Over the summer, I worked with Ross Barkan. Ross ran for State Senate in District 22 in Brooklyn, mainly Bay Ridge. My first couple weeks, Ross and his team were petitioning to get on the ballot, and I helped out with that, as well as with entering people who signed our petition into our database. I also helped out with social media, basically running Ross’s Instagram account. After the petitioning phase ended, I spent a lot of time with Ross because I would go to events with him, such as protests against the incumbent State Senator Marty Golden or the Bay Ridge Summer Stroll. At these events, I would take pictures of Ross, which would later be posted on social media, or I would talk to people and inform them about Ross, or I would hold the sign for Ross while he talked to people (or while waiting joked around with me). In fact, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez endorsed Ross, and when she tweeted about him she used a picture of me and him. When I was not with Ross, I would normally be door-knocking, trying to convince people to vote for Ross. Unfortunately, Ross lost the primary on September 13th by about 2,000 votes, but his name will continue to be in politics for a long time.
This summer, the soccer team went to Tobago for the second time in two years. The trip had two main components, a preseason component and a service component. For Service, we gave equipment away to multiple different local programs on the Island, and held a clinic with many islanders. This year, many more people came to the clinic and we raised a lot more in terms of cleats and equipment, making it a more meaningful experience.
At the end of August, the Boys and Girls varsity soccer teams went on a trip to Tobago. I could not play soccer because of a leg injury, but it was still a great experience to see the team play and explore the island. Our team played three games, and although the scoreboard may not have been in our favor it helped us grow as a team. In the middle of the trip, we held a clinic in which we donated all of the soccer related goods we had been collecting and did drills with a group of a t least 50 local kids aged 8-18. Although I could not participate in the drills, I helped organize all of the goods and distributed them after the workout was over. It was a great experience to be able to give back to and workout with many of the local kids that we had been playing against the past few days.
This summer the boys & girls varsity soccer teams went down to Trinidad and Tobago. We participated in a tournament, traveled around the island and ran a clinic for underprivileged kids on the island. On the last day we woke up early and set off for Mount Pleasant on the island of Tobago. When we got there we unloaded the eight duffle bags of equipment, cleats and clothing for the kids. We set up drills and activities for the kids to participate in. Around 9:00am a flurry of kids rushed onto the field. They were all different ages and looked excited to participate in the clinic. During the clinic I took videos of the Friends kids playing with the kids from Tobago. After the clinic ended we handed out cleats, balls and clothing to the kids who needed it the most. After all the equipment was distributed we watch as the kids ran back to their parents to show off their new stuff. I really enjoyed this experience and have privileged enough to do it twice now. It defiantly will be a trip I never forget.
From August 2-6, I went to a service organization called Ankur Kala and did 22 hours of service. Ankur Kala is a non-profit organization established in 1982 in Kolkata, India. Ankur Kala helps many women who are abused and have no money, food, or rights. Ankur Kala takes these women in and gives them jobs, an education, food, and shelter. This organization is an all women organization, so it was hard to convince the women that I was not going to harm them, but by the end of my service, they all liked me and talked with me regularly. These women make jams and jelly, drinks, and mostly saris, which are India silk dresses that contain ornate designs. These women are not very educated however, and they can barely speak Bengali, and do not speak English. at Ankur Kala, the teach Bengali and English in one class, but the person who teaches English is not a native English teacher. What I did there is I thought them how to speak English and Bengali, as I can speak both. Ankur Kala was a great experience and I feel I made an impact on these women’s lives.
This summer I was fortunate enough to work with Projects Abroad and travel to Cambodia and participate in a public health program for a month. Cambodia, one of the poorest Asian countries, is underdeveloped compared to the rest of southeast Asia and many Cambodian people rarely, if ever, have access to a doctor or proper medicine. I spent two weeks in the country’s capitol, Phnom Penh. In Phnom Penh I spent most days traveling to some of the cities least funded schools and performed basic check ups on children aged 5 to 10. Most of these children came from farming families and many had wounds which had become or were becoming infected. A major component of the check ups was cleaning and disinfecting these wounds in an effort to mitigate the odds of amputation. My group always had professional doctors with us and we were therefore allowed to prescribe some medication as well as give children necessary vitamins to fight the all-too-present malnutrition many Cambodian children face. After we completed our medical work for the day we usually had time to interact and play with the children. My group also went to a rehabilitation center for HIV+ patients who often also had mental and/or physical disabilities. At the rehabilitation center we took blood pressure, checked heart rate, and tested the blood sugar of the patients. This experience was especially moving for me.
After spending two weeks in Phnom Penh, I travelled to a much more rural part of Cambodia in the province of Kampong Speu. In the Cambodian countryside I did more medical work in rural schools and slept at the house of a local family. The check up work in the schools was roughly the same as the work in Phnom Penh. Other than working in schools, my group would travel into areas so rural that children did not go to school and the families all worked on their farms. The children there did not attend school and thus we would go from house to house in small villages and perform checkups in yards and on porches in order to get to them. It was here that I felt like our work in Cambodia was most important. My trip to Cambodia taught me an unspeakable amount and I experienced so many things I had not encountered before.
Projects Abroad Cambodia Link: https://www.projects-abroad.org/volunteer-destinations/volunteer-cambodia/high-school-specials/medicine-and-healthcare/public-health/
This summer I had the opportunity to work with a group to send post cards to political figures and media groups. This allowed us to share our concerns. In addition to that, we were given addresses of people who registered to vote for specifically the Democratic Party in Florida. We were meant to inform them about the new online polls that would encourage more people to vote in the primary elections. We also made similar post cards for other states like Maine. It was an incredibly rewarding experience, and I’ve been talking with one of the facilitators for my group about potencially bringing it to Friends.
As the end of the summer approached, the Boys and Girls Varsity soccer teams drove to JFK and boarded our flight to Trinidad. From there, we transferred to Tobago and checked in at our hotel. During the trip, we explored the island and played a lot of soccer. The Boys Varsity team played against three local teams, and we and the Girls Varsity team held a clinic. At the clinic, we led a group of some 50 locals aged 8 to 18 in warm ups, drills, and cool downs. At the end of the clinic, we handed out dozens upon dozens of cleats, shin guards, and jerseys. Overall, the clinic was an amazing and fun opportunity for us to give back to the island that we were enjoying.
This summer, I volunteered at el Fundación Escuela de Solidaridad (FES) in Granada, Spain, with a program called Global Works. FES is a community founded by a man from Spain who is determined to help his community, and Global Works is a camp program working closely with them in their Spain program. Everyone who lives there contributes to different work projects throughout the community, while also learning job skills that will help them upon departure from FES. FES supports them and lets them live in the community for free until they have the skills or income to support themselves. Their only living cost is the work that they do—work they’re happy to do; their hard work helps those who will come to FES after them.
The work we did was varied, but included working with the kids, teaching English, preparing meals and baking bread, gardening, painting some of their community rooms, and even creating a mosaic to go with all the other groups who have come to help them in the past.
This experience was very enlightening and very, very fun. The people living in FES were kind, helpful, and fun to be around. I learned a lot more conversational Spanish and I really began to understand both the culture in Spain and individuals’ experience. I would return there in a heartbeat.