CC’s Service Requirement

Over the summer I had an amazing opportunity to travel to Ecuador with a service group called MetoWe. I was able to see a third world country first hand. The experience really humbled me and allowed me to see how fortunate I am to go to such an amazing school. I met a lot of people, although some stood out more than others. Everyday for 2 weeks I worked with about 15 college and high school student to build a school in a small community called kanambu. One 7 year old boy really amazed me because he was worked just as hard as all of us in his only pair of shoes which were flip flops. We also learned that it doesn’t help a community to just go in build something’s then leave. It is all about sustainably. I would love to go on a trip like this again.

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Martin’s Service Experience

For my service, I worked for EffectiveNY, a good-government organization here in New York State. While I was later hired to be their Director of Policy Initiatives, I volunteered for the organization in September of 2014 to promote their ideas to drastically reduce property taxes for homeowners in New York State. My favorite part of my job was a radio interview that I did with The Capital Pressroom, a radio station in Albany, NY. Here is a portion of the transcript from my appearance:

 

HOST: So, Martin, you want the state to fully takeover Medicaid, which is no small thing. Why?

RATHER: Certainly not. Currently the counties pay 8.4 billion dollars to the state as a part of the federal matching funds. So, the way that Medicaid is paid for in most states is that the federal government will pay 50% of the cost and the state will pay the other 50%. In New York, we do it differently. The federal government pays their share, their 50%. But the state doesn’t pay their full 50%, they pay 35-36%, and the counties and localities are forced to pay the other 14%. And the way that these counties raise those funds is through property taxes and that’s why you see such incredibly high property taxes all throughout Upstate and Western New York.

I greatly enjoyed my time with EffectiveNY, working in an office and getting out in the field. Public service work is a real passion of mine and I reflect fondly on the experience.

http://effectiveny.org/m-rather/

 

Lia DeFranco Had a Service Day

I am pretty sure we went to queens

almost certain,

it was a windy day

we met an enthusiastic kayak man,

named mike.

 

He led us

down a hallway

into a room with lots of kayaks

where we cleaned the floor,

unclogged a drain

and then clogged it

once more.

 

I swept the hallway and vacuumed

moved stuff around as well,

then we went outside

next to the river

and moved a big heavy plastic

square

down a ramp.

 

 

 

Callum’s Reflection of Nepal

I cannot begin express how much my time in Nepal has become a part of me, but I will try.

The service component of our trip was to help build a school in a village in Dhangadhe in collaboration with buildOn, http://www.buildon.org/. We were not only given an amazing a beautiful welcome into the community, but a handful of villagers were kind enough to allow us to live in their homes. Let me just say how amazing it was to have that experience with my host family. Some were a bit more shy and reserved, but Jacob Lowenherz, my housemate, and I always could feel how much they wanted to learn and share with us despite the language barrier. As time in the village progressed, I learned some words to  allow myself to entertain them. I remember all of my host family, and my experience with them really made the school so much more worthwhile.

Building the school was a whole new level of service experience for me, because so many villagers were actively helping out and working right next to us. Being able to always peek into the former school buildings and say hello to the students while taking a break was always nice. As the time progressed and we were working more in lines, a couple Nepali women started to teach some of us how to say “give to me” and “I give to you” in Tharu, their language. They always were so gracious about mispronunciation and showed such appreciation towards us trying to use the words.

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I often think back to my time in that village and smile thinking that there will be a school there that will contribute to a positive future for all of the villagers.

In addition, after the recent earthquake that has hit Nepal, I would like to urge anyone to pass this experience to anyone they know to perhaps inspire them to help with relief. The village was not damaged, but Kathmandu was severely destroyed, and help would be welcome.

Jack’s Summer with Go Project

This summer, I interned with an organization called the Go Project. Go Project works mostly with under resourced children from schools in lower Manhattan who face learning challenges and need more help and attention. Go Project takes place on Saturdays throughout the school year, but during the summer there is a one month school, in which the children have three hours of academics and three hours of extracurriculars. During the summer portion of Go Project, fittingly named Go Summer, around 70 interns are hired. What made working with this organization so special, is what the internship required. As an intern, we were required to attend professional development sessions. Each week, we would have a new topic. Topics included microaggression, tracking in schools, diversity and privilege, and a few others. For each topic, we would have required readings which we would then discuss in the professional development sessions. Because I was an intern for the enrichment classes, I would spend an hour at Grace Church in the professional development session, and then I would make my way over to Friends to help assist the class with my enrichment teacher. My enrichment class happened to be fencing, which was quite an experience because I had never picked up a fencing sword, which I now know is called an epee, in my life. At least for the first couple of weeks, I was learning and teaching fencing to the kids at the same time. The last thing the interns had to do was create a hustle project. Every intern combined their passion and their knowledge, and presented the project at the end of the internship. For my hustle project, I ended up teaching a class of 8th graders about the causes and effects of Islamophobia.

