Erik’s Summer of Service Reflection

Over the summer, I worked with the Rotary Club of Lautoka and Habitat for Humanity in Lautoka, Fiji. While I was there, I was building houses with a team from Australia. We built houses for the local Indians living in the slums surrounding the Lautoka, Fiji area. The houses were made out of wooden frames and specially designed metals in a plan that allows for the houses to be cyclone-resistant. Many of the people living in the slums have rickety shacks for houses, with approximately fifteen people per shack. These families are living on approximately $9-15 USD per month.

The project that the Rotary Club of Lautoka and Habitat for Humanity are working on is an effort to eliminate poverty in the region by building cyclone-resistant houses and setting up friendly and agriculturally sustainable communities. I was working with a group of twenty, building two houses in a week. In one of the pictures attached, you can see many of the local workers and a couple volunteers. I learned through this experience how poverty stricken these people are, as they have no set source of income and will do anything to make some money, including stealing volunteers’ water bottles. I feel that my work in building houses helped Habitat for Humanity and the Rotary Club of Lautoka get a small step closer to achieving their goal.

Here are some of the volunteers and local workers.

Finished houses.

Houses being lived in.



Franscis’s Summer of Service Reflection

Hi everyone, I’m Franscis Balken, in the tenth grade, and over this past summer I went to Jordan, in the Middle East, with an experiential education course called Where There Be Dragons. Where There Be Dragons focuses on deep immersion into strikingly different physical and cultural landscapes, combining the best in experiential education, travel, service learning, and physically and intellectually challenging experiences. During our time in Jordan, we focused our service on one organization, based out of Amman, called The Life Maker Society or in Arabic saunaiya al-hia al-Hearia. The Life Maker Society works to improve the lives of less fortunate Jordanians. Life Makers aims at the promotion of youth energies and calling everybody to work together with the firm faith stemming from our values and hoping in goodness of the world and hereafter. The Life Maker Society has many programs and events to give food, clothing, money, and support to people all over Jordan. Life Makers created the Collecting Clothes Croject where they distribute over 45,000 bags of clothing all over Jordan. Also, during Ramadan, Life Makers packaged and distributed Ramadan packages to less fortunate Jordanian families. Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar in which Muslims take the time to make peace with those who have wronged and to reevaluate their lives by refraining from food, drink, and all evil actions, thoughts, and words. Another thing Life Makers has created are empty cans with coin slots for sale in which all proceeds from the cans are used for buying basic food items for needy families. While perusing the rows of canned goods available at any supermarket, shoppers this Ramadan can put some of their money towards a charitable cause by buying a can of “nothing”.

While we were in Jordan, we helped the Life Maker Society package and distribute Ramadan packages. We put all the necessary food items (rice, sugar, oil, noodles, beans, soup, and lentils) into bags that would then go to families all over Jordan. We spent multiple hours over many days either measuring out the amounts of rice, lentils, and sugar, putting all the items into bags, or separating and moving the bags into different locations depending on which homes they were going to. After that was done, we went with group members from Life Makers to different areas and regions of Jordan to distribute these packages. Most of these places were very rural with little influence from the West. The families lived in simple homes with very little to survive off of. All of the families were so grateful and really needed everything that we were giving them. Life Makers goes to great measures to make sure the families who are getting these supplies truly need them, and that they can help as many people as they can. It was astonishing to me how grateful and appreciative everyone was of each bit of support they got. By the time we left each house I was bombarded with at least twenty “thank yous!” From this experience, which I was so fortunate to experience, I took away how important it is to give your support in even the slightest of ways. Just by taking that extra time to check over all the bags and make sure that each one had all the items and was presented in a nice way makes all the difference to families. It is so important to me to give to people who need it and it makes me truly happy when I see how happy they are.

Photos below:

Me and two other group members packing Ramadan packages.

 Some of the Ramadan cans in which all prophets go towards buying necessary items for less-fortunate Jordanian families.

Julia’s Summer of Service Reflection

My name is Julia Rosenbaum. I’m in tenth grade and this past summer, I had the honor of tutoring for a program funded by the Jewish Community Center, located in a public school on 97th between Amsterdam and Columbus. The program was designed for children who needed extra help with their studies but did not have the money to do so.  I spent five weeks helping a child going into third grade with literacy and math. Her name was Anayeli, and she was a wonderful student.

Every day that we met, I helped her complete pages in her workbooks.  We would start by reviewing reading comprehension activities where she was required to read a passage, understand it, and then reflect on it by answering multiple-choice questions.  Sometimes this was difficult for her because not all of the questions were based on facts that were mentioned in the text. Some of them asked about the main ideas of the passage or the meaning of fact versus opinion.

Once we had done a substantial amount of work, we would move on to her writing book. This was one of her weakest areas because it was increasingly difficult for her to be creative and formulate full sentences. For example, when the question would ask her to write about school or favorite foods, she wouldn’t know how to devise a complete answer.  Throughout the five weeks, I encouraged her to spend extra time thinking about or outlining ideas, and then formally writing them in sentences when she was ready.

Math was her greatest strength, and I enjoyed watching her answer problems quickly and coherently. Yet, when she was quizzed on these topics, she didn’t perform as well. The especially stressful environment of an assessment made her forget the information that she had practiced for so long. Luckily, I could relate to this because of my past experience, and I was able to advise her on how to take tests and quizzes in the future.

