Amelia’s Experience With Robin Hood, GO Project, and Tobago

At the begin of this summer I did a one week fellowship with the Robin Hood Foundation. Each day focused on a different poverty-related  issue and organizations Robin Hood works with to combat that specific issue. The last day I did a presentation on alternatives to incarceration and what we learned at the Center for Court Innovation at the Red Hook Community Justice Center. This incredible opportunity segwayed perfectly into my five week long internship with the GO Project. The GO Project happens to be one of the organizations Robin Hood helps to fund, so after seeing the bigger picture and where much of the money comes from I was able to dive into the important work being done on the ground level. I worked with rising second grade students from under resourced schools and low income families, who were at risk of being held back because they were so far behind grade level. Everyday we worked on guided readings, math story problems, writing prompts, and played games together. I developed a deep bond with each student as I learned how their minds worked, how best they learned, and what external factors and obstacles affected their academic performance. For an hour each day the interns gathered to discuss problems in our classrooms and to analyze the serious issues and crippling inequity in the American education system. The education system in America is seriously flawed and little is being done to mend it, this was one of the first times I felt like I was making a direct ground level impact, while also thinking about the larger situation.

Lastly, I traveled to Tobago with the Friends soccer teams, where we held a soccer clinic and distributed gear, such as cleats, shin guards, ball, and tee shirts, to the local children. It was an incredible way to finish off a great summer of service.

Summer Service

This summer I interned at the Center from Reproductive Rights. CRR is an organization which focuses on advocacy, lobbying, and partnering with pro-bono lawyers to challenge laws obstructing access to women’s health. Its mission is “using the law to advance reproductive freedom as a fundamental human right that all governments are legally obligated to protect, respect, and fulfill.”

CRR has offices all around the world, but the New York office is the main headquarters. CRR recently moved to an office downtown near Fulton Market and I had the privilege of spending four days there this July. I worked primarily with a summer intern named Danielle, helping her organize resource materials, set up meetings, and write daily emails to the whole staff about the Center’s work around the world. I also worked with the other summer interns in the foreign office; one was from Canada, while another was from Uganda. I was intrigued by the diversity of people in the office and everyone’s shared devotion towards the mission regardless of their backgrounds. I had just returned from Kenya and Tanzania, so I was particularly interested in CRR’s work in Africa. I collected and read many reports that the Center issued about their work in Africa. I also spoke frequently with the intern from Uganda who shared my interest in stopping FGM and providing more rights and medical care to women. I was extremely lucky to be there on the day that Chile passed their bill decriminalizing abortion. We skyed the Chile office and toasted their years of hard work to achieve this victory.

I interviewed almost everyone in the office and I got a sense of the many angles of nonprofit work. For example, I met with the head of the pro-bono program to learn how they work with lawyers outside the Center to bring cases around the world challenging unconstitutional laws. We talked about the recent victory CRR had in the Supreme Court in the Texas case that overturned a law that made access to abortion impossible in much of that state. I was lucky to be at the Center for the press conference that was held about a new lawsuit they have filed in Texas to fight another obstructionist law. I recently learned that the Center won the first stage of that case in federal court in Texas.  I also met with the head of development, who explained the importance of fund raising and how they try to use each dollar to advance the mission. I particularly enjoyed speaking with the assistant to Nancy Northup, the CEO of the Center, to learn about what it means to run an organization of this size. Everyone in the office was more than willing to share their time with me to help me learn and become passionate about their work and better understand how non-profit organizations work. Here is a photo of the abortion laws in every country. 