I always knew about the educational divides in our country, but I had no clue to what extent it was a problem. Go Project was eye-opening in this aspect. Through the readings and the professional development sessions, I really began to get a sense of how much of our educational problems stem from racial divides. The truth is, in most cases, the color of ones skin significantly affect their chances of going to good schools whether it be elementary school or college. One exercise we did in our professional development sessions really hit me. We were asked to compare all white and all black schools from 1964 when the Civil Rights Act was passed, with underfunded and overfunded schools from now. What we discovered is there are striking similarities between underfunded schools from now and all black schools from 1964, including the segregation of whites and minorities. I also found out that many of the private schools in New York City and around the country were created after the Civil Rights Act, to keep schools segregated. The reason I know Go Project was an amazing learning experience for me was because despite all theses glaring problems that I learned about our education system, I came out of the internship feeling for the first time like I could, individually, make a difference. This is always something I’ve struggled with because there are so many problems in the world and sometimes it feels like whatever effort you give to change it is futile. Two things really changed that view point for me this summer. The first was witnessing how much Go Project has done to change the landscape of education. Yes, they deal only with lower Manhattan, but that is still a sizable amount of people and the organization really has made strides. The second was my Islamophobia presentation. After my presentation, the teacher came up to me and told me the kids were actually discussing what I said. Considering I gave my presentation to restless 8th graders, it meant a lot to me to hear that the kids actually took in what I had said. I have no way of knowing whether the kids that I gave this lesson to truly took it to heart , but for the first time I felt like I had really made a difference.

http://www.goprojectnyc.org/

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Above: A picture of one of my fencing classes eating snack with their equipment on in the outer courtyard.

Kitty’s MOSPCE Summer Service

This Summer I worked at the Mayor’s Office of Special Projects and Community Events (MOSPCE). The office is responsible for organizing mayoral events at Gracie Mansion and all around the city. It strives to create community support within NYC and to honor all the service of everyday New Yorkers. I worked with MOSPCE for six weeks 9-5pm; however, I also went to all the events and thus once or twice a week worked 9-9pm. A normal day consisted of answering phone calls from guests inquiring about their invitations and RSVPs, logging information into massive excel spreadsheets, collaborating on the office’s database of guests, organizing the office’s materials, and brainstorming the design and the layout of a future event. Some of the events that I helped to organize include the Fatherhood reception, the Pride LGBT reception, the Val-Seave, to simply waiting for directions from my superiors on a headset radio.

Working at the Mayor’s Office was my first real job experience. It was mentally and physically exhausting as I entered the adult world of work. I was not ready for the amount of mechanical drudgery that a cubicle job entailed. I found myself bored and questioned the importance or even the need of the work that I was doing; however, I soon realized that I had to change my mentality in order to volunteer successfully as well as keep peace of mind. Because it was a government job everything ran slowly and had to be okayed by about three other offices, but every little piece of seemingly useless work did eventually add up to the final product of the event and thus was of much importance. I had to dispose of my personal desire for immediate gratification and knowledge of my impact. Volunteering at other places before it was easy to see the effect of my work, such as with feeding and teaching people, but at MOSPCE my influence was harder to detect, and thus at first it angered me because I thought I was somewhere where I was utterly useless. Working at MOSPCE firstly taught me that I am more interested in hands-on work and would not be suitable in a cubicle environment, but it also revealed to me all the teeny tiny necessary work that any organization does, especially a governmental one, just to reach their goal. I came away with so much respect and appreciation for workers who somehow come together and put in such hard, strenuous work for something much greater than themselves, getting little satisfaction in return. Before this experience I was a bit impatient in my volunteering, wanting to ensure that I could actually be of help, but now I realize that in order to help real change occur and to have a grand impact in the future a great deal of patience and drudgery is sadly essential.

http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/

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Chuma’s Service Reflection

This Spring Break, I went with a group of kids and chaperones from Friends to China. We went to Beijing, Suzhou, and Shanghai. While there, we performed community service namely within schools. In Beijing, the Friends group visited the school Beijing Number 4 in Beijing. We were brought into an English class and were asked to help the Chinese students to improve their English by reading and analyzing certain passages. This allowed us, the students both from Friends and from Beijing Number 4, to interact as regular teens. I shared certain jokes and exchanged WeChats with many of the kids there. They asked me a lot about life in America and I asked them a lot about their life in China. Despite the different cultures, it was interesting to see overlap in behavior. While in Beijing,  we also helped out at the Dandelion School. The kids were much younger than we were there. While helping out at the school, we were instructed to prepare an activity in which we would teach the children an activity while speaking and interacting with them in English. In Suzhou, we participated in a colloquium with students from the school Suzhou SIP concerning urban issues.. I enjoyed all of the moments I had in China and I hope to visit the schools and the country again in the near future.

Callum’s Adventure on Burrowing Through the Boroughs

Hello! My name is Callum Bayle-Spence and I went on the Burrowing Through the Boroughs Trip, which was hosted by Kristen Fairey and Leitzel Schoen.

