This summer the Boy’s Varsity soccer team traveled to Tobago for a week. We were able to see the island that our coaches Warren and Sherwin grew up in and where they began their soccer careers. While on this trip we were able to travel around the island, taking a boat tour, visiting waterfalls, trying local food, and many more activities. We trained in the intense humidity on the same fields that Sherwin and Warren played on growing up. We also got to play three games against local teams, including the under 17 select team from Tobago. Along with bonding as a team and developing our skills for the upcoming season, another goal of this trip was to participate in a service project. We ran clinics with children and teenagers from the local high schools. After the clinics we donated cleats and other equipment to the high schools and teams that participated in the clinics. The players on the varsity team had gathered over 100 pairs of cleats that the children could then choose from. It was nice to see how we were impacting these children and to see how excited the they were while deciding which cleats they wanted to take. Since it is a small island many people knew that a team from New York was visiting, and we were even written about in the newspaper. It was an extremely enjoyable trip that really helped us further bond as a team.
This year I volunteered at the Food Bank pantry in Harlem. I was given a tour of the building and see where meals are served every day for families and individuals in need. I volunteered downstairs in the food pantry, where people could go and were given food to prepare at home. First the pantry was open to seniors, and then it was open to the public. People were given cards and a certain amount of points for each section of the pantry (proteins, vegetables, grains, etc.), depending on the amount of people in their family. They are then allowed to go through the pantry and spend the points on whatever items they wanted, and different items were worth different amounts of points. I was placed in the protein section with a couple other people, and I helped people get the food that they wanted and decide which items they wanted to spend their points on. Many of the people did not speak english, and I was also able to practice my Spanish speaking skills while assisting them. It was also very nice to see that many of the people were grateful after I helped them get their food. There was a very large amount of people that needed assistance, and as soon as I had helped one through the protein section, there were many others waiting. I also worked alongside people who regularly volunteer their time at this specific food pantry, and it was interesting to hear about why they volunteer at the Food Bank and why it is important to them.
Over spring break I visited Peru with 11 other students in a Spanish language trip organized by Friends Seminary and Envoys. We visited Puno, Cuzco, Machu Picchu and the Amazon Rainforest. We learned about the many different aspects of Peruvian culture. The food was amazing, especially on the reservation in the rainforest, and the people were very welcoming. I think I felt the most immersed in Peruvian culture during my home stay in Cuzco. They immediately welcomed me and made me feel like part of the family. I told them about my life in New York City and they taught me about their lives and Peruvian culture. My Spanish speaking skills were also improved by speaking to my family almost entirely in spanish. I was introduced to their extended family and learned how to dance during a party with all my classmates and their host families. The time I spent with them was great and I wish I was able to stay longer with them even though we had to leave. We completed the service part of the trip during our time in the rainforest, planting trees on the farms of two local families. Even though it was hot when we planted the trees, it was still fun and rewarding. After we planted trees on the first day we met the family who lived on the land and we were given fruit, which was an added benefit. It made me feel even better about the work we had done because we saw how much we were helping this family and how thankful they were as well. I was able to learn so much about Peruvian culture and history and immerse myself in the lives of the people who lived there. I visited places that I thought I would never see and overall the trip was an amazing and rewarding experience.
The social issue that I chose to research was early education for children from families under or near the poverty line. The non profit that my group and I visited was the Children’s Aid Society. They have many programs but we chose to focus on their early education programs. Before we researched the project I did not fully understand how serious the lack of early education was for these children. I did not think about how this issue tied into many other issues in society today. Early education greatly affects a child’s future and New York City in general. I also saw how important the education in the first five years of a child’s life, and their brain goes through the most growth in this time. I learned that without the proper education children are more likely to commit crimes in the future, fall back into poverty, and other things that affect their lives and the community.
There are many ways I could stay connected with the Children’s Aid Society. Even though most of the early education program is made up of paid teachers and social workers there are still many volunteers. I could volunteer to help the teachers in the classrooms that they have in the target neighborhoods. I could also help look after the kids while they are playing in the classrooms or during their lunch times. I could also help without physically going to their classroom locations. I could donate materials that I have from when I was younger, like toys, children’s books and other things that they need in their classrooms or help raise money for the organization. Other classmates and I could organize a book drive or toy drive to gather the materials and donate them to the Children’s Aid Society.