On April the 23rd of this year, several students including I went to volunteer at the Community Kitchen of West Harlem. At this community kitchen, the students gave people food in certain amounts based on how much they were alloted, which was determined by the size of their family. My favorite part of this experience was the small conversations I made with the other volunteers at the location as well as all the people I was helping. It really felt like there was a connection, which made the service experience all the more special!
“We are in community each time we find a place where we belong and find we are needed.”
This is what I found when I went to volunteer with the Central Park North Stars on Friday. The team had the fantastic opportunity to skate with the United Arab Emirates women’s hockey team, currently visiting the United States. They came to the rink to help out the kids who needed it.
Peter F. Block originally said the quote above, and it speaks to this situation well. I’m at home on the ice, and for the last three seasons I have volunteered as a Junior Coach for the North Stars because I’m needed. It isn’t your run-of-the-mill hockey program, where the kids are all middle-to-upper class neurotypical teenagers. The North Stars is for developmentally disabled kids aged 5-18, under the premise that hockey is for everyone. I usually end up helping one of the adult
coaches work with a kid having a tough day, or helping an individual improve their skating 1 on 1.
I could write this reflection on any of the practices I’ve helped coach, but this one stood out. The women on the UAE team weren’t there to show off, they were there to help. Just like I was. They were running drills, helping some of the younger kids back to their feet when they fell, and helping convince one player that he needed to wear his gloves on the ice. Normal practices are usually a little more difficult to coach, as there are fewer adults to kids on the ice. The UAE women on the ice were working hard with each person, helping them skate, pass, and shoot.
Yet in some ways, the practice was the same. It was the same players on the ice, the same challenges being faced, the same team playing and having fun and falling over and getting up again. But it was so much more than that. It was a connection that bridged language and continent and age. For those 2 1/2 hours, everyone on that ice was having fun. And that’s a beautiful thing.
I am so glad I have opportunity after opportunity to help these kids, and I’m so glad I found my little community of hockey.
In the last week before school started, the Friends Seminary Varsity soccer team travelled to Tobago for a week. We played youth teams from the country, trained with teenagers from Tobago, but the most important and rewarding part for me was the clinic that we ran one day. Before the trip, we were told to gather any soccer equipment that we had and bring it with us. Once we arrived, we gathered it all together and brought it to a soccer field on the island. About 75 kids showed up, ranging in ages form 5 to 17. We first did some warm up drills with them, then did actual soccer technical drills. After all of that, each camper got to go into the stash of equipment and take one thing that they needed. I helped the younger kids mostly try on cleats and make sure that they fit. All of the kids also received a t shirt at the end with a water bottle and bag. For me, it was super rewarding to see that something that I might not need can be put into great use in another part of the world.
Over the summer I took part in a service camp called Visions Service Adventures. I traveled to Montana, to the Northern Cheyenne Reservation. Over the course of the camp I participated in several different types of service activities, like working at the Boys and Girls Club, building workbenches at the Muddy Fire Hall, cleaning up trash at Crazy Head Springs, tending to the community garden, framing and drywalling an 8-by-20-foot wall at the Lame Deer Fire Hall, and more. It was an incredible experience that taught me many lessons about my culture, and the Cheyenne culture. Meeting the kids, eating the food, and listening to fascinating stories allowed me to see the world and society from a different standpoint.
This summer the boys & girls varsity soccer teams went down to Trinidad and Tobago. We participated in a tournament, traveled around the island and ran a clinic for underprivileged kids on the island. On the last day we woke up early and set off for Mount Pleasant on the island of Tobago. When we got there we unloaded the eight duffle bags of equipment, cleats and clothing for the kids. We set up drills and activities for the kids to participate in. Around 9:00am a flurry of kids rushed onto the field. They were all different ages and looked excited to participate in the clinic. During the clinic I took videos of the Friends kids playing with the kids from Tobago. After the clinic ended we handed out cleats, balls and clothing to the kids who needed it the most. After all the equipment was distributed we watch as the kids ran back to their parents to show off their new stuff. I really enjoyed this experience and have privileged enough to do it twice now. It defiantly will be a trip I never forget.