 

While in Kenya in June, I spent part of a day visiting the Ntumburi Primary School. We brought the children school supplies that they dearly needed, and I wished we had brought much more. The head of the school came to speak with us about the challenges they face. Many of the children do not have much food to eat food at home, so the school started a garden in order to help feed them. However, they cannot grow anything because this area of Kenya is facing drought conditions and they do not have enough water. Another issue is many kids do not come to school for large periods of time because they need to help their parents harvest crops or search for food for their families. They desperately need a well or bore hole in order to get clean drinking water and water to help grow food in the garden — we discussed plans to raise money for the well. The school had recently gotten toilets which they were very grateful about; however, they did not have any water in which to use them, so the brand new toilets sat unused. We were able to sit in classes of many grade levels and hear what the children were learning. Each classroom had one open window and a few desks. The classrooms were dark because of the lack of electricity. Some classrooms had old posters on the walls, while others lay bare. We played with the children, sang with them, helped them in class, and taught them a little English. The school is understaffed, so we were able to give the children one-on-one attention, something to which they were not accustomed and enjoyed. Below are some pictures of the school and the amazing children we met.

After we went to the school we visited a local health clinic. They too are incredibly understaffed and do not have enough medical supplies, but they do amazing work for the people in the area. All the services they provide are free for everyone no matter what.


This summer I also spent a day volunteering with City Arts, an organization that paints murals in poor neighborhoods in order to improve the quality of life and put something beautiful in their parks. City Arts strives to work with members of the community, so that they feel an ownership for the project and appreciate the work it took to get there. I helped them paint a mural in a playground in Hamilton Heights in East Harlem. The mural is of a tree with quotes from Alexander Hamilton on it, because Hamilton lived very close by in this neighborhood. City Arts and the artist they were working with wanted to make the mural very green because in the winter when there are no longer leaves on the real trees, the park becomes dark and dreary. Below is a photo of me working on the very beginning of the mural alongside kids from the neighborhood.

AFYA Foundation Day of Service Reflection

For my day of service, I traveled to the AFYA Foundation in Yonkers. We helped them sort huge amounts of medical supplies in order to dispose of expired supplies, before sending the good supplies to Syrian refugees in refugee camps.

Before working with AFYA, I did realize how many medical supplies are wasted in the US. It was very meaningful to be able to salvage these supplies that were going to be wasted and give them to people who desperately need them. I take so much for granted living in the US, but this experience helped me to remember that so many people do not even have access to simple things like band-aids. This experience made me wonder how I could help to make sure that more medical supplies are not wasted, but given to those in need.

Sanctuary for Families

This summer I was given the opportunity to volunteer for the organization I did my YPI project on, Sanctuary for Families. Sanctuary is New York’s leading service provider and advocate for survivors of domestic violence, sex trafficking, and related forms of gender violence. I worked in the in-kind donations program where I volunteered in Sanctuary’s main office at their “Butterfly Boutique,” which is a small clothing store that is free for all Sanctuary clients. Volunteers collect new and almost new clothing for children of all ages and adults. They also have everyday essentials such as toiletries.

At Sanctuary all clients are treated with the utmost respect so they try hard to make the Butterfly Boutique look like a real store. I had to help clients find what they needed and try on clothes and also organize and make everything look neat. Interacting with the clients was the best part of volunteering for me because they were all very kind and self sufficient. It showed me that these women are more than just the victims that many label them to be. I also worked on vetting books that Sanctuary could give away to clients and put on their book shelves. Sanctuary needs to be careful about not displaying or giving away books with violence in them because it could easily trigger anxiety or bad memories for a client.

The work I did at Sanctuary was not the most important job, but I loved being there and being able to experience a normal day for the clients and the people who work at Sanctuary. It also allowed the Sanctuary staff to focus their energy on other more important projects. I plan to continue volunteering with Santuary during the school year. I would also like to organize a day during which Friends could volunteer with Sanctuary for Families, because it is an amazing organization and there are many ways in which we can and should help Sanctuary and their clients. 

