On April the 23rd of this year, several students including I went to volunteer at the Community Kitchen of West Harlem. At this community kitchen, the students gave people food in certain amounts based on how much they were alloted, which was determined by the size of their family. My favorite part of this experience was the small conversations I made with the other volunteers at the location as well as all the people I was helping. It really felt like there was a connection, which made the service experience all the more special!
This spring, I played music with the Park Avenue Synagogue Teen Band at a Jewish Nursing Home. Many of the elderly viewers were sleeping or uninterested, but there was a group of a few of them who were smiling from ear to ear. By the end of the set, a majority of the residents were clapping and singing along. It made me really happy to see that by doing what I love (music), would give someone else joy. Nothing was better than seeing a bunch of elderly people who didn’t want to be there, end up really enjoying themselves. I also love that we entertained them, we gave them an hour to forget about any of their worries. It just made me really happy to see that our music made them happy too!
I had the pleasure of cutting potatoes in the kitchen at St. John’s Bread and Life. While I was there I saw how many ordinary people were just extremely hungry. It could have been you or me who was there. It amazed me how many people came in and out throughout the small amount of time I was there. If this is just one small amount of the many food pantry’s in New York, it just goes to show how many people are hungry in New York. To me, it is completely wrong that so many people need assistance in getting a warm meal. It should be a basic human right, no one should be hungry. And yet, it is a drastic issue, which needs to be addressed. I’m really glad I got to see this in person, because seeing how many people are affected by this issue really puts it into perspective, rather than a graph, statistics or a lecture.
For service day my advisory and another travelled to Staten Island to volunteer at a soup kitchen. We mainly worked in the pantry where we restocked shelves so that people could continuously choose foods they wanted to bring back to their residence. I am well aware of how many people are impoverished and can barely take care of themselves and their family. However I found that many people weren’t homeless but rather they’re job couldn’t support their means to live. Where I volunteered opened me up to such reflection and understanding. Volunteering at the pantry furthered strengthen my endeavor to give back to the community and people that supported me. I saw so many that put in an effort to make a difference in the pantry, and that compassion truly touched me. I’m glad of the experience I had on Service Day.
At project Cicero I was directed by staff to sort books into catergories depending on what kind of book it was. Then teachers would come into the space and choose books to take back with them. Thinking about books, It had never crossed my mind that something, that I had easy access to, was not the same for others . I began to reflect more on what I took for granted. Books taught me skills that will be prominent throught my life and yet people who don’t have that access won’t be able to experience the same teaching process I did. Project Cicero brought that teaching to the kids. It’s indirect but it’s as significant as reading the book itself. I am grateful for my experience volunteering for Project Cicero.
This past year’s service day the junior and senior class participated in a simulation showing what life is like after being incarcerated through an organization called the Osborne Association. We were each given the identities of different people which included why they were imprisoned, their names, their age, the race, and what they needed to achieve in a three or four week period. Our task was to complete all of the things on the checklist in a specific amount of time. After taking part in that simulation, the hardships that these people face are incredibly difficult and inhumane. Getting simple health care or bus tickets was almost impossible and I ended up getting almost nothing done. This day allowed me to see a little bit into how these people are forced to live their lives. Overall, it caused me to become even more eager and motivated to do what I can to help these people through these difficulties which no human deserves.
While on a Friends Seminary Global Education trip to India, we participated in the “posh project” at the primary school in Kodi Bengre. The project consisted of beautifying the school so local parents would be encouraged to send their kids there instead of another school outside of the town. During our day helping out at the school, we painted the walls of the school, as well as supervised the kids while they helped out painting. Some participated more than others, a few kids were happy just to paint their own arms rather than the school. Interacting with the kids demonstrated to me just how much privilege we have to attend a private school in New York City.
During my time in Tobago, I was exposed to new experiences and people. While staying in Tobago, the Friends team bonded over both soccer and the experiences we shared off the field, such as meals and time spent outside. On the field, our soccer tour playing matches against local teams demonstrated the communal quality of the sport and helped us to connect with the player base on the island. Competition in soccer comes down to who is the better player and the better team, and in Tobago, this was no different. The simplest form of the competitive spirit was what shone brightest on the field, breaking down any background differences and reducing us to players on a field. Although beneficial, competing was not our only mission on our trip. Along with this tour, we also donated soccer gear and led a conditioning and skills workout for local players. In this way we were both giving back to the community for the hospitality we were greeted with and the unique experiences had there. Players helped lead this skills workout without putting anyone but the coaches on a pedestal. The workout was less of a vehicle for trying to put Friends players above local players, and much more so a vehicle for providing opportunities to both play and learn soccer to underprivileged youth in the community. With its important service opportunities to help provide equipment for underprivileged youth soccer players, intense soccer matches, and the fantastic recreational time in between it all, Tobago remains one of the most memorable experiences I’ve had.
In February, I had the opportunity to volunteer at PS 7 for their Family Free Arts Day, hosted by Free Arts NYC. As a volunteer, I got to collaborate on art projects with underprivileged children. I was paired with two girls and we did projects and learned about some of the museums located in NYC. It was interesting to hear different perspectives on the exhibits we learned about and learn stories about what it’s like to attend a different school. I had a lot of fun working with the other students, and it also gave me an opportunity to reflect on the abundance of high-quality materials and resources I have in my daily education. This was a very positive experience and I hope I can participate again next year.
On Tuesday April 30th, members from the Kalief Browder Foundation and Friends students went to Albany to lobby for the H.A.L.T Solitary Confinement Act to be brought to the floor as soon as possible. Upon our arrival, I had the first meeting with my group with majority leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins. Even though the meeting was only 10 minutes, I spoke about the detrimental impacts of solitary confinement and my group members spoke more about the bill, shared personal stories and important statistics to persuade senator Stewart-Cousins to bring the bill to the floor. In the afternoon, my second group and I met with a representative of Senator Alessandra Biaggi, already a co-sponsor of the bill, to persuade her to ask other senators to sign the bill and continue advocating for it. Meeting the senators and their representatives in Albany gave me insight on how advocacy is not a one time event. When Senator Stewart-Cousins explained to us the the difficulties of supporting the H.A.L.T. bill and told us about opposition and social tensions regarding the bill, I understood that the fight and the work for advocating for a cause you support is ongoing. I also had the opportunity of listening to other senators at an open press conference between the two meetings. The senators were co sponsors of the bill and although they were very genuine in their support for the bill and the people, it was evident that they could not promise or make quick actions for the bill to be passed, but it was a continuous and rigorous process.