This summer, I interned with Human Rights First (HRF), a nonprofit organization that identifies the U.S. governments’ and private companies’ legal and human rights violations. HRF initiates legal action to ensure reform and justice for disenfranchised populations in the U.S., including refugees and undocumented immigrants. Currently, HRF is focused on the eradication of family detention and separation, as well as alleviating the consequences of the refugee crisis. Their activities include improving the quality of life for refugees in the U.S. and abroad through social programs and legal services. I worked in HRF’s Communications Department, conducting research for projects and articles about higher education in refugee camps, social justice and human rights advocacy, and other countries’ legal approaches to incoming refugees. I also assisted with the development of video projects to raise awareness about HRF’s work. It was incredibly rewarding to intern at HRF. Taking action to help such integral causes made me feel like I was part of a greater movement to promote vital change here in the U.S. and abroad. I look forward to continuing my work at Human Rights First in the upcoming year!
Every Sunday I volunteer as an assistant coach for inner city kids who want to learn how to play soccer. I work with kids from all age groups and help them develop their skills as soccer players. In comparing my own experience learning how to play the game I realized just how privileged I was and how uncommon it is to be able to afford professional coaching nearly every day for over 13 years of my life. As I watched the kids grow as soccer players I felt proud and happy that I was able to help give these kids an opportunity to develop. This is now the third year that I am a coach, and over the course of these past three years I have watched as the kids have grown from playground players to players capable of playing in a competitive match. This has been an incredibly fulfilling experience that allowed me to use my experience to help others.
On May 5th I went to an event sponsored by Senator Comrie to help with the distribution of over 40,000 books to teachers and families in the neighborhood. Seeing these books in the huge, unsorted boxes that they came in was daunting at first, but our group leaders organized us into mini-departments by book title so that we could sort through them all before the recipients came. By the end of sorting it had only taken us about an hour and our spirit and energy were still high.
Once my help was no longer needed with stacking books, I was delegated to be the leader of registration: I was given a booth and a sign up sheet and I took down the information of new volenteers and kept track of how many service hours each participant was doing. But, due to my position including a desk and a tent that was located near the entrance, I was also approached by book recipients in need of information or help. This second unofficial job challenged me to quickly problem solve by networking people and distributing resources: I had to make sure all the staff had pens when we were running out, get food for the book recipients’ refreshments, and create a new position to combat the groups of people who tried to take more books than were allotted to each guest.
My favorite part of the project was meeting a man who was a teacher but had been given a family-size book voucher; he came up to my desk to get my help in getting the right card for himself. In the process of getting him a new voucher I noticed that he only had one leg and I asked him how he was going to get his approximately 50 books back to his car, and he told me that he planned to just walk them back and forth in multiple small trips. Seeing a way to be helpful, I went out and found him a wagon to put his books in so that he only had to make one trip. I ended up talking to him for about 20 minutes while he was collecting his books and travelling to get to his car, and it was amazing to see the excitement that would light up children’s and parents’ faces when they saw him. He was a great teacher, a community figure, and an overall cool guy, and I’m grateful that I was able to meet him through this event.
In November, I participated in the Friends Seminary Open Day after school. I was placed in the performing arts booth because of my engagement with performing arts activities at school, and my job, along with all the others participating, was to give information on that particular aspect of Friends to prospective students. One by one, students interested in our area of study came up to our table to ask questions about the programs and classes Friends offered. It was so wonderful to meet students interested in the same things as the other kids at my booth and me. We told the students who came to our booth about the different opportunities students had in participating in this field at school, from classes to extracurricular activities like the plays and the musicals. Everyone who came to the performing arts table was interested in similar things, and it was great to see prospective students have a passion and curiosity for the same subject that we did.
In October I helped set up for the lower school halloween party. Along with a few students and friends Seminary parents, I helped build and decorate the haunted hallway. While the process did take a significant amount of time, as we had difficulty piecing together the metal bars which held up the curtains for the hallway, I enjoyed the experience. It was nice knowing that this would give the lower school students a good time.
Cancer Care is a non-profit organization that works to address the financial, practical and emotional concerns of those who have been affected by Cancer (including the Cancer patient, caregiver and the bereaved). Cancer Care hosts a variety of support groups, including online, face-to-face and telephone support groups. Although Cancer Care is primarily based in NYC, people from throughout the world and the country can participate in the online and telephone group. All of the support groups are facilitated by professional support oncologists. They also have a wig and breast prosthesis clinic that allows those who have been affected by cancer to receive these supplies, which can lead to an increase in self-esteem. Furthermore, Cancer Care can help to cover the costs of chemotherapy, transportation, and child care, all things that can take away from a patient focusing on their care. At Cancer Care, I had a meeting with Cancer Care and learned about the Cancer patient’s needs and how we could best support them. After learning about this, we created a presentation to help raise money for them and won $1,000. I look forward to helping support them in the future, by participating in a 5k run to help fund their wig clinic. After working with Cancer Care my attitude towards the social issue changed because I was more aware of the struggle that the whole family, not just the patient, faces because of cancer as well as the costs of child care and transportation. Furthermore, my communication skills became stronger after working with a nonprofit organization because I communicated with them in order to best understand their needs. I found winning the $1,000 for my organization the most rewarding part, knowing that I would be directly helping cancer care and the work they do.
This year I volunteered with Reading Partners at PS 188 for the second year, and I had a really great experience. I have really enjoyed working with the students and seeing them improve over the course of the year. Reading Partners creates such a fun learning environment for struggling students to improve their reading skills, and the students seem to genuinely enjoy it. I look forward to tutoring with Reading Partners again next year!
For service day, the tenth grade traveled to the AFYA warehouse. AFYA is an organization that recycles unused medical supplies. We sorted the medical supplies along with other volunteers, which would be sent to Puerto Rico for hurricane relief. We sorted through the medical supplies, grouping things together, and then packed them into bags, labeling the bags according to what they contained. This experience was very meaningful, as we were hopefully doing life-saving work since the supplies we sorted will save peoples lives.
On May 2o, Friends Seminary hosted “Friends Who Serve” and the organisation, “Volunteers of America” worked with us. We spent the day making Birthday’s in a Box for children and their friends and family to enjoy. The boxes that we made consisted of party supplies that the kids and their friends would use throughout the day including goody bags for the children to take home. This experience was really fun because it provided an opportunity to help kids enjoy their birthdays no matter what.
This year for service day, I visited AFYA, and organization that donates medical supplies to countries that are economically struggling. Because of their lack of government revenue, these countries are unable to supply themselves with the proper supplies which countries like the United States and Britain have access to. While at the organization, I sorted medical supplies by its type (bandages in one bag, syringes in another, etc) to be shipped of to hospitals and homes in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.