 

YPI Project

For my YPI project I focused on the organization Sanctuary for Families. I think a challenging part of the project for me was the fact that they was so much information and we just did not have enough time to say it all. Because of this we would love to ranse more awareness about these issues. Mariana, one of my partners and I are trying to organize an assembly and a bake sale to raise awareness about our social issue. We are also planning on volenteering at our organization. The organization has done so much for me that I want to give back and help them. Sanctuary has been truly life changing for me. I was shocked to learn about all of the violence going on around me in society that I had no idea about. I feel like this was an eye opening experience.

The people at Sanctuary were wonderful, they were kind, passionate and they were extremely helpful. Even though we did not win the competition, I hope we were able to teach other children about Sanctuary and its work.

I think this project was a great use of our time in history class. I learned so much about my community and all of the problems in it. There are many organizations I am now interested in helping.

image

image

image

Amelia’s Summer Service Experience

This summer I took a trip to New Mexico to volunteer at food banks children’s camps and the national parks. The children we worked with were from the ages of 5 to 10 and were sent to the camp because their parents had long working hours. We worked with the kids from around 8 in the morning until around 5pm.  It was interesting to me how over the course of three days the young children became so attached to an older child. In this picture I am playing with one of the children named Jordan.

IMG_1418

 

The children were very sweet and I had a great time volunteering with them.

Then, we volunteered in the Santa Fe National Park.  We worked on restoring trails, which included rolling grade dips to make sure water runs off the trail, moving rocks off the trails and removing teepees from along the trails that people had built out of tree branches and which were fire hazards. It was very hard physical work, but well worth it. I tried every tool and learned how to use them properly.  I also learned good outdoor survival essentials in case of a disaster, such as the 30-30 rule, which means that in case of lightning you descend 30 feet and wait 30 minutes before climbing back up.  Here are some photos of us working on the trail.

"                               "

"                               "

I learned a lot doing this trail work. With trail maintenance, our guide explained that no one thanks you for what you have done, because they do not notice maintenance when they are walking, biking or skiing on the trails. But I got personal satisfaction knowing that I had maintained a part of nature that could then be safely enjoyed by others. I loved how at the end of our time working on the  the trail it was apparent how much we had improved it.

My favorite service work of the trip however, was working with two food banks, The Food Depot and Feeding Santa Fe. At the Food Depot we packaged food that would then be given to families who needed it.  We did this for six hours two days in a row and even though it should have been tedious work we made it fun and had a great and productive time.  The Food Depot provides food for poor individuals and families who can “shop” from the good that are available.  The next couple days, we had to wake up at 4:00 in the morning to go to Feeding Santa Fe, a non-profit, volunteer organization that also provides food to hungry families.  It has been helping people in Santa Fe since 1979 and I was amazed at the dedication of the people who work there.  They give out up to 900 bags of food a week. We helped the volunteers at Feeding Santa Fe fill the bags that they would be giving out the following day. In each bag is two potatoes, two cans of canned vegetables, three pound bag of beans, rice, or pasta, one dozen eggs, a loaf of bread and any fresh fruit and vegetables they have that week. The next day we had to wake up at 4:00 again and go to Feeding Santa Fe to hand out the bags of food. When giving out the bags Feeding Santa Fe does not ask any questions, but just gives people the food.

Giving out the bags of food was the most meaningful part of the trip for me, because the recipients of the food were so grateful for what we did and it was such a personal service.  Often times there would be many children in the cars and we would give them milk and raisins.  Although I know the people were grateful I felt sometimes like they were embarrassed to be there.  One time, when I was giving a bag to a women she looked through it and began to cry. I was very surprised but did not say anything.  She reached into the bag and held up one of the cucumbers we had put in. She explained that she had wanted to buy a cucumber from the supermarket the day before but did not have enough money. This experience really stuck with me.  It clearly showed me how much this meant for the people in need, but also reminded me how lucky I am to not have to worry about things like buying cucumbers or any food for that matter.  This is something we should not take for granted!

"                               "

My summer service trip in New Mexico was a very special experience to me because I think that I learned an enormous amount about people and service and grew as a person myself.