This year I volunteered to help sort and pack refugee donations for shipment at the AFYA Foundation. After hearing UNICEF photographer Ashley Gilbertson speak to the Upper School during Peace Week at Friends, I felt inspired to do whatever I could to help the Syrian Refugee Crisis. In his speech, Ashley Gilbertson talked about the hardships experienced by Syrian refugees as they flee from violence in their homes and try to find safe places to live in Europe. I learned that not only is traveling physically arduous (families must walk for miles at night), but many of the camps that refugees stop at on the way do not have medical amenities, or simply not enough to help the millions of people who pour in from Syria. The AFYA workers who welcomed us at the Foundation told us that many people think the way to help the Syrian Refugee Crisis is to go to Greece and physically receive families off the boats; however, one way to truly make a difference for the Syrian people is to fulfill the desperate need for medical resources.
Along with a group of Friend Seminary students, I sorted and packaged medical tools and appliances that had been donated by hospitals around New York. We recorded expiration dates and gathered groups of items together to ship off to organizations in Europe aiding the refugees. Although it was menial work, it felt extremely important because I knew that all of the items we were packaging would go to making a refugee family’s journey safer and easier.
This year for my service requirement I continued my volunteer work at Planned Parenthood. Because I had taken the necessary activist training course last year, I was able to really give my time to the organization this year. I helped assemble safe sex kits and information packets. The Spring Luncheon is Planned Parenthood’s biggest annual fundraiser and raises over $500,000 to support the organization. The work that goes into planning the Luncheon is extremely important. For a couple of hours I folded invitations and stuffed envelopes. Even though the work I did was menial, it was necessary and I definitely felt like I was making a difference. I enjoy working for Planned Parenthood, even though some of the volunteer opportunities I take part in might not be direct activism, because I think the organization is one of the only organizations to really push forward and progress the Women’s Movement by providing health care to all women, regardless of class, race, social-economic status, etc. I love how the organization is welcome to anybody and everybody, and I find working for it to be a rewarding experience considering how important it is to achieving gender equality in our world today.
This year I fulfilled my out-of-school service requirement by working with Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood is a non-profit organization that works to promote affordable health care and sex education by providing reproductive and maternal health services to women, which includes cancer screening, HIV testing, contraception, and abortion. The organization is also very involved in the counciling aspect of health services as well as lobbying for health care rights and pro-choice legislation.
In the middle of the year I spent my Wednesday afternoons at Planned Parenthood NYC in Soho, exploring the different programs that PPFA (Planned Parenthood Federation of America) offers, completing exercises and worksheets for the organization, working with the staff for upcoming projects, and also learning new information about the increasing struggle for women of different cultures and different sexualities to get affordable, fair health care.
Overall, my service at Planned Parenthood was really rewarding because I was actively doing something that I cared about, and I will continue to do it in the years to come and hopefully form a strong relationship with the organization.