“For Friends the Testimony of equality begins with the belief that the Light is present in us all. All are deserving of respect, no matter what our differences. When we respect the Light in ourselves and others, we encourage all to turn inward for guidance and truth.” (Friends Seminary Handbook on Faith and Practice)
This summer, I volunteered as a counselor at Friendship Circle Summer camp. Friendship Circle is an organization that aims to give children with special needs the opportunity to interact with each other and with mainstream teenage volunteers. I have volunteered with the program before – in both their Sunday Circle program (in which volunteers spend 3 hours with children every other Sunday) and in their Summer Camp. The summer camp is a week-long program of activities in art, cooking, sports and music as well as two field trips to the Intrepid and a playroom. These activities are aimed to help the special needs children, most of whom are in a twelve-month school program, enjoy a “normal” summer during their short break.
It was nice returning to an organization with which I already had worked– I knew some of the other volunteers, the directors, and even some of the children. However, this summer brought new experiences as I was paired with a new child – Martin, a nine year old autistic boy. When my two fellow volunteers and I first met Martin, we thought he was non-verbal. When we offered him crayons to draw with or an arts and crafts project to do, he did not reply and instead ran away. However, throughout the week, Martin opened up to us. He talked to us, giving short answers to our questions and shared with us his amazing drawing skills (I wish I had a picture of one of his projects).
Martin and the other children at Friendship Circle certainly demonstrate the truth of the prompt: “equality begins with the belief that Light is present in us all.” These children’s light certainly deserves to be admired. Many of the children at Friendship Circle are surrounded 24/7 by therapists, doctors, and parents. But through their smiles, laughs, drawings and words their light shines brightly. I am thankful I got to share a week of my summer with them.
http://www.friendshipnyc.com/ <– click here for information about their programs (they also have multiple locations). I highly recommend this organization.