Lucas’ HOPE Count Reflection

My participation in the HOPE Count helped me understand statistics in the

real world by showing me the necessity in getting the closest number possible for

certain world problems. Using statistics in the real world is the first step in helping

solve many substantial and important issues such as, the amount of homeless

people in New York City, the amount of people in the United States with AIDs, or the

amount of African-Americans that are incarcerated. By finding a statistic for a

specific issue, we can discover how large and prevalent that issue is and then learn

how to help prevent or stop it.

Reflecting on the beautifully intelligent quote from To Kill a Mockingbird, it is

absolutely correct that one can never begin to grasp the struggles of another human

being until they are in their shoes. By going on the HOPE Count I realized how

detrimental a lifestyle it is and how saddening it was to have a large number of

homeless people tallied at the end. Seeing it first hand, I now know that I will never

be able to understand or comprehend what it’s like to live homeless in the city

unless I am living it.

Carley’s Peru Experience

In the online activities or “modules” that I completed prior to the Spanish Emersion Peru Trip, I learned about Peruvian history and culture. One of the principles of Leave No Trace, which was discussed frequently on the trip was “Know Before You Go.” Knowing before you go means studying up on the destination, and at least having a basic understanding of the country’s politics, history, and traditions. To me, this step is one that cannot be overlooked. As a tourist, I often feel like I am disrupting the locals by being an onlooker to their daily lives. However, with prior knowledge of a destination, a tourist can be more culturally sensitive and aware, which I believe is crucial in order to avoid being the “obnoxious American tourist.”

Traveling to Peru with a sense of the country enabled me to have a better understanding while on tours, visiting attractions, and during discussions with my host family. I don’t believe I would have gotten as much out of the trip if it wasn’t for the information I gathered at home in New York.Host Father and MeTrain to Machu PicchuViewing Monkeys In AmazonTree Planting in Amazon

Malik Fights Hunger With Ham and Lots of It

During Service Day this year I had quite the experience. My grade was supposed to do service that helped fight hunger and I felt like this would be interesting. It was the knowledge I gained that is. The work was tedious. We packed more ham than I could’ve imagined. I never want to eat ham again. Yet at the end of the day I felt like we accomplished something and that the day was a success. Then we came back to school to watch the movie on hunger and I was distraught. It made everything I did seem obsolete. It let me know that the way we fight hunger will never work. It let me know that great changes need to be made because what we do now is only a temporary solution. This made me sad at first but as I thought about it I realized this movie shows that people are aware of this problem though. And then I thought because I watched I am one more person aware who can go out into the world and make other aware.

Rebecca’s Experience with the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services During Christmas

For the past two years, I have been involved in photographing children that live in the various homes provided by the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services (JBFCS) ( This past christmas, I participated in creating a music video with the children who live at the Henry Ittleson Center, which belongs to JBFCS. Here, young, emotionally traumatized disturbed children come to the Center to seek treatment. Ranging from  5 to 13 years old, they are often diagnosed with psychosis, depression, bipolar disorder, and post traumatic stress disorder.  These children come to live at the Ittleson House after they are referred.

This past holiday season, I participated in shooting a music video of these children. Initially, I was apprehensive, as I was warned that the children are often unpredictable around Christmas without their families. As soon as I walked in, a young boy ran away, refusing to be apart of the video. I feared that the day was doomed. However, I was happily surprised at the response. I asked girls of various ages to choose the music, and the boys decided on the instruments. They performed 8 songs as an ensemble. The girls were dressed in pink wigs, and sang into sequined microphones. The boys had their hair sprayed in bright colors, and played blow-up saxophones. It was my my favorite day as a photographer for JBFCS yet. By the end of the day, the boy who had once left, was drawn by the music. He came back, and thanked me, explaining that  he was now inspired to take photographs just as I do.

Jays Nepal Reflection

Over spring break I traveled to Nepal along with other Friends students to begin construction on a school in a rural village.  We partnered with an organization called build on ( that helps to build schools in rural communities all over the world.  As we approached Damaliyah we were able to see the towns people in the distance, they were all gathered in one big mob waving to us in anticipation of our arrival.  Almost immediately after dismounting the van we were whisked away to an opening ceremony that the villagers had prepared for us.  The ceremony was filled with endless dances, songs, and speeches and by the end one thing was clear.  They were certainly pleased to have us there.

