On April 6, I took part in My Big FAT Service Day.I helped prepare food for the shelter, make birthday cards for Birthday’s In a Box, and clean the cots, tables and chairs for the homeless shelter. Some homeless people come to Friends Seminary and they receive food, bedding, and necessary supplies. Also, the birthday cards go into a Birthday box, which includes all the necessities for a birthday party. These boxes are given to children living in shelters and they get to celebrate their birthday with other children in the shelter.Most of the time, multiple birthdays are celebrated at one time. The children are genuinely happy and grateful, because they get to feel important and special. It warmed my heart to do this service, because it allows me to give things to people that truly deserve it. I often take for granted the opportunities I am given. I felt very grateful for having food and a home and for being able to celebrate birthdays.
Just before Christmas break, I signed up to go “elfing.” The purpose of this experience was to get a bag full of gifts from an organization called Visiting Neighbors, (http://www.visitingneighbors.org/) and to call an elderly citizen whose name would be provided by the organization, in order to arrange a visit. A small group including myself had all been assigned people from the same building, so we walked over and paid our respective visits.
I was not expecting what I saw when my friend and I arrived at the apartment. Our visitee had an a assistant who saw us into her room, as she was in very poor health. She was bedridden and looked exceedingly frail, and I almost didn’t want to disturb her rest by giving her the bag of gifts. Her assistant gently woke her. When my friend and I announced our names, she smiled and asked us how old we were and if we attended school in the city, among other questions. We replied to all of her questions and then presented her with the bag, at which point she simply shook her head and requested that we put it in the corner of the room. It was clear at this point that she needed to rest, but she thanked us for our visit and expressed a wish for us to come again sometime.
I was pleasantly surprised by this experience. I had been warned by representatives from Visiting Neighbors that clients could be unwilling to have company. While I suppose I had not anticipated her frailty, I was grateful that our visitee agreed to the visit and was seemingly able to enjoy the company. “Elfing” was a very positive experience for me.
When trying to think of a service event this year, I could easily remember one like cleaning up a park, but this service event was hard to think of because it did not feel like service, I had a truly good time and felt as rewarded as I would have any other time I did service.
This event was the Friends After Dark, a middle school event where all the kids in a grade can have fun. This event held a special spot in my heart because I had also gone to FAD when I was in sixth grade, and had so much fun doing it. Being able to facilitate the same experience I had to other children was awesome. At FAD they had twister, Wii, xbox, a snack room, and movie room. Originally I was going to help with the xbox room because I knew a little about it, until I heard that they had Just Dance 4 in the Wii room. Just Dance is a game where a person on the screen dances and you follow the movements. I ran over there and started the game up. At first a few kids came in and danced, but I realized it was kind of awkward for the kids to be dancing among their class-mates. And I solved this problem the only way I knew how, by dancing. And because of me making somewhat of a fool of myself the kids were able to dance. Only a few were dancing at the start, but by the end so much many kids were dancing and it was awesome. Even some teachers came in and started dancing. That event was so much fun I gladly went to the second one, and hope it continues next year. I had a really great time, and I think the kids did too.
After Hurricane Sandy, a group of students, teachers, and friends of the school traveled to Staten Island to help clean up and restore. My group walked the destroyed streets of Staten Island in search of people who needed help. After a long walk, we found a woman who needed help taking her house down. I went through all of her old photographs and threw out almost all of her destroyed and damp belongings. The experience made me realize how lucky I am to have the things and I have and how fortunate I was to be unaffected by the destruction of Hurricane Sandy.
Shortly before the beginning of winter break this year, I volunteered with a group of students from school to go “elfing” with the Visiting Neighbors of New York. We spent the afternoon delivering gifts to elderly and homebound New York residents. Students were divided into pairs or small groups and were sent to deliver gifts. Students were encouraged to spend time with the people the visited to talk and spread holiday cheer.
On that afternoon in December, I spend five hours with one of my classmates talking to a woman who lived in Chelsea. She was the daughter of Polish immigrants and grew up near Niagara Falls. Listening to the stories she had to tell was like spending the afternoon in a movie theater; I couldn’t bring myself to leave when she had so much to say. She told us about how she had met her husband after moving to New York City, how she began to take art classes when he had to leave to fight in the war. We learned about her life as an artist: she even showed us some of her drawings. Learning about all of the stories that this woman had was an incredible process. Around eight o’ clock, I had to leave, but I was sorry to go. I could see how simply my conversation and visit had changed her; it had given her vivacity and energy. I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with someone who had so much history and life to share; I enjoyed even more being able to bring joy and brightness.
In addition to helping out in the school, I was also able to help outside of it. For roughly 3-4 months, my friend and I coached a girls youth 6th grade AAU basketball team. While coaching I was able to help each of them develop their skills in shooting, dribbling, rebounding, defense, and other areas. Through the duration of my time there, I was able to s visibly observe each of them making these improvements, and the feelings that I felt for knowing that I was a part of that made me very happy. This community service helped me learn about interactions with those younger than me and helped me learn the proper methods to teach others new things. If you’re interested in finding out about the organization and ways to connect with them visit: http://www.aaugirlsbasketball.org/.
During during freshman year at Friends, I was pleasantly surprised to discover the vast amounts of service opportunities, both in and out of school, that were available for people throughout the entire upper school. I had the opportunity to help my physics teacher, Ms. Witt, at a booth for physics when people applying to friends came to check out the school. In addition to being able to help my teacher, I was also able to meet some of the people that I may possibly see in the grade below my own next year. I was also able to make sandwiches for the poor, putting my culinary abilities to the test. Looking back on this year, I wish that I had taken advantage of more of these opportunities, and I will make sure to make time for these activities next year.
This past December, I volunteered with Respond and Rebuild at their base in Far Rockaway as they worked to repair the homes and lives of those hit hardest by Hurricane Sandy. We brought some tools, boots, masks, and gloves from the base (on 74th and Beach Channel Drive) to a home several blocks away. The house appeared intact, but upon entering I found the inside totally ravaged. One volunteer began by immediately lifting out and removing the house’s toilet; I was assigned to scrape away the bits of wall around the heating pipes.
The impact of the storm was made most real to me then, as I realized that I was dealing with one of so many totally gutted and unlivable houses. Because the entire day’s efforts only helped one family recover, I realized fully how many hours of work were needed to help the whole city recover. My day with Respond and Rebuild thus made me more aware of a pressing humanitarian problem right here in New York, and inspired me to contribute more to recovery efforts.
This winter, I volunteered to help out with the Annual Three Kings day Parade run by the Museo Del Barrio. I was a sign holder in the parade, and helped guide a group of school children through the parade and keep them organized. I enjoyed doing this because I got to experience part of a culture that I know little about, and because it also helped with a celebration of culture and community. I was happy that I could have fun while I fulfilled a large part of my service requirement. I recommend that anyone who is in any way interested in doing this next year diffidently participate.
During It’s My Park Day, I was given the opportunity to work with my peers to spread mulch in a select area within Stuyvesant Park. With the help of my classmates we were able to take mulch from the opposite side of the park in large wheelbarrows, guide them across 2nd avenue, and into the park near the school and into the allotted section. The physical act of digging and pushing a wheelbarrow was incredibly fun. I hope to be able to do it next year and be a part of It’s My Park Day with my classmates again. I am glad I was given the opportunity to help the park that I see every day because being a New York City kid, I rarely get the chance to garden.