Over the summer, I was given the opportunity to help out at an organization called GO Project, which basically is a summer school for low-income students receive better resources to learn more and enjoy themselves. I was only one out of many volunteers and my main jobs were to assist a martial arts elective class for first and second graders and to also help serve lunch to elementary school students.
This experience has enlightened me on how important it is to help out the youth in need. Many of those children were poor and couldn’t afford enough food to eat or to receive a better education. The GO Project offers educational classes in the morning and extracurricular classes in the afternoon. There were some children who also faced abuse in their families and were avoidant of any interaction. While assisting the martial arts class and serving lunch, I found that the children were very energetic and lovable. They easily attached to me once they saw that I didn’t mean any harm and they were super sweet towards me. However, they didn’t seem to like the criticism that the teachers or volunteers gave to them when they acted too rowdy, so it took some patience to calm them down and let them know what the right thing to do is. All in all, it was a very fulfilling experience to work with such young children for an extended period of time over the summer and to know how it feels like to take an authoritative position.
On Service Day, my advisory went to the Bronx Food Distribution Warehouse where we helped sort food for the day. We were given crates of donated supplies and we were put in charge of sorting all of those supplies into separate categories and we were also responsible for throwing away expired foods.
This experience have given me a sense of how kind people are in the world and how easily we can help others obtain a better life. There were crates and crates of donated supplies, which already showed me how generous some people are to help those in need. Many of those supplies were everyday grocery items like vegetables, cereal, grains, pet food and even baby supplies. Those items aren’t that expensive to purchase, but it helps out those who don’t have enough. We were given a statistic of how many people we helped that day just to sort those foods and it was somewhere in the hundreds and it made me feel pretty good that we were able to help so many people in just one day. It makes me wonder how many people could receive help if everyone does a service day once in a while.
AFYA website: https://afyafoundation.org/our-mission/
For day of service, five advisories participated in sorting medical supplies for AFYA. AFYA is an organization that recovers unused medical supplies from hospitals, sorts and ships them to 56 countries around the world. They allow countries who cannot afford advanced medical supplies to get what they need, and have collected and shipped $26 million worth of medical supplies. This experience made me aware of the fact that so many other people around the world are not able to get the medical care they need, and it made me want to find more ways to give back to other communities who have much less than we do. After completing our service, I noticed how many more boxes were surrounded by us, and really wanted to come back and help sort. By sorting those medical supplies, so many people are now able to receive the medical care they need, and I’m glad that I was part of the effort.
This year, I have the pleasure of working with Reading Partners, a volunteer organization that gives specialized tutoring in reading and comprehension to children in public schools. Along with a partner, I have been meeting weekly with a young student from the first grade of PS 188. My partner and I have only been working with this organization for 6 weeks and will continue to work with them until late May. However, over this short time, I have seen my student grow from barely reading their alphabet to reading short picture books completely on their own.
Reading is a skill that many of us take for granted, but many people struggle with. It is a fundamental skill needed for learning, and I am glad that I can help my student progress and develop their skills. In a short time they have improved exponentially and I cannot wait to see where they grow by the end of this year.
This summer (& continuing into the school year), I started a grant-funded program with four other local professional organizers. I’ve worked in a paid position as a professional organizer for homes and businesses; A good portion of the work I get to do is with hoarders.
Hoarding disorders are a sub-category of OCD (even though there are some people who think of it as a separate disorder). Hoarders suffer from the intense inability to throw anything away. For example, Syllogomania is a form of hoarding in which the hoarder collects (“hoards”) trash– empty bottles, feces, empty food containers, etc. The most common & effective treatment for hoarders is a combination of professional organizers, social workers, and other professionals (contractors, fumigators, exterminators); however, this treatment can be costly with organizer/social workers duos going conservatively for $300/hour. Most of the time, clearing out a hoarder’s house can include many services & professional– exterminators, fumigators, designers, contractors, etc. So, for those who can’t afford that sky-high pricing, the treatment is delayed until funds are sufficient or, in some cases, put off indefinitely.
I saw this affordability issue and, with the help of some of my colleagues, am in the development process of furthering this program. Currently, we are in the alpha phase which consists of forty homes that were already on the waitlist for regular treatment. In all 40 homes, the occupant (hoarder) had an annual income of less than $30,000 or could prove that their essential expenses (rent, electricity, etc) takes up more than 85% of their weekly/monthly paycheck.
I’ve had an eye-opening experience starting this program and have learned so much about the grant application process and how to navigate the legalities of a non-profit. I can’t wait until this program is fully launched and available to all our intended areas of reach (NYC + parts of NJ).
