This summer, I experienced a mini-internship with a non-profit organization called LITWORLD. The organization enables young people to take action and create change by telling our stories and helping others tell their stories through literacy. Over the course of a few days, I learned how to engage children within in our community by having them express their own stories. Because storytelling is a huge part of LITWORLD, they have celebrations called “litfests” where they celebrate world literacy by engaging young people in reading and writing activities. At the mini internship, I, along with other girls my age, coordinated a litfest to promote the self confidence and strength that literacy brings. We travelled to Harlem where we worked within a space provided by Broadway Housing to put on the litfest. It was incredible to feel the energy the children that we worked with gave off. Their enthusiasm and their stories inspired me to be able to share my story in return. Hopefully, Friends will be able to work with them in the future to celebrate days such as the UN International Day of the Girl on October 11th and World Read Aloud Day in February to help promote literacy among children, and especially young girls, worldwide.
This year, the tenth grade did many labs and projects related to the chemistry behind the Flint, Michigan water crisis. We learned how the lead reacts to chlorine in the drinking water and breaks off of the pipes carrying this water. To finish the project, we learned about testing water for lead by using a chemical, sodium rhodizonate. We found that if the water tested turned pink, it was contaminated with lead higher than the EPA’s limit of 15 parts per billion. We found that some cities in the United States carry drinking water well over this limit. As part of the final project, some of the tenth grade, myself included, wrote a letter to a government official of our choosing addressing this issue and all that it affects. I wrote to the mayor of Newark, NJ addressing lead contaminated drinking water found in public schools. Behavioral and physical health effects related to the lead contamination have been found in children drinking water at these schools. Although the water fountains at the schools have been shut down, the damage has already been done. In exploring the cases throughout the United States such as in Flint and Newark and in many other cities, I discovered that this is an issue going far beyond simple mistakes or neglect to test the water. There is a strong correlation between the issue and the wealth of towns and cities it was found in. Poorer towns and cities tended to have lead contamination of water. This is partly due to the inadequate funding given to the town or city. Despite this, the government officials of many towns and cities took far too long to react to the issue and treated it as a far less important issue than it is. Many people do not know enough about the issue and the extent of its importance, myself including before I had done this project. I intend to spread this struggle to others so that they too can be educated on its importance. Hopefully government officials will eventually help the issue as much as they are able to prevent further lead contamination cases.
Volunteers of America – Domestic Violence
Before I had visited a Volunteers of America domestic violence shelter, I had known people that were personally affected by domestic violence and I knew that it was a significant problem in the world today. However, I did not know how important its role was in New York and how it affected other important issues such as homelessness. As I read the statistics, I began to realize just how important of an issue it was and over the course of the project, I became more educated about the causes and effects of domestic violence.
Through the site visit, I learned how domestic violence survivors found Volunteers of America facilities and I finally understood that leaving their homes was far more complicated than I had originally thought. I believe that people might have a misconception about just how difficult it is for a victim of domestic violence to leave everything they have ever known. A challenge I faced while doing this project was trying to make people realize this and make an effective point for why Volunteers of America deserved a grant because of all the work they do in helping domestic violence survivors become physically, mentally, and financially stable.
Through this project, I was able to learn a lot about teamwork. Since we were working toward a good cause, it was easy to work with another because we were completely selfless in order to make the entire project effective and only about Volunteers of America and the work they do. Although we didn’t win the grant, I was more than grateful to make it to the final round because we were able to talk about our organization to more people than just our history class and I believe that we effectively carried out the importance of Volunteers of America, which was the most rewarding part of the project. I hope to volunteer in the future through events such as Brightening Birthdays, which are birthday parties for children whose birthdays fall on the same month. In this way, I can stay in contact with Volunteers of America while getting a hands-on experience working with the children there.