Teaching Young Baha’i Children in Maine

Over the summer, I volunteered Green Acre Baha’i School, a center of learning for Baha’i youth and children and a popular summer camp for Baha’is around the world. During my time there, I was a co-counselor for young children who were around ten years old, and my fellow counselors, the class teacher and I spent about five days teaching the kids about the meaning and the act of tolerance. Oftentimes we would read quotes from the prophet of the Baha’i Faith, Baha’u’llah, about tolerance, as well as quotes from other significant figures in the Baha’i Faith, such as Shoghi Effendi.

Through the time I was there, I made great friends with both my co-counselors and the children I was teaching. Sometimes I would sit with them during lunch, and we would talk about the class materials or just our lives in general. While I was there, I also met many long-lost friends, one of which was the class teacher I was working with who had taught me at Green Acre many years ago. It was wonderful to see her again and to catch up on all the time we hadn’t seen each other. As always though, the time I was in Green Acre quickly ran out, and before I knew it I had to leave. I was sad, but I made sure I would come back soon. Green Acre is such a wonderful place; it’s spiritually uplifting and it’s one of the best places to meet new friends and see old ones, and I can’t wait to go back and serve again.

Service Refection Halloween

Earlier this year, I volunteered to work at the lower school halloween party. Attending friends lower school, I remember how much I loved the halloween party and wanted to be help now that I was able to. I worked on the haunted house. With other students, we decorated the PE hallway, handed out candy, and tried to scare the little kids coming through (not too scary though). It was great to be apart of this fun day for these children.

YPI service day

I’m a new student this year in 9th grade, and participating in the Youth Philathropy and Intiative project was both a very rich learning experience and a wild roller coaster. My group and I spent weeks trying to find a non-profit to sponsor for the YPI competition, but unfortunately even though all of us reached out as far as we could, none of the organizations we contacted responded to us. Even though we couldn’t campaign, I learned quite a lot from this year’s YPI. I’ve been participating in acts of service all my life, and not many have been as rich as this in respect to gaining experience with working with people and organizations around you. We had to formally call each of the non-profits that we chose, something that I had never done before but I learned a great deal from. Watching my other groups work hard and collaborate with each other to campaign for their non-profit allowed to observe and enjoy the reward of the people who the non-profits were helping. Overall, I enjoyed participating in YPI, and even though I won’t be participating in it next year, I’m excited to see what new opportunities await the young students who will campaign for their future partners.

James Burge Service Day Reflection

As a new ninth grader, I enjoyed working with the Youth and Philanthropy Initiative. I think I now fully understand  the mission  of this organization and I do believe in the idea of connecting adolescents to social issues. By not only introducing high schoolers to what may be unfamiliar social issues, but also giving them freedom to choose individual organizations which work against social issues that they are passionate about it is an effective way for high schoolers to become involveled.

I also enjoyed hearing about the ideas and organizations that other groups came up with and found. I was fortunate enough to be a judge during the final round, and being able to have a say in which wonderful organization won the grant was a great experience. Being able to listen to my peers present their passion in specific social issues was powerful and enabled me to learn about various social issues. Listening to the presentations made by other groups was my favorite part of service day.

Isabella’s YPI Service Experience

A few weeks ago, the ninth grade had the pleasure of participating in the YPI project. Although my group did not make it to the finals, we we still got to watch our classmates present their charities. Listening to the 10 groups, I realized that I did not want the money to go to one single charity. I had become so enthralled in each presentation that I thought that each charity deserved the 5000 dollars. At the end of the day, I felt more involved in the New York community having learned about all different types of charities my classmates were involved in. I felt a strong desire to improve my community and give to those who are less fortunate. Although only one group could win the 5000 dollars, I felt like it didn’t matter which group would win because in the end people in need would receive the help that they needed.

Isabella’s Experience with the Coalition for the Homeless

For the 9th grade YPI service project, my group decided to work with the Coalition for the Homeless. When we visited the Coalition, we were welcomed with kindness and were impressed by their many programs. We learned that not only did they help homeless people directly by providing them with shelter and food, they sought to end homelessness by attacking changing the laws of NYC to accommodate homeless people better. I grew much more enthusiastic about helping the Coaltition as our visit went on and was touched by the stories they told us about helping their clients. Now when I see homeless people on the streets, I try not to ignore them and give them any spare change I have. Working with the coalition really changed my perspective on homeless people.

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Sammy’s Service Quest at Kidz Theater

I have been involved with Kidz Theater, a non-profit teen theater organization, since my sophomore year and have had some of my most meaningful learning experiences there. Being a non-profit institution, KT’s revenue derives from ticket sales, classes, and donations. The professionals and kids alike who volunteer devote massive amounts of time and energy to producing great art and fostering an incredible, loving, supportive, professional, learning environment.