My favorite part of the trip was interacting with our home stay family.  The first night was awkward.  Our host family only knew a few words of English and our only knowledge of Tharu came from a 5 page handbook that was mostly outdated.  After some practice and with the help of our translators we were able to manage fairly well.  It was easier to communicate with the children than it was the parents because the children were more out going and less embarrassed than the parents.  One of the most satisfying moments of the trip was getting to play soccer with a bunch of the local kids.  As a gift for my host family I got a soccer ball but at first the kids began to it to play volleyball.  We played volleyball for a bit until I put the ball on the ground and made a motion for soccer.  The other kids nodded and we began to play.  Within no time everyone was screaming and yelling at each other and even though we didn’t speak the same languages, I still felt as if we were still able to connect really well

Our host brother Alvin and our host mother Sabitri

Our host brother Alvin and our host mother Sabitri

Our host brother Alvin

Our host brother Alvin

Our host brother "gunda"

Our host brother “gunda”

Dancing at the welcome ceremony

Dancing at the welcome ceremony

Welcome ceremony

Welcome ceremony


Cyrus Glanzer’s Service Reflection

As I get ready to matriculate from friends the long list of ‘last time i do ____’ gets longer and longer and as I go through that list I also notice some of the habits and traditions i ave made around service and serving also falling into my list of ‘lasts.’ Every year on thanksgiving throughout high school my family has volunteered for the Bowery mission soup kitchen, cooking and serving traditional thanksgiving treats for hundreds and thousands of individuals and families as part of the Bowery Mission’s biggest event each year. While leaving friends in and of itself does not stop me from continuing this tradition, that I am leaving this city and home very much does affect that opportunity for family bonding in the form of service. I am going to miss specifically these habitual service experiences, the ones that weren’t about logging service hours or rushing to fulfill a requirement at the end of May. And per the mission of the service department I have attributed value and consistency to my service activities beyond what is simply asked of me. The service program has been a true success in my case in developing a somewhat socially conscious student, if not always for the benefit of others than at least for the benefit of myself.

Max’s Peru Reflection

Over spring break, a Friends group went to Peru. Envoys, an organization that empowers students through travel, took this group of city kids to a part of the world that, until then, had only lived on the fringes of their perspectives. I was lucky enough to be one of those city kids, and through the trip to Peru I learned the difference between seeing a country and living it. We stayed with host families, speaking only Spanish, learned from the completely sustainable people of the Uros Islands, and explored ancient Incan ruins. From a silent meeting in Machu Picchu, we watched the fog swirl around the peaks of the Andes and we awoke at 6 am to the sound of ghoulish howler monkeys in the Amazon Rainforest. We did so much that coming back to our busy student lives at Friends seemed dull.

Fog around peaks of Andes at Machu Picchu

Fog around peaks of Andes at Machu Picchu


Peruvian countryside

Peruvian countryside

Throughout the trip, we were led by a task force of professors and Envoys counselors who worked tirelessly to make every minute of the adventure an experience in and of itself. Our trip leader, Ángela Gomez, was an enthusiastic character who seemed to have everything planned out, down to the minute of our arrival at our host homes. “Flaco”, our medic, was a ukelele-playing, song-singing, happy-go-lucky Columbian who looked after each one of us, even staying by the side of a few group members for two straight days while they recovered from a virus in a hospital. Ahava Silkey-Jones, a third Envoys member, was smart, collected, extremely helpful, and very attentive; it was her first time in Peru, and yet she made us feel secure and at home there. Señor Quiñones and Micah were our Friends Seminary adult representatives, proving to be extremely caring and capable in their abilities both as our guardians in Peru and as our friends—they were our attachment to home. With the help of these leaders, our group became a family.

Final Campfire

Final Campfire

In this trip I found a stark contrast between visiting and traveling. At the start of the trip, I made it my goal to avoid seeing the country through the lens both of my camera and of my life as a New York private school student. By planting trees for a Peruvian farmer, the fruit of which he will sell to send his daughter to school, I achieved that goal. I achieved that goal again and again, in my homestay, in seeing huge swaths of brown among seas of green rainforest from the plane, in our brilliant tour guides, and in asking my waiter at a restaurant his name, where he was from, and what his dreams were beyond working at a hotel in Cuzco. I achieved that goal when I realized that to be a person, you need to travel and learn about the world you live in.

