Over the summer I went on a Rustic Pathways service trip to Fiji. Rustic Pathways is a teen service oriented teen travel group, with trips around the globe. In Fiji, I went on two different service trips: the “Village Education Project” and the “Green Island Service Project.” On the Village Education Project, I travelled in the back of a truck up the Fijian mountains to the remote Nasivikoso Village. Our project there was to help the Fijians who lived their construct a new school, cut down trees and dig for pipeline near the school, teach the children at the current school, and do various tasks to help out around the village. But, of course, we also played with the children and shared stories of our American culture. Working and living in such a poor village was a very interesting experience, as in both villages I went to I was able to observe and be in a society that is the complete opposite the one I live in, in New York City. On the Green Island Service Project, I travelled on a five hour ferry ride followed by an hour long boat ride to the extremely remote island of Malikati. Although Malikati was a little less poor than Nasivikoso (houses made from concrete vs wood, more access to electricity, clean water, etc.,) the village still needed a lot of work. the “project” was to help construct and paint an entire house for an elderly couple, along with doing various service tasks around the island. Again, we also played with the children there, shared stories, and went kayaking and swimming in the incredible Fijian waters.
Although both trips were part of my “vacation,” going on these service trips really changed the way I view the world and provided a very meaningful experience for me. The moment I returned to New York, I found myself standing still, looking at the tall buildings and technology for a while each day. The difference is indescribable, and I could never live in these parts of Fiji for my entire life, but seeing how happy and fun the Fijians are made me realize that I am lucky for what I have and where I live in the world. For them, clean water was a luxury. I will never forget my trip to Fiji, and have actually communicated with some of the Fijian friends I made there via Facebook.
This winter I chose to volunteer at a soup kitchen, specifically the St. Xavier soup kitchen. The St. Francis Xavier soup kitchen is part of a larger organization called the St. Francis Food Pantries & Shelters which was established to alleviate the physical and emotional hunger of the poor and needy in a dignified and supportive manner (as sid from their mission statement). There are 22 non-profit Food Pantries, Soup Kitchens, Safe Havens, Drop In Centers and Shelters supported by St. Francis Food Pantries & Shelters throughout Manhattan, Brooklyn, Bronx, Long Island, Westchester and New Jersey. The St. Xavier soup kitchen is a fairly basic one, every Sunday the soup kitchen is open and feeds any homeless people who happen to come. They serve over 1,000 hot meals from the St. Francis Food Pantries. The kitchen crew start cooking the meals early in the morning and the guests start coming at around noon. More information about the soup kitchens can be found by e-mailing Joseph Sano the Managing Director at firstname.lastname@example.org, or going to http://stfrancispantries.org/community-programs/sunday-meals-at-st-francis-xavier-soup-kitchen.html.
My father and I came to the soup kitchen at around 11:00. We were swiftly registered and sorted into different groups. I worked with two other people at the bread station and handed out loaves of bread to any of the guests who asked, and my dad delivered trays to the guests. When guests were done with their hot meals they would come to us and we would give them whatever kind of bread they wanted. At the very least we would do our best to find the kind of bread that they wanted, things like the raisin bread were very popular and towards the end it became harder to find more. Overall the guests were very nice and seemed to be very grateful for the work that the soup kitchen was doing. In the end it was quite satisfying to help those who are less fortunate than I am.
Photos from http://stfrancispantries.org/community-programs/sunday-meals-at-st-francis-xavier-soup-kitchen.html
Heidi, Raina and I had a booth at the Green Day Event in Stuyvesant Park on April 27th, during It’s My Park Day. We put together a poster with our other classmates from our Environmental Science Class with Ms. Daly displaying our proposal to make the East River waterfront more resilient. Some aspects of our proposal included a softer shoreline, beautification and for-profit food trucks. We stood by our poster during the Green Day Event and explained our ideas to the public. It was fun to see other people’s booths and see what the public thought of our idea.
This year, I was really excited to be the leader of the HELP, Helping Everyone Less Privileged, student activity. In the past, we have had many successful dinners with guests from adult homeless shelters. This was the first year that we invited guests from a teen shelter. For our first dinner, we made macaroni and cheese, collard greens, fried chicken and biscuits. We all came together over a competitive game of Pictionary at the end of the night. However, the best part of the night was definitely talking with the teens and realizing that, though we come from different situations, we all have stories to tell.
Everyone at the HELP dinner came from completely different backgrounds. However, we were all able to come together for a really fun night. Despite all of our differences, we realized that we had a lot in common. This dinner was right around the inauguration so Beyoncé lip-syncing was a big topic of conversation; everyone had an opinion! At the end of the night, we all left full of good food and really excited for the next HELP dinner. I have become aware of how lucky I am to be going to such a great school in which I have amazing opportunities.
The seniors took a break to take a quick picture while cooking in the kitchen.
On April 20th, I arrived at school at 10:30 AM. This was odd, not only because of the time, but also in that it was Saturday! Leitzel was very helpful in directing me towards the LS Sports Clinic, where I played basketball and baseball with some 2nd-4th grade students. Proceeds from this Sports Clinic are going to support children at Association to benefit Children. A Friends student club, Tickets4TKTS, work with these children all year at the ABC facility and then at the end of the year take these children to professional sporting events. Playing baseball was especially fun, as my team made a thrilling final-inning comeback. It was rewarding to see so many young faces smiling after an exciting victory. We then ate pizza and celebrated with soda.
Following that morning service activity, we went to the park, where I met some of my friends, also from the Upper School, to help with mulch. When there were not enough shovels to fill the wheelbarrows, we used our hands to pick up the dirt. Seeing Stuyvesant Park when it turns beautiful again will be especially rewarding for me to look at this year. I am so glad that I was able to contribute my time to help out around the school doing such a wide variety of activities.
