the volunteer work I did in Costa Rica, I also do panels and have participated in a documentary, “The Big Picture:Rethinking Dyslexia.” As a dyslexic I don’t want to be held back because of people who don’t understand my learning difference, so I spread the word around to other dyslexics so that they won’t let their school hold themselves back too. My life speaks through my actions, and so far my life has been pretty great.
This past Summer, I volunteered at the High Water Women Annual Backpack Drive held at the Credit Suisse building in Manhattan. High Water Women is a non-profit organization that educates, helps, and supports low-income women and youth. Each year, the organization donates backpacks filled with school supplies to thousands of children in need as part of their mission plan. At this year’s drive, I helped pack these backpacks, organize supplies, transport deliveries, and recycle boxes.
“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.” When reflecting on my service this summer, and really every service opportunity I have participated in thus far, this quote by Quaker John Woolman (c. 1770) really stands out to me. As students, teachers, faculty members, and parents of Friends Seminary we enjoy certain privileges many do not and we often take them for granted. Volunteering is a manner in which we are able to give back to the community and it is our responsibility to do so. Woolman claimed that in order to be good stewards, we would have to examine the way in which our testimonies interact. When I volunteered this summer at the backpack drive, I realized I was making an impact on the lives of hundreds of children. Being more privileged than the kids I was packing backpacks for, I knew that I was upholding the Quaker ideals of equality and simplicity. Providing kids with school supplies so that they may learn, thrive, and grow in “God’s world” is how I was able to nurture my “relationship with all life” this Summer. Understanding my service from this Quaker perspective showed me how unique of an experience it really was.
This summer, I worked at the Cornell Cooperative Extension in Southold, NY. I did several different things to help out around the center, from teaching them about local marine life to scrubbing display tanks. However, my favorite activity was helping a junior with a summer-long project. She was measuring the growth of oysters in comparison to the water temperature and location. Even though I just assisted her in sifting through thousands of oysters, it was enlightening experience I’ll remember for the rest of my life.
This summer I spent two weeks as a volunteer research assistant to Dr. Markel Allaberia at a the Goldman Lab at Columbia University. The Goldman Lab works specifically on Alexander’s Disease, a fatal neuro degenerative disease similar to MS found in young children. With Dr. Allaberia, we extracted the spinal cords to diseased and healthy mice and immuno stained the spinal cord slices. We stained the spinal cords for myelin basic protein (MBP), a protein essential for oligodendrocyte function, Glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP), what is believed to be indicator of Alexander’s Disease, and the DNA, so we could locate each individual cell. After performing the stains twice, we looked at the slides under the microscope and obtained the image below.
All the blue is DNA, in order to isolate each individual cell, the red is MBP, and the green is (GFAP). The work I did with Dr. Allaberia was very preliminary. Most researchers of Alexander’s Disease study the brain, however Dr. Allaberia wanted to see the results of similar stains that he usual preforms on the brain on the spinal cord, as it is essential part of the nervous system.
This summer, I helped out with an organization called NYCares. I worked with a group of about 10 students and helped out various New Yorkers across Manhattan. Every week, we would do a different type of community service. On the first week, we delivered food to the elderly as a part of a program called Meals on Wheels. This was designed to provide food for people who were physically unable to get out of their house or didn’t have the money to buy food for themselves. The following week, we went to a hospital and kept the children busy by doing arts and crafts with them while their parents were with the doctor. Then, we had another arts and crafts day at a center for elderly. On the last week, we went to a homeless shelter and organized clothes that were donated. We categorized them into business clothing for job interviews and casual clothing. This was an amazing expereince because I got to meet many new people in NYC and I learned a lot from the New Yorkers, especially the elderly because they had many amazing stories to tell.
Over the summer I worked over a period of three days with the Alaskan Conservation Center. The Alaska Conservation Center takes in animals that have either been injured or “socialized.” A socialized animal is one that has become dependent on eating human food / trash, which poses a danger for both the animal and the human. They are taken in to the Conservation Center and given a place to live a consistent healthy life style free of danger. They house a plethora of different animals ranging from lynx to the famous alaskan grizzly bear. Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, depending on how you think about it, my work there did not allow me to feed the grizzly bear. I cleaned the pens and the center as well as fed the herbivores which resided there. I helped feed moose, musk ox, an eagle, deer and elk. Although the work was difficult and tedious it was amazing to be able to work with the animals directly.
This experience as a whole reiterated my love for nature. Prior to visiting the conservation center I spent 5 days backpacking throughout the Chugach Mountain Range. The combination of a 5 day backpacking trip and these two days at the Conservation Center forced me to reconsider my view about nature and where I would like to live for the rest of my life. Before visiting Alaska I had wanted to live in a city, surrounded by tall buildings and endless complexity. Giving my time to these animals, surrounded by this beautiful landscape made me realize how over complicated city life truly is. I felt as though I could spend the rest of my life there, surrounded by the incredible mountain range. Helping the animals made me realize that nature is so intrinsically harmonious, and that it was this harmony that could bring me happiness. This service experience helped me realize that I don’t want to live in the city for all my life, that perhaps, living out in the wild would bring me to a level of happiness that I simply could not attain in the strict confines of the city.
This summer I volunteered with an organization called Imagine Science Films, a non-profit film company with an emphasis on science. In addition to their annual film festival in New York, they also host satellite festivals in other cities. They also have a Youtube channel that is home to many short films. There’s a film series on their channel called Spotlight Films. In July, I went out with other volunteers at Imagine Science to produce a couple Spotlight Films. In our first, we met with the organizers and volunteers at North Brooklyn Farms, an urban farm in Williamsburg. Later we filmed the Biobus, which is a bus that teaches inner city youth about microbiology and New York City’s water. After spending many hours interviewing and filming, we then edited the films. It was a great experience and I’d love to volunteer there again.
Kids on the Biobus (from a Spotlight film)
Before coming to Friends this year, I went to school at De La Salle Academy where there were great faculty members, as well as an optimistic environment. From day one, we always heard that we were one big family. Community was a large part of the culture at De la Salle, and everyone always helped everyone else. During the summer, De la Salle had to move from their home at 96th St and Amsterdam to a new, much bigger building at 43rd Street near Times Square. Some people came to help out; including parents and students who had graduated from the school a long time ago. I went to volunteer five days during the summer to help move all the things from the current building to the new building. Me, my friends and on some days my Dad carried heavy boxes of books, furniture and other items up and down many flights of stairs. I also helped clear out all the trash at the new building and we filled up a whole dumpster by the end of the day. I really enjoyed volunteering at De la Salle Academy and am very glad I helped.
My volunteering experience at De La Salle during the summer made me realize that even though I had to work hard to carry heavy things up and down stairs, at the end of the day, I felt good about myself. I was happy that I was contributing to the community after graduating and I was hanging out with my friends like we had never graduated. I learned that even though I and my peers graduated, we could have said, “Well, we don’t have to help out, we graduated. We can just sit home and play video games” but instead we made the effort and gave back to De La Salle what De La Salle gave to us. I look forward to doing as much volunteering as I can in the coming years.