Izzy Koo’s Experience with CHAI Volunteering

As a two year member of Friends’ CHAI club, which stands for Children’s Hardships Awareness Initiatives, I recently started volunteering at a program called Sunday Circle, a subset program of the organization, the Friendship Circle, with a few fellow CHAI members every other Sunday. The program’s mission is that they believe every person is worthy and deserving of love and care, regardless of any limitations that they may have which inhibit their abilities to do various things. The program serves families with children who have special needs and this Sunday program allows those children to be engaged in an intimate space through one-on-one time with teachers and teenage volunteers throughout the city. It aims to provide a space where they can feel empowered and make the most of their own abilities through various forms of therapeutic movement, sports, and music. Volunteers spend two hours with the kids in focused play time and music circles; we play soccer, sing songs, dance, etc.

I was not sure to expect upon deciding to volunteer at this program. I, at first, likened it to babysitting and assumed it would be similar. However, now that I have spent a lot of time with individual kids, I feel like I am providing something that they may not get in other spaces. I understand why the program is called Friendship Circle because I, along with the other volunteers, are enriching the lives of these kids when others may not see the urgency and importance of integrating children with special needs into our larger community. I spend time with an eleven year old girl named Sammy, who loves to dance, and she is one of the bravest people I know, having undergone multiple surgeries and other frequent and miscellaneous doctor’s appointments at only eleven years old. This program has taught me the importance of human interaction and the curative powers that spending time with people holds.

YPI Experience

On Service Day, the ninth grade YPI finalists presented their non-profits to a panel of judges comprised of both our peers and judges from the YPI project. I was lucky enough to be one of the finalists who presented that day. This initiative has made me realize that education inequality is a much more pressing issue than I had thought and it has impacted a large number of a diverse amount of peoples, not necessarily a specific demographic. I learned how to work together with my team and how to reach out to big organizations because originally I was scared to email our organization. I asked about internships offered at our organization because I was really considering working with them in the future. I thought that this project deviated a bit from the curriculum but it was a nice break and it did fit well with how we were learning about social issues that rose up in ancient civilizations.