This summer I volunteered at the King Hussein and Noor Al Hussein Foundation in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan (KHNHF). During my tenure, I worked with two of the seven institutions of the KHNHF, the Community Development Program (CDP) and the Institute for Family Health (IFH). I accompanied staff on their visits, provided logistic support and assisted trainers during the capacity building workshops and awareness campaigns.
I aided staff during their trip to Northern Ghour, which was part of the Poverty Pockets Empowerment Program of the CDP. The goal of the program is to provide the impoverished with means by which they may elevate their economic status. Mainly, the program connects them with a network of employers and aids them in the process of constructing a CV. With the rest of my time, I assisted the IFH staff during the World Population Day that was held in cooperation with the UNFPA for Syrian Refugees at the IFH locations in Sweileh, Amman, Jordan. I also had the opportunity to file, document and edit reports related to the project of promoting gender based violence (GBV) awareness and providing services to respond to GBV needs among Syrian Refugees, specifically women and girls.
Working with the refugees broadened my perspective with regards to the Syrian conflict. It was definitely more stirring to hear first hand accounts, than it had been to read articles while on a different continent. Also, while it was nice to see that the foundation I had volunteered with was taking active steps to aid the refugees, the institution itself was in shambles. I realized after my stay the importance of donations, even though one does not see a direct impact, the smallest of contributions really goes a long way. In all, I had a wonderful time, and managed to lend a helping hand to those in need.
This summer, I worked as a volunteer counselor at The Ross School for three, four, and five year olds. The Ross School is an educational institution which runs from September through June and a day camp throughout the summer. Ross places an emphasis on organic and local foods as well as promoting an open, accepting environment. During the two weeks in which I was a counselor, I was part of an Early Childhood group called “Creative Explorations.” Each morning, two other counselors, an instructor, and I were joined with about nine three to five year olds. Our objective was to educate the children on music, art, and nature as well as its inhabitants. The Ross facility is equipped with a vegetable garden to which we travelled every other day on nature walks. We often aided the children in dissecting a plant or fruit to unearth its insides and find different ways the vegetation could be used. They sketched and (in the case of a fruit) ate the plant. When we took apart a tomato, we taught the kids about the names of its different components. In the afternoons, we organized numerous art projects for the children. During the afternoon art period, it was crucial to step back and let the toddlers work alone. As a counselor, I found it essential to evaluate the influence I was having on the young children.
Throughout my experience, I became aware of my impact on the children as well as their impact on me during my two weeks at Ross. During the initial days of camp, many of the children were reluctant to complete their own art projects and continued to ask me to write their names at the bottom and draw circles, hearts, or other desired shapes. Every day, I encouraged the kids to explore and attempt to draw and write on their own. By the end of the two weeks, all of the kids were comfortable and confident with their own drawing skills. They were unafraid to be creative. As a result, I became conscientious of everyday moments in which people impact other’s lives. It can happen in just a split second; someone may smile at a stranger and change the course of their day. I started realize these minute yet significant moments that could impact others. It reminded me of a statement of guidance from the Dalai Lama, which was to “Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.” Every new second contains the chance to impact someone’s life with mere kindness. Even the smallest of creatures have a great impact on the world. As said by the theorist and biologist Edward Osborne Wilson, “Ants are the dominant insects of the world, and they’ve had a great impact on habitats almost all over the land surface of the world for more than fifty million years.” Many small acts can affect lives similar to the way in which numerous minuscule ants can have an effect on the earth. Especially at a young age, children have a tendency to be easily influenced. As a volunteer counselor this summer, I had the incredible opportunity to encourage self-confidence in young children, which will hopefully impact the rest of their lives.
I had heard on the news that 9/11 was a National Day of Service to commemorate the events of the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center in New York City that left many dead and some missing, however, after nearly two decades, I never had actually acknowledged their lives by my own participation in this national event. That is, until Sunday, 9/15/2013. Every year, for incoming freshmen and their parents, Friends Seminary organizes a 9/11 Day of Service event. On that Sunday, both Friends Seminary parents and 9th grade students begin the day with a communcal breakfast and then we’re divided into groups that volunteer with partner nonprofits. My group worked with Dorot. Following an informative Orientation at their headquarters, we delivered food to the elderly who either live alone, or with a caretaker and had a chat with them for about an hour. This was a great opportunity to get to know other incoming freshmen, while at the same time giving back to the community.
We delivered food to Mrs. B, someone who actually witnessed the attack, when the planes purposely and suicidally crashed into the World Trade Twin Towers. She had been a front line witness in the event that devastated New York and a part of its glory. She had a caretaker and two daughters and a grandson, who did not live with her. It was her nephew that lived in New York City, visited her once a week and called every night. She was very, very interesting, even if there were times of awkward silence. I mean I’m not really what people would consider a social person, but along with my mother, Zara, and her mother, we made a great group. I learned a lot about the troubles she has nowadays, where she originally came from (Germany), and why she doesn’t go outside so much nowadays (she has to take a wheelchair, which is not compatible with sidewalks of New York City). She had a beautiful apartment, but it was clear what she lacked was contact with other people. It took so little to give her that social interaction she so clearly needed. During this day of volunteering, I felt connected to my fellow students, the school community, and Ms. B. In many ways, I benefited as much as Ms. B from the experience.
To all those lives lost and all of those that were destroyed, know that you are forever remember in the hearts of all those that know of the 9/11 attack.
-Fatoumata Mbaye, Class of 2017