From August 2-6, I went to a service organization called Ankur Kala and did 22 hours of service. Ankur Kala is a non-profit organization established in 1982 in Kolkata, India. Ankur Kala helps many women who are abused and have no money, food, or rights. Ankur Kala takes these women in and gives them jobs, an education, food, and shelter. This organization is an all women organization, so it was hard to convince the women that I was not going to harm them, but by the end of my service, they all liked me and talked with me regularly. These women make jams and jelly, drinks, and mostly saris, which are India silk dresses that contain ornate designs. These women are not very educated however, and they can barely speak Bengali, and do not speak English. at Ankur Kala, the teach Bengali and English in one class, but the person who teaches English is not a native English teacher. What I did there is I thought them how to speak English and Bengali, as I can speak both. Ankur Kala was a great experience and I feel I made an impact on these women’s lives.
Over the summer I volunteered at Crosswinds Equestrian Center as a camp counselor. This entailed teaching the kids how to ride and take care of the horses. An example of a day consisted of the campers riding in the morning, taking care of their horses after, followed by crafts and afternoon games involving the horses. This was an especially rewarding experience, as Crosswinds has always been a place very close to my heart. When I was little I attended camp at Crosswinds and loved every minute of it— it was part of what made me fall in love with riding in the first place. It was a rewarding experience to be able to help instill the same love for horses the camp counselors instilled in me when I was a camper.
This is a photo of the campers bathing one of the horses.
Over the summer I was lucky enough to attend a 2 week Overland field studies trip to Costa Rica. The most memorable part of our trip was the volunteer work we did. While we were in Costa Rica we visited the beautiful cloud forests of Monteverde, Arenal, the Limon province and La Carpio and San Jose. In Monteverde we spent 3 days volunteering at a sustainable coffee farm working to promote healthy farm practices with an organization called Life Monteverde. We planted trees, and dug terraces (a technique used on mountainous farms to build flat platforms perfect for growing coffee!). In Arenal we worked at a wildlife refuge called Proyecto Asis that took care of animals confiscated from smugglers at customs. There we helped prepare and feed the animals and make toys for the monkeys. In Limon we hiked to an indeginous community where we planted lots and lots of trees and chopped wood. The next day we helped repaint parts of the Baja Del Tigre school. Lastly we stayed in San Jose and traveled to La Carpio, an impoverished immigrant neighborhood where we helped build a house and taught the children English with the Costa Rican Humanitarian Foundation. Overall completing 21 hours of service in 2 weeks. Volunteering in La Carpio had a huge impact on me. I’d never been exposed to the amount of poverty we saw there. We learned of one woman’s story who was escaping an abusive husband in Guatemala. She had no money because he wouldn’t let her get a job, so she ended up living in a one room house with a leaky tin roof and 20 other people. And the children there experienced immense troubles at home. It made me realize that the problems in my life are nothing compared to the problems other people are experiencing every day.
This year for service day our grade went to Yonkers to bag medical equipment and humanitarian supplies for people in need. This supplies is donated by hospitals, generous individuals, and nursing homes, and AFYA works to give this supplies to people living in Puerto Rico, and several US Virgin Islands as well as various countries. I helped sort the supplies where I mainly sorted syringes at AFYA.
Last summer I participated in an oyster cage building activity on June 16. We were split up into groups who worked on different parts of the cages. I was part of the group who cut sheets of wire from a large roll of cage wire. We used clippers and wore gloves to cut the wire sheets for the cages. Next we clipped off any bits of wire that stuck out undesirably. These would get in the way later, so we had to remove them. We left some of the bits on each side, as they would be bent to allow the sheet to clasp onto another sheet. Next the sheets went to a different station that bent the sheets in half. This station formed each sheet into the desired shape of the cage. Next, the bent sheets were brought back to my group. We bent the bits that we left on the sheets from the first clipping and connected them to another sheet of wire. Once we had done this, the cage was completed. After we had finished making all the cages we needed to, I swept the floor for metal scraps, and put away clippers and gloves along with three other volunteers. My experience at BOP was very pleasant. Although I got a large sore bump on my hand from all the pressure during clipping the wire, the atmosphere of the houses we were building the cages in was relaxing. The Billion Oyster Project’s mission is to distribute 1 billion oysters to about 100 acres of reefs located in the Hudson River. These oysters would help clean the water and hopefully clean and bring life back to the river. You can visit the Billion Oyster Project at https://billionoysterproject.org