When she didn’t understand something, I would teach her the concept until she felt comfortable about it and could do it on her own. She was a very fast and cooperative learner and would usually be able to do her work perfectly once explained. I took this photo of her after she had just figured out a small metaphor used in a reading comprehension problem. Even though it took a while for her to grasp the meaning, I was exceedingly proud of her when she did.

I also got the opportunity to tutor a six-year-old boy, who is showed in this picture, for one day in literacy and math. After having such an obliging and mature girl as Anayeli to teach, it was increasingly strenuous to teach a younger, more reluctant child. He was very intelligent, but he didn’t want to focus or work on the activities planned. It was also a continuous struggle for me to find the line between friend and teacher when I tried to get him to complete his work. I didn’t want to become too strict, but I also did not want him to think he could take advantage of my leniency.

Overall, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed and took away from participating in this program. Being able to understand the way Anayeli’s mind functioned and what her strengths and weaknesses were helped me find the best ways that I could teach her the things that she struggled with most. When I knew that she understood something because of the way I taught it to her, it made me very happy, and it became the most rewarding part. The fact that these kids could have a great amount of academic potential like she has, but might not be able to express it because of their financial positions was one of the biggest reasons I chose to spend my summer tutoring. Knowing that I can help someone’s learning process so much by merely teaching one concepts that are simple to me is an amazing thing. I wouldn’t have wanted to spend my summer any other way, and it encouraged me to do more service not only for our school but also to give back to the community.


Anna’s Summer of Service Reflection

I have been involved in Overland trips since the summer before freshman year. This past summer I went on my fourth Overland trip. I chose Field Studies Thailand because the description sounded so neat. We would get to work with elephants, which is a rare opportunity I didn’t want to turn it down. I got really lucky because the Elephant Nature Park, the organization we volunteered at, is nothing short of remarkable.

 Cleaning up after the elephants.

What makes the Elephant Nature Park so special is the woman who founded it. Her name is Lek, which in Thai means small. It is wonderfully ironic that such a tiny woman dedicates her life to saving such large animals. Lek’s mission has two parts: saving the Asian elephant and educating people about its plight. Lek’s goals parallel how we do service at Friends. While we complete physical acts of service, we also aim to educate others about the issues. I think many of us at Friends are of the mindset that knowing about a cause makes the volunteer work more meaningful.

Lek’s mission is completely visible. Education is weaved into every activity at the Elephant Nature Park. At the beginning of each week, volunteers watch several films dedicated to explaining both the history of the Asian elephant and its future. The most pressing issue is that the elephants domesticated for the logging industry have had no place to go since Thailand banned logging in 1989. Like any domesticated animal, they can no longer survive in the wild. When Lek has the funds, she purchases elephants from tourist camps or illegal logging companies[1] and brings them to the Elephant Nature Park. Located 60km from the city of Chiang Mai, the Elephant Nature Park is a reserve for the 34 elephants Lek has rescued. Lek and the staff at ENP work to rehabilitate the elephants, hoping to prepare them for life back in the wild.

The Elephant Nature Park is a part of the eco tourism movement. Basically volunteers are paying to help out, which is great because it both supplies the organization with the funds and the volunteer work it needs to function. Work at the Elephant Nature Park consistedof feeding and bathing the elephants, cleaning up after them, and planting and painting around the park. My group was also able to help the park’s vets prepare medicine for the elephants that were sick or had infections. In addition to working with the elephants, we helped take care of the stray cats and dogs that live at the Elephant Nature Park[2]. We also wrapped cloths around the trees on the outskirts of the park. The cloths were blessed by monks, making it a sacrilege for anyone to cut those trees down[3]. The diverse range of service gave volunteers a chance to connect with at least one value of the park.Whether it was preparing elephant medicine or walking dogs, ENP volunteers cannot reflect back on the Elephant Nature Park and feel their work was useless.

Something that was especially fun for me was that another Friends student, sophomore Elinor Weissberg, was on my trip. It was so cool that Elinor and I could experience summer service together. I think most Friends students miss our community over the summer; I definitely do, so it was nice for me to have Elinor doing service alongside me. Working alongside elephants, especially with someone else from our school, made for an absolutely memorable summer.

[1] The techniques used to train elephants to carry tourists or to perform in shows are animal torture. Elephants working for logging companies (both in Thailand and in Laos) are also abused and malnourished. These animals are often severely injured or sick when they come to the Elephant Nature Park.

[2] A few years ago, Bangkok was hit by severe floods. Many dogs and cats were left in the streets without shelter or food. Lek and staff at the Elephant Nature Park traveled to Bangkok to the rescue the strays. After giving them treatment and food, Lek did not want to release the animals back onto the streets, Now the Elephant Nature Park has over 200 dogs and around 20 cats in addition to its 34 elephants.

[3] Deforrestation is also a huge problem plaguing Thailand. Lek also works to prevent deforestation and to rebuild forests. Needless to say, Lek is a very busy woman.

Some more photos from my trip:

 Getting read to wash the elephants (which is why we’re all holding buckets!)

  Painting the wall around the park.