In my Epidemiology class, I, along with my group members Nicolette and Jared, developed a theoretical proposal to create a diabetic clinic in the neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant. In addition to the data on the neighborhood’s data on diabetes, I found that Bedford-Stuyvesant is on the lower end in terms of both healthcare and poverty rates, with many people never going to a hospital, despite needing care, and a poverty rate of 33%. Since the diabetes rate was also rather high (16%), we wanted to open up a clinic that would be affordable and may encourage residents to approach their personal health in a more effective manner.
For me, it was rather challenging to figure out which neighborhood to choose in Brooklyn and what issue we wanted to focus on. There are many neighborhoods in Brooklyn with serious health conditions affecting the and there are numerous health problems in just the Bedford-Stuyvesant area. Learning that the clinic could not be a complete solution to everything diabetes related was a little frustrating, as the clinic could not logistically support most of the diabetes at Bedford-Stuyvesant at a any specific time, due to factors like space, supplies, money, and ease of access.
For me, I think researching more into public or private grants related to diabetic healthcare, or the encouragement of the creation of more of it, would be helpful.
Over the first week of summer vacation, I participated in the AMC Teen Spike Trail Crew from Camp Dodge in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Over the course of four days, I worked with a group of six volunteers and two trail leaders to maintain the Appalachian Trail up in New Hampshire. During the week, we camped out in a cleared off area alongside the trail and woke up every morning to complete trail maintenance work. Prior to this crew, I had no experience with trail work and was not sure what to expect.
After four full days of work, my group successfully replaced two water bars and created three new check steps along a hundred yard stretch of the Appalachian Trial. Over the course of four days, I gained an understanding of what the words trail maintenance really means. For my group, trail work included a combination of working with tool and using body strength to quarry, move, and set rocks. Although the task of moving a rock might seem like a minor accomplishments for a group of eight people, hours and hours of work went into each step of the task. Each day was incredibly exhausting and oftentimes very unrewarding. My experience working on the trail truly showed me the importance of patience and persistence. I learned pretty quickly that more often than not the rock you intend to place into the ground is not going to fit. My group quarries and attempted to set four different rocks in our hole before one fit correctly.
Overallm I really enjoyed my time working as an AMC volunteer. It was exciting to try something new and learn about trail maintenance. I learned that there is also no feeling more rewarding than finally managing to set a rock. My experience in the trails also gave me a great appreciation for food cooked on a stove and beds with mattress. I would definitely do it again!
Throughout the year, I worked with Katherine Farrell as a student ambassador helping to arrange events, expand social media, and create more interaction between Friends students and Alumni. The largest and most significant task that I completed was organizing the 2015 Friends Homecoming panel for the seniors. Jada and I worked closely together to select Friends alumni who could share with the senior class their experiences moving from college to the work world. In order to select a panel, we sent out a survey to the senior class asking them about their interests and the types of professions they would be interested in learning about. The results of the survey showed that networking was the main topic of interest for the seniors. Once we had the topic, Jada and wrote emails to young alumni asking if they’d be interested in speaking to the seniors during Homecoming. Some of the alumni responded to these emails immediately, while others waited months before declining. This email exchange was entirely new for me and often made it very complicated to know our next steps.
After months of exchanging emails, Jada and I finally had enough alumni to speak about networking at the event. During Homecoming, Jada and I facilitated the panel for the seniors, taking turns to ask directed questions of the alumni. This experience taught me a lot about the challenges of working with alumni and arranging an event, however, it also opened helped me see that I liked having a leadership role in planning and facilitating the event. I look forward to working as a student ambassador next year and continuing to expand my understanding of development work.
