Jada’s Service Post – Around the World Day

Around the World Day has been one of my favorite events throughout my years in high school. I have always enjoyed seeing my classmates in a new light as they show off their personal cultures. Being of a diverse origin (or being more noticeably different than the majority) can be very alienating, even in a community like Friends. However, events like Around the World Day remind me that there is so much more diversity that is hidden below the surface every other day of the year. It makes me wonder why, in a community like our own, everyday does not feel like Around the World Day.

I helped organize this event as co-leader of RAAD (Raising Awareness Advocating Diversity), but also as someone who wants our community to feel welcome to share their cultures willingly, without judgement, and on their own terms. I hope that this event helped members of our community to learn more about cultures they had never previously experienced, but to also find a closer connection to cultures outside of their own through their friends, peers, students, etc. I have learned at Friends and through numerous diversity conferences that proximity drives empathy with drives us closer to achieving social justice. For the past two years as I have helped my grandmother as she wakes up before 5am just to fry aloo pies for my table, I have learned more about my own culture. During those times, I have always hoped that I could somehow help the Friends community to connect with the tangible quality of “the other” that our country so often rejects by seeing a representation of a multitude of different cultures from people they know and love!

– Jada Jameson

South Africa

11219667_1069790726416366_3199029006047416253_n

To put it simply: this trip for me was life-changing.

I went into this trip definitely excited for the possibilities of what could happen (learning about a new culture, making personal connections with people we met along the away and creating and strengthening my relationships with the other trip members). A large part of what made this trip so amazing was of course taking in the breathtaking views and hearing about the rich history of such an interesting country, but there was also something more.

12994581_1069794819749290_9062350094049054739_n

There was something so uniquely and substantially special in every personal interaction. South Africa is in the position as a country of containing a large number of the population that has personally lived through some part of Apartheid. Meaning that every tour guide we came across, in addition to telling us the textbook history, told us personal stories about their experiences and the experiences of their family members throughout apartheid. Reading a textbook or even reading about a personal experience is in no way comparable to what it was like to sit next to Mama Africa at the Red Location Lodge while she told us her heartbreaking experience. We all sat in a circle while she told her story and at one point I glanced around the circle and saw it in the eyes of my fellow trip members how affected every single face was by her bravery and candor in letting herself be completely vulnerable in a group of foreign people she had known for less than a week all because she believed she had a duty to speak her truth. We found that quality of a willingness to share everywhere we went.

12987003_1069798639748908_2309975279367466972_n

This particularly majestic church was found in the Langa township at the beginning of our tour around this township in Cape Town. I remember being slightly terrified and very much exhausted. This was our first full day and it felt like instead of being midday, it was the tail end of a week. One of the outstanding moments, for me, in Langa was our dinner at Mzanzi, where the owner of the restaurant told us about how she created the establishment. That was the first time I was nearly brought to tears on this trip and it was only the first day. Most days had moments like this and some days there were moments when the tears flowed freely amongst the people who were, and still are, my trip family. I don’t mean to paint this trip as two weeks that we spent sobbing in South Africa because that is A) not true and B) not in anyway reflective of the extremely productive and insightful conversations we had. Part of the reason why we all came back with such a strong bond is because in between laughing harder than I had in the weeks prior to the trip, the trip members ourselves are all dedicated to combatting and understanding social justice issues. Spending two weeks with an extremely intelligent group of students my age gave me a new insight into people I had previously thought I knew. We conversed about subjects surrounding: race, class, ethnicity, gender, educational equity, etc. and that was all in addition to the hour every evening we spent reflecting together as a group.

12974508_1070652779663494_570980419030530813_n

One of my favorite moments of the trip was our time at Chinsta because it was paradise and we spent a day relaxing together and after dinner some of us voluntarily went around in a circle and told each other our biggest fears. These were the moments towards the end of the trip where I noticed a change, not only in myself, but in the friends around me and how much closer we had grown together. This group of students under the stellar guidance of Leitzel and Jason was full of open hearted, lovely souls that I tear up thinking about as I write this now. I know I haven’t focused much on the service aspect of this trip which is probably the point, but I think part of dedicating ourselves to community service can have the long-lasting effects of making us all increasingly aware and proactive human beings. In the duty of giving fully to not only physically helping, but learning ways to help others without hope of benefit, we can gain a stronger knowledge and handle of the world around us and our place in it.

