This year I cooked for the Friends Shelter a few times when they needed volunteers to bring in food. The Friends Shelter is operated by the 15th Street Meetinghouse and houses fourteen homeless people every night. Homelessness is a major issue in New York City, with over 60,000 homeless people in shelters throughout the city. Although the Friends Shelter is small, it helps as much as it can. On school days the shelter receives meals from the Friends Seminary kitchen. However, on weekends, on holidays, and during the summer, the the Friends Seminary kitchen is not open, so the shelter relies on both volunteers to bring in food and donations so that they can buy food when needed. This year I made meals a few times over winter and spring break, as I have been for the past few years. Making the meals was a great experience for me because I knew I was helping the shelter in a meaningful way, and it was connected to the Friends community. I plan on doing it again next year and recommend others to bring in meals as well.
Over spring break I traveled to China with a number of other students and teachers. We visited three schools, Beijing #4, the Dandelion School, and Suzhou SIP. The Dandelion School is a middle school in Beijing for kids of migrant workers. Millions of workers move around China looking for work, and many come to large cities such as Beijing. However, because of their jobs, it is often hard for them to take care of their children during the week while they are working. The Dandelion School was set up to help these kids get a good education and be cared for. We got to do activities with the kids there and try to talk to them, despite the language barrier. It was interesting to hear about how the kids were from all over China, and their parents had come to Beijing for work. We also got to do some fun activities that we planned to do with them and interact with these kids and see how different their experiences and culture was, although we had some commonalities. It was really great to see that there were successful organizations tackling this problem that is huge in China.
Later in the trip we went to Suzhou SIP, a large high school in Suzhou, where we participated in an urban issues colloquium. We showed short videos we made about certain urban issues that we had in New York, and they gave presentations about different cities in China. Then we had a discussion about the issues we all experienced living in cities, and it was interesting to see that we had many of the same issues, but had different views on them. We then got to know some of the kids and talked a lot to them about the differences and similarities between China and America.