Planting fruit trees in Amazon

Planting fruit trees in Amazon

Richard Omar’s Nepal Reflection


A picture with my friend Nick and our Host Family


Having fun


My Host Sister, Sumita, teaching Nick and I to do hand laundry


        To say that the trip to Nepal was life-changing, goal-affirming, or unforgettable might be saccharine. It would also be true. Before going on this trip, I am ashamed to say that I had really only looked at countries like Nepal as third world countries; underdeveloped and poor. All that has changed. Now I have memories of impressive mountain peaks that reveal different levels of beauty from whichever view you may choose to observe, of endless green fields, and the wonder of seeing the red sun rise in the early morning. Yet, the interactions with the people were what I most enjoyed on this trip, especially with my host family.

In the beginning, interacting with my host family proved to be an awkward experience. After my host mother brought me to the family, Nick (who was also living with the family) and I actually sat in the chairs the family had provided for us and stared at our family for almost twenty minutes. Obviously, Nick and I wanted to talk to our family members, but because we didn’t know any Tharu, we had no idea what to say to our host family and our host family could not say anything to us. Because of this, our host family would often burst into laughter while Nick and I nervously grinned. To break the tension I presented my host family with some American gifts, notebooks to be exact, that I had brought for the children. It would prove to offer only a brief respite from the silence but, thankfully, Nick had brought Jenga as a gift for the family. It was amazing how easily such a simple game helped to bridge the linguistic and cultural gaps between us and our host family. With Jenga there was no language barrier. When teaching the rules of the game, speech was not needed, only a simple demonstration. We barely talked as we played, just laughed, cheered, groaned, and we were still more emotionally expressive than we could have been if we could have used words to talk to each other. Eventually, Nick and I couldn’t always rely on Jenga for communication with our families. Most of the time we would just sit in silence with our families and talk with each other in our language while our host family would do the same. Samita, our host sister, was always trying hard to get Nick, me, and the family to interact when these moments of silence happened. She would encourage us to teach them Go Fish and tic-tac-toe, and at one point she and our other host sisters taught us how to play this bizarre game where the players just pull each others ears. Nick and I had no idea what was going on in that game, but I don’t think either of us had ever convulsed with as much confused laughter as we did then.

On this trip laughter, as well as Jenga, was helpful in relieving the tension that comes from cultural differences. Sometimes neighbors would come over to play Go Fish and one of them once asked me  “Do you have any fours”, except he had pronounced fours like “Porsches”.  This led to a hilarious misunderstanding as I thought he was asking me If I had a car. Our host family had a good-natured laugh at that, and Nick and I joined in after them to avoid insulting anyone. Similarly, when Nick and I mangled Tharu words, our host family would laugh and so would we. We didn’t mind because laughter was needed so all of us wouldn’t take this merging of cultures as something frightening where every mistake made would be devastating, but just a fun experience.

Nepal Reflection

Over Spring Break, a group of us traveled to Nepal for a ten day service learning trip. After twenty hours of flying, we landed in Kathmandu. We stayed at Hotel Himalaya Yoga in Kathmandu for two nights before flying to Dhangadi. In Dhangadi, we prepared for life with our host families by learning simple Tharu and Nepali phrases, getting to know our translators and BuildOn team, and reviewing cultural customs. We took a bus to Domalia, the village where we would be living and working on the school. The entire village greeted us with an elaborate, thoughtful welcome ceremony filled with beautiful dances, costumes, and music. Despite our limited language skills, Jada and I were quickly able to communicate and connected with our host family.

The most rewarding part of the trip was seeing how excited and proud the entire village was to have a new school. Men and women spent all day working on construction, while the children watched from the windows of the existing school. The BuildOn school will not only give more kids in Domalia a better opportunity to learn, but will make them happy and excited to go to school.


Our host sister, Asmina, making necklaces.


Our host mother bringing water back to the house.




Jack in Kathmandu

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Bailey’s Experience in Peru


During spring break, I went on the school’s Spanish trip to Peru, which was organized by Envoys. We spent two weeks exploring the gorgeous country and visiting some of its well-known cities and landmarks such as Lima, Cusco, Puno, Lake Titicaca, the Uros Islands, Machu Picchu, las Salinas de Maras, and Moray. Our tour guides each had different characters, allowing us to see various aspects of Peruvian culture. One of them studied archeology and had his very own theory about the Incas! Besides just hearing about Peru’s history and seeing its famous landmarks, we got to try Peruvian food everyday. Our diets consisted mostly of beef, chicken, rice, and potatoes, but I think I may have accidentally eaten alpaca once. We would usually come together as a group after dinner (whether it be at the hotel we were staying at or in a park before we were dropped off at our homestays) and discuss how the day went and how we were feeling, both emotionally and physically. One of our discussions focused on travelers v.s. tourists; more specifically, if we were travelers or tourists… or both? Although we saw a lot of groups of white or Asian elderly tourists at the restaurants we went to, we still stuck out wherever we went. Unlike in New York City, when you don’t think twice when you see hundreds of tourists who don’t speak English, we definitely stuck out to the Peruvians. On the first day we landed in Peru (in Lima), a few locals asked if they could take a picture of us. Our reply: yes, if you get in the photo with us! That was a first. We were definitely tourists.