On this day in particular, all of the technical elements of the show that I’m in, “Legally Blonde,” had to be loaded into the theater and set up. Students from New Jersey, Staten Island, Long Island, and other locations made the trek, despite school and travel fare, to arrive at the theater and help focus lights, paint set pieces, clean up the dressing rooms, and facilitate the transition from rehearsal room to theater space. It was creative in both senses, as the show came together before our eyes. I learned new technical skills, became friends with more of the staff, and developed closer relationships with my fellow cast mates. People who weren’t even in the show came by just to say hello and lend a hand! It’s amazing how art will bring people together like that. It was a tiring, beautiful time, full of hard work, collaboration, dedication, communication, and selflessness, values that Friends has imparted on me throughout my years here and that I hope to take with me as I travel and grow in life.

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10th Grade Backpacking Trip

I went on the 10th grade backpacking trip. We travelled to Harriman State park by train. Once we got there we started hiking around noon. The first day was pretty hard with a lot of steep hills. It was also a pretty far distance. We arrived at our hiking shelter around 5 pm. The next day we hiked to a lake and then to our next hiking shelter. It was a very leisurely hike and extremely pretty. We had lunch by the lake and a meeting for worship (which was one of the highlights of my trip). However, once we got to the hiking shelter, it was already occupied. We knew it was going to rain that night and so as a group we had to make difficult decisions about where everyone was going to sleep (more to come on that later). The next day we woke up early in order to hike out and catch the 9:15 train. We were able to catch the early train, which everyone was very happy about. We then returned to Friends and unpacked.

I really enjoyed the trip. I felt I learned a lot. I came into the trip expecting to have a terrible time. However, I ended up really liking all the kids on the trip and interacting with them a lot. However, since I was taking the role of a leader and this was their time to bond as a 10th grade ExEd group, I tried not to force myself into conversations too much.

One thing that I did not think about when thinking about my leadership style is what do you do when somebody in the group has to do something that nobody wants to do. I tried to help out by carrying a lot of group gear and cleaning up a lot. However, my true test came the night we did not have a hiking shelter to sleep in. Deanna and Jack presented us with 3 options: hike all the way back to the previous hiking shelter, have a short hike to a large rock outcropping where we could be somewhat sheltered, stay where we were and divide the two tents and the tarp that we had among everyone. The group chose the last option. This option meant that Deanna and Jack would have to sleep outside, the three boys would get a tent, four of the girls would get a tent, and two of the girls would get a tent. This also meant that it looked like one more person would have to sleep outside. I felt that it was my job as a leader to do this. Ultimately, there was room for me under the tarp. However, even though I avoided sleeping outside in the rain, Jack and Deanna did not. I learned that being a leader (to me) means putting yourself in uncomfortable positions when unexpected issues arise. This is something I definitely want to add to my leadership statement.

In my leadership statement I included that I wanted to play a lot of games. We did not play any of the games that I was prepared to play. However, Jack and Deanna had given me movie quotes, and the second night at dinner I made up a guessing game with the movie quotes. I was really happy that everyone got involved. I then also suggested we play a game where someone throws out a word and you think of a song lyric that has that word. Everyone seemed to be having fun and this was a moment where I was proud of my leadership skills.

When looking at my leadership document now I am proud of how I acted. However my first statement was “do not judge”. I definitely judged the people on my trip before I went on it. Luckily I was wrong and they were amazing. This showed me that “do not judge” is an important part of my educational philosophy and I should try and enact it better when I am in group settings.  Since I had never been backpacking before, this allowed me not to be controlling or bossy because I did not know anything about our trip. However, I know that this is something I have to avoid when I go on a trip in which I am already adept at the skills needed for the trip.

 

in the tarp

in the tarp

Michael’s Journey to Yonkers and the Medical Supplies’ Journey to the Middle East

On February 3rd, during peace week, a small group of students, teachers, and I boarded a bus after school in the rain and drove to Yonkers to volunteer at the AFYA foundation. I knew we were going to help out with the Syrian refugee crisis, but I had no idea exactly how. When we arrived, an employee told us that every day hundreds of pounds of medical supplies from hospitals around the city go unopened and eventually get wasted. Under health codes, medical instruments that are present during surgery and other procedures that don’t get used must be thrown away after the procedure. These supplies get collected into boxes, then AFYA representatives collect those boxes and repurpose them for less well funded hospitals and Doctors Without Borders in third-world regions that are in need of such supplies. Our job was to sort, label, and package the supplies so they could be sent off to the Middle East and Africa. The materials were packaged into duffel bags to be carried with passengers on planes to the region.

We had a great time frantically running and rummaging through the warehouse and it was surely interesting getting my hands on some weird looking and bad smelling medical equipment. I greatly admire how AFYA puts the phrase “one man’s trash is another’s treasure” into effect and manages to reduce waste in New York and increase medicinal outreach all over the world. This experience inspired me to take more into consideration how fortunate I am to have access to expert medical care and think more about ways in which I can reduce my own waste while helping others.

A month after that event, I teamed up with Middle East Club to run a bake sale to support AFYA and we raised a whopping $400 for the organization!