Lunar New Year Celebration

 

Since my time in Lower School at Friends, I have always heard about the annual Lunar New Years event. However, it wasn’t until this year, my last year at Friends, that I was finally able to go. I was really excited when I heard about the opportunity to volunteer.

 

22 years ago, Henry Lee, the first Asian American to graduate from Friends, was honored by his family with a named scholarship. Proceeds from the Chinese New Year Celebration benefit the Henry Lee ’43 Scholarship Fund and the Boji ’92 and Richard ’98 Wong Family Chinatown Scholarship.

 

At the event, I worked selling small trinkets and other items to lowerschoolers and their families. All of the proceeds went to the aforementioned scholarship funds. I had fun selling the items, not only because I knew the proceeds went to such a great cause, but also because I had the opportunity to interact with the lowerschoolers who were attending the event. It was amazing to see the lowerschoolers so excited to learn about Chinese culture and heritage. My favorite part of the night was when I helped spread bubble rap on the floor so that the lower schoolers could jump on it, a Friends Seminary substitute for firecrackers. If you want free Chinese food and the opportunity to give back to the present and future Friends community, the Lunar New Year celebration is the place to be!

Laura Michael’s Summer Service with Friendship Circle

“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 Handbook on Faith and Practice)

This summer, I volunteered as a counselor at Friendship Circle Summer camp. Friendship Circle is an organization that aims to give children with special needs the opportunity to interact with each other and with mainstream teenage volunteers. I have volunteered with the program before – in both their Sunday Circle program (in which volunteers spend 3 hours with children every other Sunday) and in their Summer Camp. The summer camp is a week-long program of activities in art, cooking, sports and music as well as two field trips to the Intrepid and a playroom. These activities are aimed to help the special needs children, most of whom are in a twelve-month school program, enjoy a “normal” summer during their short break.

It was nice returning to an organization with which I already had worked– I knew some of the other volunteers, the directors, and even some of the children. However, this summer brought new experiences as I was paired with a new child – Martin, a nine year old autistic boy. When my two fellow volunteers and I first met Martin, we thought he was non-verbal. When we offered him crayons to draw with or an arts and crafts project to do, he did not reply and instead ran away. However, throughout the week, Martin opened up to us. He talked to us, giving short answers to our questions and shared with us his amazing drawing skills (I wish I had a picture of one of his projects).

Martin and the other children at Friendship Circle certainly demonstrate the truth of the prompt: “equality begins with the belief that Light is present in us all.”  These children’s light certainly deserves to be admired. Many of the children at Friendship Circle are surrounded 24/7 by therapists, doctors, and parents. But through their smiles, laughs, drawings and words their light shines brightly. I am thankful I got to share a week of my summer with them.

 

Martin in a helicopter at the Intrepid!

Martin in a helicopter at the Intrepid!

 

http://www.friendshipnyc.com/ <– click here for information about their programs (they also have multiple locations). I highly recommend this organization.

 

 

Friendship Circle Summer Camp

Submitted by Nell, Jane and Laura:

“Stewardship is a coming together of our major testimonies.”  At least that is what John Woolman thought—even though he said these words all the way back in1770, they still hold true today.  His words challenged us to think about  the ways that we actually live the testimonies through the relationships we have with others. How can the testimonies that are so much a part of our Quaker education be manifested through stewardship?

We decided to spend  a part of our summer working with a population that is often marginalized—a group of human beings whose light often is not admired—though it should be. We decided to work with autistic children through the organization Friendship Circle.

Overview of Program:

This summer we volunteered at the Friendship Circle Summer camp for one week. The Friendship Circle is an organization that strives to help children with autism by creating opportunities for them to interact with others through educational and fun activities. The organization utilizes teenage volunteers who help run these programs and act as counselors who encourage the children to participate in them. During the year, the Friendship Circle offers weekend programs such as the Sunday Circle and Friends At Home to continue to help these children during the school year.  Click on the links to learn more about the programs they offer.  The summer camp we volunteered at was five and a half days long and consisted of various activities in art, cooking, sports and music. We also went on a two trips to the Intrepid and an arcade! Each volunteer was assigned to a child with autism and helped them throughout the week. By the end of the camp we all had bonded with our “special friends” and made a real connection with them.

Nell with Justina and Julia on a toy boat at the Intrepid

Nell with Justina and Julia on a toy boat at the Intrepid

Nell:  Going into the Friendship Circle camp I was a little unsure of what to expect because I had never volunteered with kids with autism before. I found out about the program through the Oblivion where it was listed under summer community service. After meeting my buddy and doing some arts and crafts, I really was amazed at how well we both interacted. My buddy really enjoyed soccer, dancing and music and felt great helping her through these programs. She also loved going to the Intrepid museum and interacting with the exhibits. After the camp ended I felt like I really accomplished something great and helped someone who really needed it. My buddy and I were able to interact and learn from each other which was an interesting experience. Overall, I really enjoyed the program because I was able to gain a new perspective and learn more about autism.

Jane and Justina pose for a picture

Jane and Justina pose for a picture

Jane:  I was nervous when I arrived at the Friendship Circle camp on Sunday. I wasn’t sure what my experience for the next five and a half days would be like because I had never worked with an autistic person before. However, after Justina and I met, talked and did an art project together I had a better sense of what it is to be autistic. Although autistic people have a hard time connecting with others, it is not impossible. That was shown to me in the times she would take me dancing around the room (she loved dancing) or when we would work on an art project. We also has a great time at the Intrepid together, as shown in the first four pictures.  It was a great experience to learn about autism, and how, over time, an autistic teen can learn to connect with others.  I learned a lot from Justina, and I would recommend working at the Friendship Circle for a fulfilling experience working with peers of a similar age but with totally different life experiences.

 

Julia and Laura with a plane.

Julia and Laura with a plane.

Laura:  I first heard of Friendship Circle through the non-profit day at Friends last year.  I volunteered at their Sunday Circle program on Sundays during the school year, and the director encouraged me to be a counselor in her camp. As it turned out, Jane and Nell had heard about the opportunity as well, so it was great to have Friends well represented!  On the first day, I was extremely excited to meet my “special friend.” All I knew was that her name was Julia and she wore glasses.  When I finally met her, I realized that I knew her from volunteering at Sunday Circle.  She seemed to recognize me, but kept on repeating “I’m being shy.”  However, throughout the week I got to know Julia better as we did fun activities like art, water sports, and baking. Soon, she opened up, and when she said that she was being shy, I was able to reply, “Don’t worry, you’re not being shy Julia!” One of the highlights of my time volunteering was our trip to the Intrepid.  It was amazing how Julia’s eyes lit up when she could interact with exhibits and make her signature peace sign pose in all of the pictures I took.  Oddly enough, my other most memorable moment with Julia was when she threw a tantrum at the end of the day because she didn’t want to go home.  It was stressful in the moment because she was screaming and I had to figure out a way to convince her to leave. I had never seen her cry before! However, I realized afterwards she was upset about leaving because we had had a really great time together.  And it dawned on me that it was difficult for me to say goodbye too. I had learned so much from her and it was her light that allowed me to see so much about myself and my place in the world. So I hope I can keep in contact with Julia at Sunday Circles throughout the year!

Julia's signature peace sign.

Julia’s signature peace sign.