This year, I worked at Tsejin Bhotia’s booth for Around the World Day. Tsejin is Tibetan-American and is incredibly passionate about her culture and Tibet’s liberation from China’s oppressive rule and invasion. She works with Students for a Free Tibet, and the entire event Around the World Day was centered around raising awareness and money for the organization. At her booth, I helped sell merchandise from the organization, and I also asked students and faculty to sign petitions to free Tibetan political prisoners who have been wrongly abducted or imprisoned by the Chinese government. I have always been aware of the situation in Tibet, and working at the booth was a good way for me to gauge how much and how little I know about what is going on right now. Some students had no idea why Students for a Free Tibet even exists, and I explained that Tibet has been struggling for its liberation since the mid-Twentieth Century. However, hearing Tsejin talk about the situation I realized how little I really know about the history of the struggle. She explained that in relation to other oppressed countries, Tibet is more oppressed than North Korea. However, China tries its hardest to give off the impression that Tibet is part of China and that nothing wrong is going on in the region. In reality, China is trying to erase Tibetan culture, and will imprison anyone who advocates for the country. I want to help spread awareness about this issue that has been largely ignored by the international community and is not talked about enough in conversations about international human rights. Overall, the experience was very positive and it was wonderful to see so many students and faculty asking questions and wanting to learn more about Tibet.
On May 17th of this year, I led a group in AIDS Walk to raise money to fight HIV/AIDS. I am the leader of the Gender Sexuality Alliance (GSA) and all year I wanted to lead a service trip connected to the club. This event was the perfect opportunity, because when the HIV/AIDS epidemic began it disproportionately effected the LGBTQ community (and still does). I was able to raise awareness about an issue that is important to the mission of my club, and I educated people who were not part of the GSA. I led a small group, but it was still a challenge to organize the event and coordinate everyone’s arrivals and service. The day was hot and muggy, and the walk turned out to be longer than we all expected it would be. However, I kept my and the group’s energy positive. It also helped that there was entertainment and music throughout the duration of the walk. I learned how to organize a service event, and had fun doing it. I plan to lead a group again next year, and I hope that more people from the community can come in the future. I am looking forward to seeing participation in AIDS Walk become a Friends Seminary Gender Sexuality Alliance tradition.
This spring I began volunteering with the 9C Community Garden and Park . On the Sundays when the service opportunity was offered, I went to this garden that Christel Johnson is a member of and helped weed, sweep, decorate, and clean. Before this opportunity I had never sought to garden. I saw gardening as a sweaty, humid activity that would get me covered in dirt. Through volunteering with this Community Garden I realized that gardening is more about community and enjoying the outdoors. Living in New York City, we don’t get much of a chance to experience nature unless we make an excursion to a park or are lucky enough to have a house outside of the city to visit. This small community garden gives people an opportunity to be around plants and trees and sunshine right in the middle of the city. Neighbors come together and get to know each other as friends, and the basic act of planting something, or decorating a plot, or sweeping up a walkway to make the garden all the more beautiful is therapeutic and a wonderful break from the hectic rush of city life. Another plus is that the garden is located in Alphabet City, an area I almost never visit and that is covered in interesting restaurants, gardens, and art. I hope to visit the 9C Community Garden and Park often this summer when I am in the neighborhood, and I plan to return to volunteer whenever the opportunity is offered by Christel. I encourage anyone to do the same.