Volunteers for Peace: Alex’s Summer Service

This summer, I worked with the organization Volunteers for Peace in Ham, a small village in the Picardie region of France. My job was to help restore the Chateau D’Ham, a castle that had been destroyed by the Germans in World War I. I got to Ham on August 1st, quite unsure as to what was in store for me and found that I wasn’t the only one with these thoughts. I was to be working with kids my age from all over the world. I was sharing a tent with kids from Spain, Turkey, Italy, and Mali, so conversation at first was difficult; however, we all were able to speak to each other through a mixture of English, French, German, and Spanish.

After settling in, we began our work, which was mostly all outside, except for some work done on the interior of the castle. I began my work in the garden, building a wall that had been severely worn down. I had to make cement, something I had never done before, which I found quite fun. After working on the wall, I dug. I dug a lot! For about three days, I cleared a giant hill of dirt that needed to be removed so that the wall could continue. Work was tiring; however, the down time that I had with the rest of the group was very entertaining. The leaders of the project helped provide activities that everyone could participate in. Games of soccer were organized, cards were played, and on the weekends there were excursions to many different places.

Our weekends were very informative. We traveled to World War I battle sites, museums, and graveyards, which informed us to the historical context for the work we were doing. It was interesting to learn of the severity of the events that took place in the location that we were staying. Besides learning about the history of France, we also learned about French culture. During meals, volunteers were assigned different jobs. Some cooked, some cleaned, and some set the table. When cooking, two old French ladies helped prepare meals that were both local to the region and also favorites. The French cheese was not something that I would want to take back with me! My favorite trips were to the towns of Amiens and Chambly. Whilst in Amiens, we watched the Amiens Cathedral light show, where the cathedral’s impressive facade was lit up in an impressive technicolor light show. In Chambly, we went to a Ligue 3 French football game. Even though the players were only semi-professional, it was still fun to feel like I was a part of everyday French life.

When my work concluded, I was very happy with what I had done. We had completely rebuilt a wall of the castle and had improved it’s facade immensely by replacing many of the bricks. Others who had worked with the group had massively rebuilt the garden, with new beds for prospective flowers everywhere. This trip was like no other for me. I learned about history, improved my language skills, and also experienced a culture that was almost completely new to me. I will not forget this experience.


website for volunteers for peace: https://vfp.org/

Alex’s Experience with Project Cicero

As a sophomore, I participated in Project Cicero’s big book drive and sorting in the Hotel Pennsylvania, which is across the street from the not-so-hot Knicks’ Madison Square Garden, and I decided to work with this organization this year. Project Cicero works to create and supplement classroom libraries in under-resourced New York City public schools, something that is beneficial to all education in New York City. Like last year, the event that I attended was one where we all sorted all of the books that had been donated in order to support this cause. I arrived on the Saturday of the event with my brother, both of us ready to sort early reader books from sports biographies, and other work along that line. I find sorting books very soothing, which made the work quite easy and made it possible for me to work for a long period of time. For about 3 hours, I wandered around a large room full of people with a large stack of books in my hands, and placed the wide variety of books in different cardboard boxes, finding it relaxing and not strenuous at all. Project Cicero is a very successful organization. It has distributed 2.3 million new and gently used books to more than 13,000 New York City classrooms, reaching over 550,000 students. I highly recommend participating in one of it’s next events because the work is not difficult; however, the significance of your work is high. In the future, I will be working with Project Cicero, ready to sort any book that comes my way.

Project Cicero: http://projectcicero.org/

Alex’s Service Day

This year, on April 28th, all of Friends Seminary’s Upper School participated in its annual service day, where each grade takes a break from classes and instead engages in various acts of service around New York. Last year, I found the day to be somewhat hectic, with a long drive into upstate New York and  not much work actually being done; however, this year, I believed that the 11th grade’s day of service was well thought out, active, and rewarding. My day started bright and early at 8:00, all juniors meeting in the cafeteria, preparing for the day ahead.  The grade was split up and assigned to different projects across the city so that we all would not be working in one filled area because after all, New York City is a pretty cramped place. My advisory had been assigned to work with the New York Common Pantry, an organization that works toward the reduction of hunger and food insecurity through a variety of different programs, which include fresh food pantry packages, hot meals, working with the homeless and providing them with food, and many other much needed programs. We traveled up to 109th St. to the headquarters of this organization, ready to participate in any way that we could. After a friendly greeting from the other workers that were in charge, we were escorted down to the warehouse, where a large amount of food had been packaged or ready to be distributed out to those who needed it. The space had a great atmosphere, with cheerful classic R&B music playing in the background, which in my opinion, helped make any sort of manual labor not tiring at all. We were ready to start our work! Our work consisted of organizing the food that had been donated and making it much easier to be distributed for the day ahead. The Common Pantry had received a wide range of food. I recall carrying pasta, gnocchi, beans, potatoes, fruits, vegetables, and much more! We worked for about two hours and everyone was in high spirits. Usually when someone wants me to do any sort of physical chore, I have a good excuse at hand; however, my peers and I all seemed happy to work because of the work we were doing and also because of the great atmosphere that the New York Common Pantry had created. After our hard work, we returned back to school, where we were welcomed by the school’s Pop-up cafe situated in the outer courtyard. I had a killer snow cone. After lunch, we all gathered in the meetinghouse to watch the documentary, A Place at the Table, which told the story of hunger in America. We sadly learned that 50 Million Americans—1 in 4 children—don’t know where their next meal is coming from, discovering all of these harsh facts through many powerful stories of different Americans’ experiences with hunger. This movie helped me really grasp how important organizations like the New York Common Pantry actually are. These organizations tirelessly combat hunger in America and work every day to provide for those who really need a good meal. In conclusion, my service day was a truly memorable day and a very successful day of service, with both service that was supposed to aid those in hunger and also a vivid story that helped me see how important our work actually was. I look forward to service day next year.


New York Common Pantry: http://www.nycommonpantry.org/index.html

Alex’s Journey in Project Cicero

During the third quarter, I participated in a service event, which helped Project Cicero provide educational materials for kids who needed them. For around 3 hours, i helped sort hundreds of books into different categories. It was a little strenuous at times; however, i found it a good way to do service in a relaxing way.

Alex’s Gods Love We Deliver Run Reflection

During the second quarter, I, as well as many of my fellow students, participated in the run around Central Park, which helped the non-profit organization provide for those who needed help. The race started on a freezing november morning, and as I got there, I could clearly the massive amounts of participants. After I had gotten registered, I got in position to run! The race was a tiresome one and sadly I believe my friend and I almost finished dead last! This did not affect me in the slightest! I had helped in a way I found most suited towards me, it was exercise and I felt extremely charitable!