Last week, I volunteered with the Kent Land Trust in Kent, Connecticut. The Kent Land Trust owns a couple hundred acres they have been working to clear of invasive species for the past six years. This year they only have 60 more acres to clear and they hope that this project will end before the new year. Over the winter they had hired a contractor to go in with a brush hog and clear the big open areas, but he was unable to get up around tree trees and the bigger rocks. It was in these areas that we were working to clear by hand. I was one of probably 15 volunteers there that day. We all arrived, heard the back story I relayed above, ate a muffin, and then we headed out into the woods with our tools to work (I brought loppers and a “swedish axe”). The next few hours of service were weird in that had only one, short conversation the whole time, the rest of the time it was silent (except for the buzzing of chainsaws) work. I started out going around to a bunch of different trees and ridding them of vines and little weeds around the base. Eventually I found one area and started to work solely there. In that area, I was working on a tree when one cut led to a specific type of plant with thorns whipping around and hitting me in the face. After that I spent my time attacking that specific type of plant. Luckily it was one of the more invasive species there, so my targeting led to a lot of land getting cleared.
On February 8th some classmates from Ben Frisch’s statistics class and I went to PS41 to participate in the HOPE Survey. HOPE is an organization that one night a year in the middle of winter goes out onto the NYC streets to count and survey the city’s homeless population who are not sleeping in shelters. This is done in association with the Department of Homeless Services to provide an accurate picture of how many chronically homeless people there are in the city. Though this initiative takes place all over New York City, including the five boroughs and subways, our involvement only had us survey a few residential streets in the Greenwich Village area. We went out late at night between the hours of about 10:00pm and 2:00am, which is a rather cold time in the middle of winter and unsafe for anyone to be sleeping outside in those conditions. However, our group did not encounter any homeless people in the section that we surveyed. Though we didn’t come across any, the other group from our school did. Even though we didn’t see any ourselves, we still collected important information regarding statistics of where there are homeless people in the city, and areas where they are not found as often. This relates to the work we do in class because it looks at proportions of where in the city are larger concentrations of homeless people. I found the timing of the annual survey to be interesting because it occurred during the part of the year when it was hardest to be outside because of the cold. Being out in the cold for even a few hours was harsh and made me more aware of what some homeless people have to struggle with living on the streets. However, there may have been fewer people on the streets for this reason, so I think it would be interesting to see what the statistics for homeless people on the streets are at another time of the year.
Over the summer, I helped clean the beach with the organization, Imagination Nature. While considerably unpleasant, it was worth noting the kinds of things people had left on the beach, and for what reason. The places which had the most trash were locations where people had organized a party on the beach the night before. There were a significant number of cigarette butts littering the sand, as well as items of food which had been left behind and forgotten about. I think that the reason people left so much food on the beach is because they assume it will decompose, and it will, eventually, but not fast enough for it to avoid harming the ecosystem. It was slightly alarming to come back the next week and see how much garbage had returned to the same places we had just cleared of plastic bags and orange peels seven days before. This emphasized to me how important it is for beach-atendees to use the easily accessible garbage cans located in the beach parking lot.
Imagination Nature’s Website: http://imaginationnature.com
Over spring break I travelled to Peru with a group of 12 Friends students. Over the course of two weeks, we hiked, swam, toured, bonded, and immersed ourselves in Peruvian culture. With the assistance of our amazing Envoys guides, our group was able to experience Peru both as tourists and as insiders. We participated in the predictable tourist activities like visiting Machu Picchu, the salt mines, and many ruins but we also spent time with local Peruvians and completed a service project in the Amazon rainforest.
I learned the most about Peruvian culture from my home stay family. For seven nights, I was able to spend time with my home stay family and experience everyday Peruvian life. My family took me to multiple birthday celebrations where they shared with me many unfamiliar dishes that may or may not have been guinea pig. My family taught me Peruvian dances, such as salsa, and showed me a different meaning to the word family. The extended family of my host family lived within a 5 block radius of each other and they engaged with each other many times everyday. I noticed that my home-stay brother spent more time with his cousin than I do with my brother even though we live in the same house. In comparison to the Americans, Peruvians seem to value family more. When returning home to New York, I tried to bring back with me the kindness of home-stay family, and their belief in the importance of family.
