I went on the 10th grade backpacking trip. We travelled to Harriman State park by train. Once we got there we started hiking around noon. The first day was pretty hard with a lot of steep hills. It was also a pretty far distance. We arrived at our hiking shelter around 5 pm. The next day we hiked to a lake and then to our next hiking shelter. It was a very leisurely hike and extremely pretty. We had lunch by the lake and a meeting for worship (which was one of the highlights of my trip). However, once we got to the hiking shelter, it was already occupied. We knew it was going to rain that night and so as a group we had to make difficult decisions about where everyone was going to sleep (more to come on that later). The next day we woke up early in order to hike out and catch the 9:15 train. We were able to catch the early train, which everyone was very happy about. We then returned to Friends and unpacked.
I really enjoyed the trip. I felt I learned a lot. I came into the trip expecting to have a terrible time. However, I ended up really liking all the kids on the trip and interacting with them a lot. However, since I was taking the role of a leader and this was their time to bond as a 10th grade ExEd group, I tried not to force myself into conversations too much.
One thing that I did not think about when thinking about my leadership style is what do you do when somebody in the group has to do something that nobody wants to do. I tried to help out by carrying a lot of group gear and cleaning up a lot. However, my true test came the night we did not have a hiking shelter to sleep in. Deanna and Jack presented us with 3 options: hike all the way back to the previous hiking shelter, have a short hike to a large rock outcropping where we could be somewhat sheltered, stay where we were and divide the two tents and the tarp that we had among everyone. The group chose the last option. This option meant that Deanna and Jack would have to sleep outside, the three boys would get a tent, four of the girls would get a tent, and two of the girls would get a tent. This also meant that it looked like one more person would have to sleep outside. I felt that it was my job as a leader to do this. Ultimately, there was room for me under the tarp. However, even though I avoided sleeping outside in the rain, Jack and Deanna did not. I learned that being a leader (to me) means putting yourself in uncomfortable positions when unexpected issues arise. This is something I definitely want to add to my leadership statement.
In my leadership statement I included that I wanted to play a lot of games. We did not play any of the games that I was prepared to play. However, Jack and Deanna had given me movie quotes, and the second night at dinner I made up a guessing game with the movie quotes. I was really happy that everyone got involved. I then also suggested we play a game where someone throws out a word and you think of a song lyric that has that word. Everyone seemed to be having fun and this was a moment where I was proud of my leadership skills.
When looking at my leadership document now I am proud of how I acted. However my first statement was “do not judge”. I definitely judged the people on my trip before I went on it. Luckily I was wrong and they were amazing. This showed me that “do not judge” is an important part of my educational philosophy and I should try and enact it better when I am in group settings. Since I had never been backpacking before, this allowed me not to be controlling or bossy because I did not know anything about our trip. However, I know that this is something I have to avoid when I go on a trip in which I am already adept at the skills needed for the trip.
in the tarp
At RDS the kids dressed up us in traditional Paho (the tribe most of them were from) clothing. The clothing is meant to look like a dragon.
Playing ninja with the kids
Silly Group Photo
This summer, I spent a month in Myanmar traveling with Rustic PathwaysI was able to participate in a variety of service projects. While all the projects did have an impact on me, the most meaningful was the time I spent at RDS.
RDS stands for Rural Development Society. RDS operates a children’s home in the small city of Kalaw. Most of the children are sent there to have access to a better education. RDS was founded by Tommy Aung Ezdani, who even though I barely got to meet him, I saw a light in him that was incredibly special. He truly cares for each one of the children at the home. On top of that, he is also the head of the NLD (National League for Democracy) in Shan State.
There were several girls at RDS who were around my age. At first it was very awkward and communication was hard. I began rambling and hoping that they would understand some of the things that I said. However, true friendship began to emerge after I explained that one of my friends had accidentally touched our leader Dave’s butt in a game of ninja. From there, we sang and danced to One Direction and created a hand game for the little kids in which the losers had to dance. After my two days at RDS it felt as if I had actually made a connection with these girls and broken the communication barrier.
“Stewardship is a coming together of our major testimonies. To be good stewards in God’s world calls on us to examine and consider the ways in which our testimonies for peace, equality, and simplicity interact to guide our relationships with all life.” –John Woolman c. 1770
Over the summer, I had the absolute pleasure of doing a community service program with Rustic Pathways in Thailand. I did two programs in which I did community service the first being Intro to Community Service and the second was the Wilderness First Responder program. During my time in Thailand, I worked on a variety of different service projects, my favorite being Bobbing and Floating where we taught Thai kids how to swim (preventing accidental drowning a main cause of death in Southeast Asia). However, the memory from my service that sticks out the most was from another service project called Welcome Homes. Over the course of the summer Rustic Pathways had been building a home for an elderly couple in the community, who were in need of a place to live. I was privileged enough to see the home get finished and perform a traditional Thai house warming ceremony. The ceremony was attended by two of the couple’s friends, one of which changed my perspective on life. She was an elderly woman who lived alone and she had the best spirit of anyone I had ever seen. While we were performing the housewarming ceremony, she was hooting and hollering and making all her friends laugh. She gave everyone the biggest hugs and nicest compliments. I found out that she used to be a teacher and that now despite her old age she opens one of the local bars every night. We made an immediate connection despite the language barrier, and she even invited me over to her home to eat lunch. Although, I could not go eat with her, I know that I want to develop a spirit and perspective on life like hers. One that is fun, looks past the bad events, and is always willing to laugh and have a good time.
The old woman talking to me while preforming a traditional Thai string ceremony.
This summer I worked at Sheridan Fencing Academy. They run camps for all ages during the summer as well as regular classes. I worked at the camp. I assisted the main coach by helping the kids with their technique and making corrections, helping to make sure all the kids were safe, refereeing the kids during competitions and games, as well as answering the phones. http://www.sheridanfencing.com/
For Friends the Testimony of equality begins with the belief that the Light is present in us all. All are deserving of respect, no matter what our differences. When we respect the Light in ourselves and others, we encourage all to turn inward for guidance and truth. -Friends Seminary Faith and Practice Handbook. This idea of light really spoke to me during my service experience.
One of my greatest struggles while volunteering, was trying to remain patient and not get angry at the kids. The majority of the kids were young boys whose ages ranged from 6-12. Often times the older boys would stick together and purposely leave the younger boys out. In addition, the younger boys would often not listen and sometimes could not follow basic safety instructions, endangering themselves and others. However, while getting to know everyone I found things that I liked about each of them. This helped me be able to teach them and not get frustrated with them. When I found something I liked about the student or found out something that would make me able to teach them better, I felt that I was finding their light and because of that I was able to do my job better and they enjoyed fencing more. For example, there was one boy who had fenced before and he was not listening to our instructions because he thought he knew everything about fencing. He complained a lot and would not do anything we said. However, after a few days he started asking questions about what he could do better and he started applying them. While he still believed that he was an amazing fencer, him asking a question made me respect and find the light in him. Although sometimes it was difficult to find the light and it took a lot of work, it is an extremely important thing to do when doing anything, not just service. This is because it can help you look at the world differently and open up your mind. It might take some digging, but in almost everyone you can find their light.