Earlier in the year I volunteered with the school to bring aid to victims of Hurricane Sandy. Me and a large group of other Friends Seminary community members drove out to Staten Island and tried to help those who were affected by the hurricane. We set up mobile food stations, to provide warm meals to those who were affected, and handed out fresh water and cookies to lighten the mood of not only the residents, but also the other people helping out.
The second I arrived I immediately saw the extensive damage done to these family’s homes. I was instantly astonished. The neighborhood I live in only lost power, and I could have never imagined the damage done. Homes were flooded, furniture destroyed, and people’s lives were torn apart. As I started to look around however, I saw the assistance that people were giving around the area. I was humbled by how many people were sacrificing to help those in need. Whilst I was setting up satellite food stations, or handing out food and water, I noticed the happiness most of the people had. The community service and the helping hands extended to these people seemed to be more powerful than the damage done. The love and compassion of people who were helping those in need were vastly more influential than the hurricane. After doing this, I really understood how much simple acts of kindness and service can affect people around you for the better.
Earlier this school year, I was lucky enough to participate as a volunteer for an organization called Midnight Run. Midnight Run distributes food and clothing to people around New York City who are in need. The whole operation takes place between 10:30 pm to 1:30 am, hence the name, “Midnight Run.” Before we left to deliver the goods around the City, my group spent several hours putting together sandwiches and organizing clothing so we could make as many stops as possible. Even though I felt like we spent so much time making the food, and there seemed to be 100’s of peanut butterjelly and tuna fish sandwiches, there were just so many homeless at every stop who were hungry.
Our group made visits through Lower Manhattan, up to the area around Madison Square Garden and then to the Public Library at Bryant Park. At many of the stops on our route, we had the opportunity to talk with the people we met. I was upset and shocked by their personal stories. When I hear at home and at school how “lucky” I am, I really know it is true.
For the past three falls I have helped a local recreational soccer league, the Manhattan Kickers Soccer Club, by volunteering as a youth referee. The Manhattan Kickers Soccer Club is an entirely volunteer run organization committed to bringing recreational soccer games to all ages of children. The coaches, referees, and administrators are all dedicated volunteers who work hard doing everything from acquiring equipment and uniforms to getting permits for the field. My help mainly consists of refereeing soccer matches for children under fourteen. I am usually co-refing with one or two other refs who are experienced adults. I’ve learned a lot from my experience as a ref. As a soccer player, I now have a lot more sympathy for the refs position. It is incredibly difficult to follow the ball’s play while monitoring the rest of the pitch and the actions of twenty two children. On occasion players, coaches and/or parents disagree with a call and are vocal in their opinion. It is a job that requires a lot of concentration, faith in your own judgment and physical exertion. That said, it is incredibly rewarding. My understanding of the rules of soccer have deepened, I am now aware of nuances that I only learned as a ref. The fellow refs advice and camaraderie has been wonderful. Best of all, I have been able to follow these younger kids’ progress through the years and help them enjoy and learn about a wonderful game.
As a younger child I enjoyed many years of playing in the Manhattan Kickers Soccer Club and they were instrumental in introducing and nourishing my love for the game. As a volunteer, I am able to use these skills to repay some of what that they have given me by helping to provide the same service to a new generation of children. If you are interested in helping the Manhattan Kickers Soccer Club visit their web site at: http://www.manhattankickers.com.
Once a month for the past two years, a group of around four students go to the Association to Benefit Children. The Association to Benefit Children (ABC) is an after school program for under-priveleged children. There are kids ranging from pre-school to middle school that attend ABC. When we go to ABC we work with the lower school aged children. We help the children with their homework when we first get there. Once they finish with their homework, the kids will sometimes go to the playground on the roof, go to their gym and play a fun dodgeball-type game, play with blocks or plastic animals, or have story time. Then we serve them dinner and try our best to entertain them while they eat. After dinner the kids are picked up, and in what felt like ten minutes, the afternoon is finished.
Every time we go to ABC, it becomes more meaningful. At first, the kids seemed happy to have high schoolers working with them, but it was nothing special to them. We were just another volunteer group to them. But then this year, it changed. They started to remember our names, and jump for joy when they saw us. They would entertain us during their dinner instead of us entertaining them. For me, the trips became less of community service and more of hanging out with these kids. It is really special because they look up to us, and they want us there. They are excited for our visits and look forward to them. We know that we have volunteered to the fullest extent when we make a connection with the kids.
If others are interested in learning about ABC volunteer opportunities, they can visit the organization’s website: http://www.a-b-c.org/volunteer.htm or speak to me or Jennie Nadel. We head up the student organization, Tickets4TKTS, that works with ABC during the school year. Our club also raises money through LS Sports Clinics that then allows us to take the ABC children to professional sports events.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, Friends Seminary organized a field day in which students, parents, and faculty could all travel out to Midland Beach on Staten Island and assist families whose lives had been destroyed. We worked all day clearing out homes of garbage and debris.
As one of the last sufferers from the same storm, I feel an emotional and sentimental connection to the unfortunate victims of Hurricane Sandy. In fact, I refer to myself as a victim. However, seeing with my own eyes, how much worse Sandy (whom I now treat as an omnipotent being) treated them gave me a fair amount of retrospect as to how fortunate I am. Though condemned, my home still stands. Not many people from Staten can say the same. I can only imagine the tumultuous feelings that still must be whirring around the heads as Sandy victims try and grasp the true tragedy which they experienced. I know that I am still angry. I am looking forward, however, to moving forward. I feel good that I came out of it intact and helped those worse off than me. I am truly grateful for the opportunity to give back, first hand, to those with whom I am proud to consider kin.