Another meaningful experience was completing our service project in the Amazon. After a long morning of swimming, both in the river and the pool, and a delicious lunch at the beautiful reserve, our group got onto a boat and travelled for around twenty minutes to a family farm. That afternoon, we planted 50 trees under the burning Amazonian sun in an area that had been deforested. It was great to get down and dirty under the sun and it felt incredibly rewarding to know that we were helping both the environment and the Peruvian family. The next day we went to another farm and planted 30 trees. The families of each farm were appreciative of the work we did on their farms and rewarded us with fresh grapefruits and coconut water and an archery lesson. Thanks to our amazing supervisors and group. I had an incredible time in a beautiful country. I know that I’ll remember the experiences I had in Peru for the rest of my life.
Ashley and my host-familes
Volunteering in Amazon
Selfie-Stick in Macchu
All year round “Swim Across America” hosts swimming marathons from California to New York, in indoor and outdoor pools, in order to raise funds for cancer research. Swim Across America is an organization that allows people to swim for the cause of defeating cancer and raising money for research centers, labs, and hospitals. This past summer, I volunteered not as a swimmer, but a beach runner for the swimmers. This entails helping the swimmer out of the water, bringing them a towel, and a bottle of water. This ensures that the swimmer is safe after swimming either 15, 10, 5, or 1 k.
I love volunteering for this organization because your work is greatly appreciated by the swimmers and the gratitude is immediate. Swim Across America is a great cause and raised over $1 million this summer alone. Hopefully, I will be able to also kayak alongside a swimmer to make sure they do not have an emergency while swimming.
Restoring a Trail in the Tongass N.F., Juneau, Alaska
I, along with 11 other high schoolers, traveled to Juneau Alaska, where we helped the Juneau Ranger District restore a trail. The trail we were restoring was the trail to the Windfall Lake Cabin. This cabin is the most popular cabin in the Tongass so the trail sees lots of traffic, which leads to the erosion and widening of the trail. Our job was to clear underbrush off of the trail, keep the trail to about 2 feet wide, and to clear muddy areas of the “organic”, muddy soil and fill in those areas with cobble and sand. To fix the muddy areas of the trail we would use McLoeds, which are like rakes combined with garden hoes, to clear the 3-4 inches of thick, muddy “organics”. At the same time people in an area called “the pit” would be collecting sand and stones. “The pit” was an area out of view of the trail where people would use pulaskis and shoves to gather the stones and sand. These materials were then brought to the newly cleared 2-foot wide trench and we would put down cobble, the stones, to help that section drain better, and then cover the stones with sand. To clear the trail of underbrush some of us got to use machete-like weed-whips to clear the edges of the trail of prickers, especially Devil’s Club, and other plants that were spilling onto the trail. We would also use a hand-saw to saw off low hanging tree branches that bikers could run into. By the end of our time working we had cleared the mud for 1/5 of a mile of trail and had “weed-whipped” 2 miles of trail.
Since all of our work was concentrated on a part of the trail that was on a small island created by two rivers we would camp at the tip of the river by night. We had 5 tents, 3 for the girls and 2 for the guys, and we packed in all the food we wanted and cook it all on little camping stoves on the beach. And since Juneau is very far north we would enjoy nights that stayed light until around 2 A.M. hanging out and playing cards. All in all the trip was a great way to earn community service hours.
In January of 2014, Ben Frich’s Statistics class join the Hope Foundation in their goal of gathering complete data regarding the homeless count in NYC. The event ran from 10 pm, to 3 pm. If we encountered anyone on the streets, we were to ask them a series of preformed questions. Even if the person did not look like they were homeless, it was important that we asked them the same questions, as appearances can be very deceiving. One of the questions was about whether or not the person had a place to stay for the night. Out of all of the people we asked, everyone that did not have a place to stay the night did not ask us to call the Hope Foundation regarding possible lodging for them. It was one of the coldest nights throughout the winter, and the number of homeless outside was astonishing. It is important that people continue to volunteer for these surveys, because without volunteers, there would not be an accurate picture of the homeless crisis going on in NYC. The Hope Foundation helps countless numbers of homeless people by telling the people of NYC how they can lend a hand.
The website can be found at. https://a071-hope.nyc.gov/hope/welcome.aspx