Our social issue for the YPI project was helping children in poverty. After researching, my group discovered that there has been a significant increase of children living in poverty in NYC. The Association to Benefit Children (ABC) is a program mainly located on the upper east side, which provides help for families in poverty. ABC has a variety of programs from teaching languages to providing housing for families with Aids. ABC also has many preschools that incorporate games and music into their lessons to make it fun for the children. Most of the workers are volunteers including people who attended their schools as children. I was happy to be able to learn about ABC.
The hardest part of the project for me was the presentation. Because we visited ABC, its hard for the judges and our peers to really understand what the experience felt like. It was also hard to choose what to say about each slide to explain the organization clearly. We also struggled with choosing what information we wanted to share the most in the limited time of ten minutes. My favorite part of the project was our site visit. I loved learning about ABC, but it was even better to physically see how much help there is for the children if they need it. One way that I can stay engaged with ABC is by volunteering at their Open door program on Saturdays. Every Saturday, anyone is allowed into their building to play games, learn languages, and receive food if in need. I really enjoyed this project because it really opened my eyes in a good way and made me realize how much help is available for anyone in need.
On Service Day, Jamie spoke in the Meetinghouse about how themes in World History related to the incorporation of the Youth and Philanthropy Initiative in the 9th Grade curriculum. She reminded us that civilization brought great advances, but also great inequality for humanity, and that the purpose of this project was to give us as students a personal understanding of injustice and how it is being fought, today and in our community of New York. I really appreciated the way that Jamie framed the presentations to come, because I felt like the groups that were presenting had gained a very specific and valuable perspective on social problems in New York. I especially appreciated the enthusiasm and urgency that members of GEMS (the winning organization) exhibited.
As for my personal experience researching and advocating for WIN, I valued the fact that my group was spending time on a school project to do actual good through education of our community about social issues. such as child homelessness, and through the prospect of winning a grant for financial support to a local charity. Although we narrowly missed the opportunity to secure the $5,000 grant for WIN, I loved visiting the organization itself, where we were able to have a frank, honest conversation with WIN Vice President Robin White about the challenges of their work and the enormous benefits that the efforts of WIN, along with other nomprofits in the City, have brought to vulnerable families in New York. Massive inequalities have been a problem for so long, it’s certain that efforts to eradicate them will take a very long time to succeed, but the YPI project offered a beautiful opportunity for all of us to take stock of our place in history and learn how to bring about progress towards the world that ought to be.
I think all of my fellow students would agree that we gained lots of leadership skills as well, as we conducted interviews, collaborated with our team members on our presentations and polished our speeches. My biggest take away however, was the appreciation I have gained for the work and contributions of the philanthropic sector in our city.
When deciding what social issue we wanted to tackle for our Youth Philanthropy Initiative service project, we knew we wanted to focus on children. As teens, and very privileged ones at that, we realized we took for granted most of the things we grew accustomed to here at Friends Seminary. The YPI served as an opportunity for us to address a growing problem in New York City: child homelessness. By visiting the headquarters of the non-profit organization WIN (Women in Need), we were able to not only learn more about the social issue but also what we could do to help. Representing WIN at Friends and its increasingly successful fight against child homelessness enabled us to not only educate others but spread the word about what we as a community could do to help find a solution to the problem.
At first, my attitude toward our social issue and non-profits in general was ultimately apathetic. Whenever I walked down the streets of Manhattan, I never saw homeless children nor did I see as many people lying on the sidewalks. The problem of child homelessness almost seemed not-existent to me. But that was because I never actively took the initiative to seek out the hidden problems that plagued this seemingly utopian city. The YPI helped me realize that the reason I don’t see kids homeless on the streets when I walk to school or when I walk home is because non-profits like WIN have been combating the issue for decades. The progress WIN has made is evident in the numbers they provided us with: 2,000 children are safely sheltered in WIN facilities per night.
Participating in the YPI proved to be an eye-opening experience. By working with my group to research and present the social issue of child homelessness, I not only improved my presentation skills and public speaking abilities, but I also realized that we were making a difference by just spreading the word. Because of this I think the involvement of service opportunities like the YPI into our coursework is beneficial and necessary for us students. When attending service events, lectures, or programs, we tend to passively participate without engaging and reflecting on how doing so is actually making a difference. I believe the YPI can change this just as it has helped me change my mindset about social issues, service, and what we can do as a school to help improve our community.
Over the course of the Youth Philanthropy Initiative project I grew to realize how important early childhood is and how much it affects the New York City community. When my group originally decided to chose the Children’s Aid Society as our non-profit we had not yet singled in on the issue of early education. When we finally decided to focus on early education and family support, I had not yet understood the real impacts that a lack of early education and family support had on our community. After delving further into the issue we really narrowed our focus to early childhood education and we began to realize the difference between the futures of children with and without a proper education. This issue affects hundreds of young New Yorkers every year. When certain children are not given a good education they make bad choices. They do drugs, deal drugs, commit felonies, and when they are not taught about proper methods of contraception, the result is teen pregnancy. Most people who lack education are also not given well paying jobs which contributes to the cycle of poverty when those people have children and their children are given an inadequate education as a result of the money their parents lack. After learning the effects and prevalence of insufficient education, I began to recognize the true weight of the issue and the importance of proper schooling at an early age.