We had been studying the history of early New York City, and learned a lot about New Amsterdam. Kristen and Leitzel concocted this trip for us to lead using our knowledge to show the history of the Queens Borough of New York City! Luckily my friend Joseph also signed up, and slowly we prepared. We created a script and a list of facts we wanted to go over. Joseph new we would have a diverse audience of both kids in the Middle and Lower Schools of friends, but also their parents and some teachers, so he decided to prepare some jokes to keep everyone interested and engaged. I mostly focused on remembering what I had to, and luckily on the day we were presenting we went early to prepare, and I was able to think of some of my own jokes (such as asking the children who a statue was, even then immediately jumping to cover the nameplate).

We gave most of our information at the start of the trip, and I was able to talk to many of the children on the trip. Honestly I learned so much from them (perhaps I learned more than I taught?). Being able to talk to so many of these students at Friends was the best part, and going through many amazing experiences such as visiting a Temple and an old Quaker building.

I had an awesome time, and I hope this event continues (and hopefully I can help out with more in the future, or at least go on them)

SERVICE REFLECTION!

I volunteered with the Friendship Circle several times this year for my community service.  The Friendship circle is a nonprofit organization that helps special needs children learn to socialize through playing games, playing music, and building relationships with the volunteers.  When I was a volunteer, I was paired with a four year old who had delayed development.  He didn’t speak but enjoyed playing with a parachute and eating chips.  I helped him learn to play soccer with the other children.  There were kids of all ages with a variety of learning disorders so it was interesting to see them interact with each other and the volunteers  as we all played instruments or hand games together.  It was a lot of work taking care of kids because we had to act energetic and keep them calm and happy for a few hours but it was rewarding because we built relationships with the kids over time and it felt really satisfying to help people in need.

Jordanian Experience and Working with FoEME: Jack

Our trip to Jordan during spring break this year was most likely the best experience of my life. I have always been fascinated with the culture and the language of the Middle East, but Jordan exceeded my expectations of what it would be like. After spending some time at King’s Academy and the amazing city of Amman, we had a little change of pace and went to an eco-park run by FoEME also known as Friends of the Earth Middle East.

FoEME is an inspiring organization for multiple reasons. The goal of FoEME is to protect the fragile environment in the Middle East while also bringing together the people of the region. The most important of the environmental projects they are working on is conserving water in a region that does not have much to start with. When you look at that mission, an understandable reaction is to shake ones head. Can a grassroots organization really save water in a desert environment while also advocating for peace in one of the most unstable areas in the world? They definitely can, and have. Unable to tap into the power and recources that many big organizations have, FoEME has relied on persistance and word of mouth. A great example of the success they’ve had is their work with ending the RedDead Sea project. The plan was to dump large amounts of Red Sea water into the Dead Sea to offset the Dead Sea’s shrinking size. FoEME knew this was not a good idea because it would upset the ecosystem of the Dead Sea and would cost Jordan money they simply did not have. Because they refused to give up, FoEME was able to get the project canceled despite its support by many powerful organizations like the World Bank. Even more impressive than their environmental work though, is their ability to unite people from places in conflict, such as the Palestinians and Israelis.

My time at the eco-park and working with FoEME was inspiring. Everyone I talked to from the organization was knowledgeable and passionate about what they did. While at the eco-park we engaged in a combination of activities from helping make a bird house out of used bottles, to having tea with Bedouins, to swiming in a sulfur pool, to biking along Golan Heights which boarders Syria, Israel, and Jordan. The Golan Heights was perhaps the most beautiful and eerie place that we went to in Jordan. The cliffs, combined with the Jordan River, provided a spectacular view – but there were also subtle reminders of the problems the Middle East faces. On the other side of the Jordan River, in the middle of the cliffs, was a long and threatening fence, built by Israel. The fence reminded me that the area is still in dispute and that Israel does not feel comfortable keeping their borders open. Unfortunately, this fence also creates a barrier towards peace. We were standing about 100 feet above the Jordan River, but according to FoEME, the Jordan River used to be that high until Syria built damns further upstream to block much of the water. Golan Heights is a perfect metaphor to describe the situation in the entire Middle East. The Middle East has a lot to offer in terms of its beauty and its history and its people, but economic and political problems plague the region and keep it from being what it has the potential to be.

My entire experience in Jordan from staying at King’s Academy, to working with FoEME, to camping with Bedouins was unforgettable. The Middle East is an incredible place that sadly gets a bad reputation. Although the region certainly has its share of problems, I urge people to go and visit so they can better understand the situation and hopefully change the misconceptions that come from living in America, a country that often seems sadly Islamaphobic.

Link to the FoEME Website: http://www.foeme.org/www/?module=home

Photo 1: A picture of our group in the bird house that I mentioned earlier in the post.

Photo 2: The view afte taking a 5 minute walk away from the eco-lodge. Much more green then in most of Jordan

Photo 3: The view from the cliff we were standing on at Golan Heights. The Jordan River is clearly not what is used to be

Photo 4: A picture of the fence that Israel built on the Golan Heights.

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