This year in Stefan Stawnychy’s politics class, we have talked extensively about the election. We have compared the two major party candidates, discussing both their differences and similarities. However, after discovering how difficult it is to not only navigate the two candidates websites, but also to find unbiased information about their policies, Stefan decided to create a website outlining side-by-side, non-partisan comparisons of where the two stand on major issues. In the hopes of making it easier for students throughout the Friends community to stay informed about the candidates and the election, we have designed such a website. Lily Weisberg and I worked specifically on the immigration page. We hope this design informs students about important policy stances from both candidates and makes it easier to see the similarities and differences between the two.
This summer I traveled to Peru for two weeks to do service with a group called GLA. Our groups mission was to make Qui (guinea pig) houses for four different families living on the outskirts of a city called Cusco. These houses are very important to have because people without the resources to make them keep the guinea pig in their homes. This is very unsanitary and dangerous because it spreads disease. We would wake up at 6:30 every morning and drive into the small town of Chocco where the families lived. We would walk to the four different work sites with a group of about eight and start. These houses are made of adobe bricks and mud. We would carry all the bricks, around 300 of them at each site, over to where we were building and start assembling them with mud. We pick axes the dirt, sifted it and then added water to make the mud. This project took two weeks and it was a large structure with two stories. In our breaks between work period we would visit the local school and play soccer and volleyball with the kids. We built strong relationships with them even though not all of us spoke Spanish. It was amazing how we could get along and learn about each other without even knowing how to talk to one another. We would sing songs like, Hips don’t lie or sorry by Justin Bieber. Each kid was so kind and welcoming to our whole group. Aside from the Qui houses we also would travel around Peru to do different adventure aspects and one of the days we visited an orphanage. This was a very enlightening experience because we got to meet some older girls. One of the girls was sixteen and talked to us about her school work and how she was planning on getting a job. To see her so determined about her life even though she grew up without her family was so amazing and she was such a mentor to the younger kids. The whole experience was so incredible and I took home new knowledge about privilege and the fact that although some of the people we worked with didn’t have very much they were happy and loved each and were proud of the work that they did and of their families. I can’t wait to return to Peru one day and I hope that my experience on this trip will carry over to my service work at school and in New York.
— By Bianca Howell
The Friday before the Spring Fair, Elena and I were two of many who blew up balloons to make the balloon arch. Initially, I figured it would be an easy task but it proved to be quite difficult. When we first arrived, we were told to watch a video describing the complex process of making a balloon arch. This video utterly challenged my previously acquired knowledge of blowing up balloons. Instead of using our breath or helium to fill the balloons, we used a machine. I also learned about the existence of this contraption called a balloon sizer, which is basically a box used to ensure that all balloons were of the same diameter. The one sold by the company was about thirty dollars, so instead we were supplied with a piece of cardboard with a hole cut out to size the balloons. Despite these resources designed to aid the arch making process, there were still many challenges to overcome. First of all, there were a lot of people who were helping make the arch and only one air machine and balloon sizer to be shared. We also had to precisely follow the instructions of the video and had to make certain that the individual parts of the arch would all fit together which ended up not being as easy as i thought.
With so many people and so many balloons and only one machine, I expected chaos to ensue. However, after a few minutes, people of all ages were seamlessly working together to create this arch. There were many smaller groups all responsible for a different part of the arch, all using the same balloon blower to complete their tasks. I alternated using the blower to blow up balloons with people from other groups. Elena sized the balloons I blew up, lower schoolers tied these balloons, and others attached them to the rings to be connected to the arch. Although it was a bit hectic with so many people and so much to do, everyone’s enthusiastic attitudes towards each other made the process as efficient and enjoyable as possible. Through the preparation for the Spring Fair, the true spirit of Friends was revealed. Despite the hardships, Adults and children united and were able to create something colorful and beautiful. The Quaker values of Friends have supported me since Freshman year and helped me grow into the person I am today. It was the least I could do to help prepare for the Spring Fair, an event that would further bring the community together and foster an atmosphere of love and acceptance.
Last April, as part of our US History curriculum, our class was assigned to give a tour to participants of the GO Project. This tour would have had to been an hour long and have had to focus on the history of the area surrounding Grace Church High School. Together with David Lampietti and Rio Hope-Gund, we decided to focus on the counterculture on the 60s and 70s, with particular focus on the peaceful protests that occurred during the setting. We planned out our route, and were fully prepared to execute our tour. When leading the tour, our route got blocked by a Bernie Sanders rally, which really helped to illustrate our topic. I feel like the participants learned a lot and gained a new appreciation for the city that they live in, as well as its history.
In February, a few friends and I volunteered for god’s love we deliver’s big love weekend. Big love weekend is a 3 day event where there are lots of fundraisers to raise money for gods love we deliver. If you didnt know, gods love we deliver is a charity that brings home cooked hot meals to people who are otherwise not able to get them. Some of the thigs I did were make lunch for the participants and also do some yoga. It was interesting. I never considered myself a “yogi”, but it was a fun new experience, sort of like twisting your body in the weirdest way while listening to soothing music. We also got to keep the yoga mat, which was an added bonus of doing service.