The one time I didn’t feel like a tourist was when we were with our host families. Sure, we didn’t necessarily fit in at first and dinner conversations were awkward at first, but I doubt that most tourists visiting Peru get to stay in a Peruvian family’s house! Actually, I doubt that most, if not all, of the hundreds of thousands tourists visiting New York City have stayed with an American family for five nights! I was with my friend, Hailey, because I dreaded being all by myself with some random family I knew nothing about. Here I am now in New York missing everything so much! Our host mom, Véronica, was so sweet. Her two sons, Joaquín and Wagner (Jr.) were in school, so that had to eat together without me and Hailey because we would arrive at anywhere between 8:00-9:00 p.m. Despite our late arrival, Véronica would cook dinner for us whenever we showed up and sit with us, asking about our day. One day when we were in Cusco, our group had all the families eat at a restaurant (the one with alpaca). We had free time in the afternoon after lunch, but our host mom wanted to take me and Hailey to the mall! We saw Insurgent (Insurgente) at the mall’s movie theater. I don’t know exactly why, but that made me so happy. I really wanted to see the movie when I got back to the United States, and our host mom went out of her way to spend time with us. Our host dad, Wagner (Sr.), was never home when we were staying at their house. He is a tour guide at Machu Picchu, but he was our tour guide when we visited Machu Picchu! We were at Agua Calientes, and Hailey said, “I think that’s our dad.” It was…

We stayed at the EcoAmazonia lodge during the last few days of our trip. It was an amazing lodge/resort with a pool. We stayed in bungalows and only had electricity between 6:00-10:00 p.m. We were rushing to get ready for bed before 10:00 p.m., avoiding having to rely on a flashlight to light up our shower or attracting more mosquitoes. I got over 20 mosquito bites. The first night, we took a short stroll through the Amazon Rainforest and got in a boat, looking for caiman. Although we couldn’t find any, the man steering the boat turned the engine off, allowing the river to carry it downstream. It was so peaceful and silent. The moon and the stars were our only source of light. As we approached the EcoAmazonia lodge, we heard the annoying buzz of the generator (keep in mind it was earlier than 10:00 p.m.). It made me realize how disgusting and disruptive electricity is. I would always be blissful whenever we took the time to just sit down and have silent meeting. It gave us time to just settle down and appreciate the landscape. I was excited when we finally got to give back. After waking up/being woken up by monkeys around 6:00 a.m., we got on a boat and took a 8km hike. It was so muddy that all of my rain boots were covered in mud. It finally began to rain, but I have never seen so much rain in my life. I went from being hot and sticky to cool and drenched within seconds. Later, we attempted to go fishing with fishing poles made of a long stick, string, a hook, and a small hunk of meat. After discovering that none of us were natural-born fishers, we jumped in the river and swam. It was so nice to submerge ourselves in the water that we have been floating down the night before. The same day, we went to a family’s farm down the river and planted exactly 50 trees. We only had three digging tools, but we managed to get the work done quickly. They gave us fruit to eat after. We went to another family’s farm the next day, but their field had snakes in it, so we couldn’t plant all 50 trees. While we awkwardly waited for our boat to arrive, we got a quick lesson on how to shoot an arrow. I’m just really happy that we did something positive for the environment, giving back to the beautiful country of Peru and the two families.

I miss it so much. I miss the food, the culture, the people, my host family. There’s not one thing I don’t miss about Peru. I don’t even want to take back any bad things that happened in Peru, like when I fell at Machu Picchu (don’t worry, I fell AT Machu Picchu, not OFF Machu Picchu). I will continue to learn from these amazing two weeks. There’s so much I got out of this trip. Whenever I doubt myself, I remind myself how nervous I was for this trip, but everything turned out fine. Well, actually, it turned out to be incredible. I’d like to thank all of my classmates, Micah, Señor Quiñones, Ángela, Flaco, and Ahava for making it so great.

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