On service day, part of the senior class had the opportunity to work with the organization Afya, which sends medical supplies which would have been disposed of here in the United States, to other countries where they are needed. It was great to hear how the organization really targets the type of medical equiptment that is needed in each location, so that they aren’t sending tons of medical supplies that might be more useful in an other country, and so that people can understand how the needs of those different places are different.
On service day this year, my advisory went to St. John’s Bread and Life, a community center in Bed-Stuy. Some of us worked in the pantry and the rest worked in the kitchen preparing lunch. I worked in the kitchen peeling and chopping carrots as well as preparing chicken. The regular volunteers emphasized the importance of maximizing the amount of food that we had. We had to peel the skin off the carrots, but not cut so deeply that usuable parts of the carrots were wasted. I thought the experience was extremely valuable and not only exposed us to the effects of poverty that affect so many people, especially in New York City, but also because the experience really showed me how privileged we are and how we take for granted things we see as necessities and basic parts of life, such as food, but which, are in reality, not available to everyone. Every bit of food that was available to the community center was put to use. Whatever wasn’t made into lunch or saved for later meals was gathered and put into a compost bin to grow more food that could be used to feed those who depended on the community center for their meals.
A+ Academy is a preparatory school in Brooklyn dedicated to helping children from the ages of 7 to 16 who struggle academically, especially in terms of test-taking. Volunteers sometimes do office work and speak to parents about their children’s progress, but most of the time, we were grading tests and homework, overseeing detention, and tutoring kids who were having more trouble in their classes. Over the summer of 2013 and throughout this school year, I volunteered at one of the three branches of A+ Academy. I was responsible for tutoring many younger children, most of them 7 to 9, who were struggling with math and reading in their classes. I did not have much experience working with younger children, who I found, for some reason, were difficult to bribe with sweets and stickers. I definitely gained a lot from my experience as a volunteer at A+. I had to learn to be gentle and very, very patient with the younger children, which was nearly impossible for me to do, and I learned that teaching students of any age is hard because not everyone responds to the same teaching methods or explanations. Sometimes more creative or visual methods are necessary for those who have not yet learned to take in information taught the traditional way. Up until I was 11, I was also sent to similar summer and saturday schools to reinforce my basic reading and arithmetic skills, but this experience allowed me to work on the other side, teaching kids instead of being taught. I could see that some kids who were 12 or 13 really resented their parents for forcing them to go to summer school or prep on the weekends during the year and I remember feeling the same way the last few years I was forced to go, but prep really did help me not really in terms of academics, but with organization and discipline.