12974508_1070653629663409_4753832137609683784_n

(A view of Paradise from the deck of the breakfast area.)

My Nepal Experience

A large part of the overall trip experience had to be the traveling. We spent a good amount of time on planes and in airports half-delirious and sleep deprived. Arriving in Abu Dhabi airport was my first experience of culture shock on the trip, being surrounded by a culture other than your own and trying to use pleasantries of your own language only to realize that they don’t speak your language (a bad habit that lasted at least 3 days).

IMG_1398

Our initial entrance into Kathmandu after picking up our luggage was a little surreal. We were all tired and it was very dark when we got into the van and rode through the city to Hotel Himalaya Yoga.

IMG_1399

After exploring the city of Kathmandu for a day, we flew to Dhungadi and prepared ourselves for the proceeding four days in the village of Dhumaliya. We were given a small language book, a lesson of simple Tharu phrases, and new Nepalese names. (Jada > Jyoti or lamp).

IMG_1400
Our village experience was the most surreal experience I have ever had. Upon our first entrance into the village, we were greeted by everyone and walked to the current school where we had a very long, but very impressive ceremony. We introduced ourselves, we thanked the village as they thanked us, and we did a lot of dancing. Once the ceremony was over we met our host families and we set off to our homes for the next few days. Lily and I had a host family of 4 (mom, dad, Asmina, and Samir).
We were given our own own room with a surprisingly comfortable cot, a table to put our bags on, and they were setting up a light for us as we entered their home.

That first night we bonded with our host brother and sister as well as the neighborhood kids almost immediately. There was a lot of laughing and confusion, but with Sinead and Lauren as our neighbors, we all got together and played volleyball-esque game with the neighborhood children.

After surviving our first night of dinner with our family (and others who had came to watch us) and running out in what felt like the middle of the night (but was really only 10 o’clock) to go to the charpi (latrine), we had breakfast and half of us headed out to do some cultural learning. We visited a temple and learned more about the Hindu religion and we went fishing (using large nets) with the village people.

After lunch, my group started on the worksite. We sifted sand, carried (heavier than they look) rocks, and rhebarbed the afternoon away.

IMG_8490 IMG_8534

The Nepal trip included a lot of hard work and long days, but it was something I would have never been able to do otherwise and I will cherish it forever. I’m very much looking forward to next spring break.

Jada

Jada’s YPI Reflection – CAS

Over the course of the Youth Philanthropy Initiative project I grew to realize how important early childhood is and how much it affects the New York City community. When my group originally decided to chose the Children’s Aid Society as our non-profit we had not yet singled in on the issue of early education. When we finally decided to focus on early education and family support, I had not yet understood the real impacts that a lack of early education and family support had on our community. After delving further into the issue we really narrowed our focus to early childhood education and we began to realize the difference between the futures of children with and without a proper education. This issue affects hundreds of young New Yorkers every year. When certain children are not given a good education they make bad choices. They do drugs, deal drugs, commit felonies, and when they are not taught about proper methods of contraception, the result is teen pregnancy. Most people who lack education are also not given well paying jobs which contributes to the cycle of poverty when those people have children and their children are given an inadequate education as a result of the money their parents lack. After learning the effects and prevalence of insufficient education, I began to recognize the true weight of the issue and the importance of proper schooling at an early age.

Throughout the process of this project the most challenging aspect would be finding a way to portray the true relevance of our chosen social issue. Through researching, finding statistics, information, and through our site visit, my group and I learned and felt how truly important early childhood education is to our community. However, it was difficult to express this to our classmates through a Google Docs presentation. Especially when introducing this issue to a group that is not naturally exposed to a lack of early childhood education. Going to a school like Friends, one can recognize the effects of issues like lack of childhood education, but one does not always register or think of the obstacle that this issue stems from. The most challenging aspect was trying to convey the gravity of our issue on a daily basis in the New York City community.

Children’s Aid Society Website

——————

Jada Jameson