Throughout the process of this project the most challenging aspect would be finding a way to portray the true relevance of our chosen social issue. Through researching, finding statistics, information, and through our site visit, my group and I learned and felt how truly important early childhood education is to our community. However, it was difficult to express this to our classmates through a Google Docs presentation. Especially when introducing this issue to a group that is not naturally exposed to a lack of early childhood education. Going to a school like Friends, one can recognize the effects of issues like lack of childhood education, but one does not always register or think of the obstacle that this issue stems from. The most challenging aspect was trying to convey the gravity of our issue on a daily basis in the New York City community.
The social issue I researched was child abuse, and the non-profit my group chose was the Jane Barker Brooklyn Child Advocacy Center. My attitude towards the social issue changed incredibly over the course of completing my project. I learned how strongly child abuse can be responsible for many other issues, such as drug abuse, and a cycle of abuse from child to child. I also realized the overwhelming amount of people who suffer from child abuse, a number I thought was far less than it actually is. By the time our YPI project was completed, I had also been strongly affected by a personal story told to me by a volunteer of the Jane Barker Advocacy Center, which detailed the life of one particular victim who was helped by Jane Barker.
I found the most rewarding aspect of the project was the knowledge that the Jane Barker Brooklyn Child Advocacy Center is one of the hardest working centers to end child abuse, and has a unique approach to dealing with children that works more effectively than other methods. I was also rewarded by knowing that the work completed by our group working with this non-profit was work that went to helping children who have been psychically or sexually abused, and that our work made an impact on people who can also try to help those who have been abused.
My group over all wanted to empower young people to stand up for themselves and speak for themselves. That was how we choose human sex trafficking. We really wanted to help people who thought they were nothing and not important to feel loved and cared about. That is why we chose GEMS. GEMS stands for Girls Education & Mentoring Services and it helps girls from the ages of 12-24 who have been in the sex trafficking industry and need help. Their founder and executive director Rachel Lloyd was in the sex trafficking industry in England where she grew up, and she came to the USA to help girls that were like her. GEMS are a small business but making a lot of progress and growing very quickly.
When I started this project, I thought sex trafficking was a very small thing and I thought that it was not that important. As my group and I progressed, I think we all learned how big of an issue it is not only in the United States, but in the world. I also did not know that there were girls being trafficked at ages as young as six or seven. Researching this issue and learning about it in more detail really changed my view on sex trafficking. I think my groups site visit was very challenging because GEMS do such a good job of keeping their girls protected and safe so we did not get to meet any of the girls and they did not let us go in their offices or main building. Even though that was difficult, it really shows how much these people want to protect these girls in need. When we visited the GEMS offices, we met two women who were very connected with some of the girls and really wanted to help the people that they worked with. Immediately I felt like I wanted to help with this issue just as they were. My group did a lot of research and we really put in a lot of work because we felt that more people in the world should know about this issue and more people should start to help to fight against sex trafficking. When my group won the five thousand dollars, it was very rewarding for me because I felt like I had really helped some of the young girls who were in such difficult positions in their lives.
Over spring break, my family and I spent our time traveling through Vietnam working in various hospitals, operating on the sickest of patients and sharing new surgical procedures with some of the more technologically-lagging hospitals. My mother, a urologist, did thirty
My mother and me
cases over the course of the two weeks, and I spent time in the operating room taking photos and acting as a scrub nurse for a number of the cases (I picked up some vietnamese for things like “scapula,” “suction,” and “water”). We brought a lot of equipment, mostly donated from Boston Scientific or North Shore LIJ Hospital (Lennox Hill), to donate to five different hospitals. Most of the urban hospitals acted solely as surgical referral centers–patients came in the day of their case, met the surgeon the morning of, went under, and left the next morning. All elective cases were done in the morning, leaving the afternoons open for conferences and emergency cases. In the rural hospitals, unless it was an extraordinarily basic case, most patients were referred to bigger city hospitals (specifically those in Saigon and Hanoi). The communist government has an extraordinary strong-hold on the way the hospitals function (all lecture halls featured images, statues, and posters of Uncle Ho in addition to giant red flags–additionally, all the
chiefs of department are strongly affiliated with the party). The hospitals were amazingly advanced in some ways, but usually missed the point of such advancements (there was a scrub sink, but all the equipment was reusable and unsterile; nurses wore scrubs, but ate soup in the operating room; the OR featured clean linens but the windows that looked out onto the dirt streets were left open; the oncology departments and urology departments were amazingly strong independently, but if a case of prostate cancer came about there would be absolutely no interaction between the departments). We traveled with a group of doctors through an organization called Global Medical Volunteers.
Overall, the trip was definitely not one I would ever repeat, nor was it a remotely relaxing break, but it was, at the least, educational. Seeing the massive pelvic prolapses many women lived with before the cases performed was absolutely eye-opening.
For the past three years, I have worked with Families with Children from China (FCC). FCC is an organization that provides support and information to prospective adoptive parents. It also helps network adoptive families living in a certain area. The New York branch of FCC offers a program called Girls Connect, which I have participated in for a number of years. Once a month, I join a group girls ranging from ages seven to eighteen to eat dinner, play games, do arts & crafts, and most importantly, discuss adoption. Sometimes the younger girls submit anonymous questions and concerns about adoption that us older girls help answer. Other times, the older girls facilitate conversations about school, growing up, or identity.
I was adopted from Anhui Province when I was nine months old and my parents have always been open about discussing their journey to China and the prejudice adoptive parents and children often face. Girls Connect gives me the opportunity to mentor younger girls that may not have any adopted friends to relate to. I often recognize my own past insecurities and worries about being adopted in the discussions I help facilitate, so it’s gratifying to help the younger girls work out their concerns, and more importantly, take pride in their heritage.