This summer I decided to volunteer at Cooke Center for Learning and Development, an independent school for special needs students. I volunteered for over a month and spent most of my time as a teacher’s assistant at the lower school and middle school program. In the mornings, I would usually help out with the Music, Art, and Speech classes. During the afternoon, I would monitor recess, lunch, and PE. Nearly all of my work was one-on-one with the students, which allowed me to get to know them on a personal level. Everyone who I met was unbelievably friendly, making my experience at Cooke unforgettable. The students’ sheer excitement at learning and mastering of new skills as well as their perseverance, optimism, and joy were contagious, and made me wonder who benefited most from our relationships. If anyone would like to do community service that involves working with kids this summer in the city I highly recommend volunteering at Cooke.
This summer I volunteered at the Randal’s Island Park Alliance and took pictures mainly for the organization’s tennis summer camp at the Sportime Center. This specific camp allowed for under privileged children from all areas in Harlem, the Bronx, Queens, and Brooklyn to have the opportunity to go outside and learn how to play tennis, dance, and play instruments. Volunteering at this summer camp provided me with a great opportunity to not only help advertise this wonderful organization, but also be able to merge my interest in Photography with service learning. When I went to the Sportime Center all of the children were beaming with joy and were eager to learn how to play tennis and have fun. The staff, which consisted mostly of volunteers, were extremely friendly and it was evident that they were truly passionate about educating and taking care of these children. Most of my service for the organization was photographing the closing ceremony for the camp. This ceremony was an event that presented the camper’s parents as well as the camp’s sponsors all the wonderful work and activities that the children took part in over the summer. There were three main parts of this ceremony. The first part consisted of the tennis instructors telling the parents and sponsor about the skills and activities that the children took part in as well as a tennis demonstration done by the children. The second and third parts focused on the performing arts aspect of the camp. There was a drumming performance done by the children in addition to a dance that was choreographed by the camp’s volunteer Dance Instructor. It was great to see how happy and excited the campers were to present what they have learned to everyone. I felt very lucky to have helped and be included in such a great friendly community.
The organization my group and I choose for our service learning project was, Hot Bread Kitchen. Hot Bread Kitchen is a non-profit organization in which immigrant women attend classes to learn about the culinary industry and be educating on how to find a well-paid job. While being educated and learning about jobs, the woman also cook breads that the Hot Bread Kitchen then sells to help pay for the women’s educations. In addition to teaching women, they also have another program, the Hot Bread Kitchen Incubator, that supplies small business with kitchen space at an affordable rate and financial advice. There are several examples of business’ that have succeed due to Hot Bread Kitchen’s assistance some of them being: Taste of Ethiopia, NY Cakepops, and Jam Jar Bakery. Overall, Hot Bread Kitchen focusses on an important social issue, which is immigration.
The whole YPI Servicing Learning project taught me many important things. Firstly, learning about immigration made me more aware of the difficulties one faces when moving to New York City. During the course of the project, I always felt interested and dedicated to educating myself about this social issue. Like all projects, there were some things I found difficult and other things less difficult. One thing that I believe was challenging was finding statistics about immigration in New York City, which really emphasized how uncovered this issue actually is and how more people need to learn about the struggles one faces when moving here. Although I found some things challenging, the project ended up being very rewarding. One of the most rewarding things from this project was becoming more aware of the actual problems in New York City, rather than hearing about problems in other parts of the world. One part of the project that I found interesting me was the site visit. When we visited the Hot Bread Kitchen seeing the women actually make the bread, seeing small business’ working, and even getting a tour of the actual headquarters made me feel like I got to understand the hardships that one faces in New York City, especially for immigrants. Overall, the YPI service learning project allowed me to see that even by just making others aware of problems in New York City can make a difference.
Here are a few pictures from my group’s site visit: