Gordon’s Reflection with the Hope Foundation

In January of 2014, Ben Frich’s Statistics class join the Hope Foundation in their goal of gathering complete data regarding the homeless count in NYC. The event ran from 10 pm, to 3 pm. If we encountered anyone on the streets, we were to ask them a series of preformed questions. Even if the person did not look like they were homeless, it was important that we asked them the same questions, as appearances can be very deceiving. One of the questions was about whether or not the person had a place to stay for the night. Out of all of the people we asked, everyone that did not have a place to stay the night did not ask us to call the Hope Foundation regarding possible lodging for them. It was one of the coldest nights throughout the winter, and the number of homeless outside was astonishing. It is important that people continue to volunteer for these surveys, because without volunteers, there would not be an accurate picture of the homeless crisis going on in NYC. The Hope Foundation helps countless numbers of homeless people by telling the people of NYC how they can lend a hand.

The website can be found at. https://a071-hope.nyc.gov/hope/welcome.aspx

 

Sam’s Service with the Wayfinder Experience

The Wayfinder Experience is a theater based summer camp. I have been going there for seven years as a camper, and for much of my adolescent years it functioned as a home away from home. Because it boasts an atmosphere of acceptance and tolerance, and of course because of the nonstandard nature of its specialty activities, it has always been something of a haven for preteens and teens who are bullied, abused, or socially outcast in one way or another, and as such I have a close connection to the community there. Since I turned 16 (the minimum age the camp allows for volunteer work) been providing the staff with free help. Specifically, among other things I have worked building props for them, including woodworking, and (since I received my RTE certification last year), working as on-hand medical staff, i.e. taking care of the small injuries that inevitably happen when kids are in the same room together. It is wonderful to be able to give back to a community that has given so much to me.

Alex’s Experience Tutoring at George Jackson Academy

 

Over the course of the year, I spent fourteen and a half hours tutoring two students at George Jackson Academy, an upper elementary and middle school for boys from lower-income and underserved families.  This was my second year tutoring at GJA.  This year, I tutored two 6th graders, Kamau and Aaron, and last year I tutored both Kai, a 6th grader, and Hunter, an 8th grader, in mathematics.  When I started tutoring after school in October, it seemed like Aaron and Kamau initially viewed the tutoring sessions as an unfair chore since they would have to stay at GJA after school.  However, after only a few sessions, I started to form friendships with them, and they began to look forward to the tutoring sessions because it encouraged them to finish their homework promptly, giving them more free time at home, and also led to improved homework scores.  Moreover, I cared about their academic performance and always made sure that they were well prepared for tests.  As we continued to meet, our friendship grew stronger, and they also improved in their mathwork.  I am grateful that I was able to work with Aaron and Kamau and help them live up to their potentials.

Georgina Johnson Summer Service

Georgina Renée Johnson

2013 Summer Service Project

Bi Feng Xia Giant Panda Reserve

Ya’an, Sichuan Province, China 

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Last summer I participated in a service program in Ya’an, Sichuan Province, China where I worked with the giant pandas as a volunteer at the Panda Conservation Center in the Bi Feng Xia National Reserve. As a member of a Rustic Pathways’ group and under the supervision of a “panda master”, I had a unique opportunity to interact with and learn about these gentle giants as I helped in their day-to-day care.

At the Conservation Center we were taught all about the giant panda, known in Chinese as大熊 or da xiong mao, literally meaning big bear cat. We learned about their habits, diets and reproduction cycles and issues. At the center, we split into different groups and worked at two conservation sites, White Bear Mountain and Overseas. After receiving our assignment to one of the two park areas, we were split into even smaller groups of 3 to 5 people, and assigned to a panda master, a specific panda house, and in my case, to my own panda!

The panda I cared for was a male about 8 years old named Dali. Once a wild panda, Dali was accidentally caught in a trap, high in the national park meant for another animal, which caused him to lose his left back leg and part of his ear. Found and rescued by the staff at Bi Feng Xia and brought to live at the center, Dali would have had a hard time surviving on his own in the wild given his injury. Working exclusively with one panda throughout my stay, allowed me to form a connection with him. As we worked closely with our animals, the other group members and I came to realize that giant pandas have very different personalities and many interesting quirks. One group member’s panda, Wugong, was antisocial and very messy. He loved to be in his outdoor enclosure and it took a lot of coaxing to get him to come inside to eat. He would take the food offered to him and rush to get back outside. Eating quickly as he ran, Wugong would drop half his food, stop to lick it off the floor, and exit the minute he could get away. My panda Dali, however, was an extremely slow and thoughtful eater. Mealtime for Dali was a time to savor his food and take in his surroundings. He used both his paws, cupping his food in order to minimize the amount that fell to the floor or his lap. He would chew slowly and stare at me as he ate, and there were times when we sat for over half an hour, both of us quietly observing the other. I felt during my time with him that we developed a small bond as he would also turn and look at me when I called his name, although it may have been because he knew I was the source of his food!

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At the conservation center, we all helped with the many daily chores involved in the care of the pandas. Every morning we would clean the outdoor and indoor enclosures of our individual pandas and leave them new bushels of freshly cut bamboo. We would then hand feed them panda cake (a loaf of specially made bread enriched with vitamins) and other foods like apples and bamboo shoots four times a day through the bars of their indoor enclosure. In addition to our physical maintenance work, we also observed the pandas and recorded their activities and behaviors during the day for 30 minutes at a time. The pandas spent a good deal of time sleeping, so our written observations were limited! We also participated in readings with our groups about panda conservation and captive breeding programs, and through a documentary film learned in-depth about panda reproduction.

While participating in the program, we learned about and discussed the many reasons for the decline in panda populations and China’s conservation efforts to replenish the population to avoid the extinction of the species. Pandas are suffering habitat loss as large areas of their very limited natural forests undergo clearing for timber and agriculture development, and the stripping necessary to create infrastructure for mining and hydropower development. Because of this continued intrusion and push into their native habitat, pandas have had to move farther up into mountainous areas where it is colder and less hospitable. In these areas, the solitary and shy pandas are more likely to overrun each other’s territories. There are also natural causes contributing to the panda’s decline, particularly low reproduction rates as the giant panda can successfully reproduce only a few days a year. Newborn and young pandas also have low survival rates in the wild, as new mothers do not always know how best to care for their young. In the wild, twins are often common, but a mother will choose to nurture only one of her two cubs. Choosing to raise the cub they deem stronger, the weaker cub will perish. Zoos and conservation centers are having more success saving twin panda cubs in captivity, by rotating the two infants with scheduled visits and feedings with their mother—allowing the mother to bond with and care for both. Panda cubs do not have naturally strong immune systems for some time, and must be looked after constantly.

In China, the Woolong and Bi Feng Xia Panda Research and Breeding Centers began as educational research centers devoted to the study and preservation of the giant panda, a rare and treasured creature whose population in the wild numbers less than 1600. Both centers aid in the effort to help increase China’s existing panda population, and conduct an international exchange program with wildlife conservation centers and zoos throughout the world. Although many countries are now home to numerous giant pandas, they are on loan and all of them belong, and will eventually return, to China. The Bi Feng Xia Panda Research Center works on breeding captive pandas in hope of raising their populations, and spreading awareness of this unique species. So far, they have succeeded in having many of the cubs born at the center survive past the age of two, although given their weak immune systems many still do not survive. While they have succeeded in increasing captive populations, the centers have not yet been able to release a captive panda into the wild. However, China’s creation of green corridors and protected habitat areas is slowly helping to reverse the decline and dire situation of the wild panda population.

During my time in Ya’an at Bi Feng Xia, I learned a lot about the giant panda in addition to Chinese culture and daily life. My experience in China last summer was an incredible opportunity to learn about my own heritage and culture as well as these wonderful and beloved creatures. I look forward to working with them again this summer when I return to Chengdu, visiting with Dali, and finding ways to spread awareness of their issues. 

Georgina_Johnson_2013_Summer_Service

Crawford’s Summer Camp Volunteer Work

This summer I volunteered at a foundation created with the goal of providing children with mental disabilities (i.e. Downs Syndrome) with a traditional summer camp experience. For four days, each teen volunteer worked one-on-one with a child with a disability for 24 hours a day to create a strong relationship with one child. We took them canoeing, swimming, and playing games. It was a lot of hard work, because we had to take care of them literally all the time: mealtimes, bedtimes, showers, etc. It was more responsibility than I have ever had before, because there was not a large adult presence, we the volunteers were essentially in charge and completely responsible for our individual camper. However, despite the hard work, it was an amazing experience. The responsibility really prepared me for anything, because I was responsible for another human being for almost a week. I was exhausted by the end of the week, but I was better off because of it. The happiness and carefree nature of the children with crippling disabilities was inspiring, and it was great to have been able to encounter their lives firsthand.

Gordon’s experience with Lunars New Year

Helping out the school with their Lunar New Year celebration has allowed me to obtain a better understanding of the culture. All throughout lower school and middle school, I have attended the Lunar New Years celebration with my family. Even though I have experienced it many times, I had the greatest experience while helping set up the event. I learned exactly what the event accomplished. Helping set up the Lunar New Years event has allowed me to better understand the school’s traditions.

Amanda’s Service with Books and Basketball

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First semester of this year I attended the School for Ethics and Global Leadership in Washington DC.  While there, I participated in a weekly program called Books and Basketball.  Every Wednesday afternoon we went to Thompson elementary school, a Title I DC area school.  We spent 45 minutes each week reading one-on-one or in small groups to dozens of DC’s most underserved 1st and 2nd graders. Afterward, we spent 30 minutes coaching basketball to the same students. Many of the students’ parents do not speak or read English. Many come from challenging economic and/or family situations. For many, this is the only extended one-on-one reading time they are exposed to. Few of them have ever played organized sports, as most of them do not have the financial means to do so.

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Participating in this program was extremely rewarding.  The progress the children made in both reading and basketball was remarkable.  The first day, Evelyn, the girl I read with, was afraid to read.  She was extremely shy and afraid to say anything to me.  I read to her for the first few weeks, until she decided to try herself.  She read slowly, and had trouble with the large majority of the book.  However, each week she improved, trying more and more challenging books.  Each time she finished a book she exuded a sense of pride and accomplishment.  By the end of the semester, she had become a much more confident reader.  In basketball, the first week, the approximately 50 kids scored a collective total of 10 baskets.  We helped them learn the best methods of shooting, by showing them how to hold the ball, plant their feet, etc.  Each week they were eager to practice and improve.  By the end of the semester, the group was scoring a collective total of over 100 baskets.  The pride they felt was very clear.  The relationships we built with the Thompson Elementary School kids was really special, and I feel a sense of accomplishment knowing that I helped them improve two important skills that will help them in the future.

Alex’s Experience Tutoring at George Jackson Academy

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Over the course of the year, I spent fourteen hours tutoring two students at George Jackson Academy, an upper elementary and middle school for boys from lower-income and underserved families.  I tutored both Kai, a 6th grader, and Hunter, an 8th grader, in mathematics.  When I started tutoring after school in December, I initially considered my tutoring to be a necessary chore in order to fill my out-of-school requirement.  However, after only a few sessions, I started to appreciate my visits to GJA, as I began to form strong friendships with Hunter and Kai.  Moreover, I began to care about their academic performance and make sure that they were well prepared for tests.  As we continued to meet, our friendship grew stronger, and they also improve in their mathwork.  I am grateful that I was able to work with Hunter and Kai and look forward to returning to tutor at GJA at the beginning of next year.

If you are interested in tutoring at GJA, I highly recommend it.  Below is a link to the GJA website:

http://www.gjacademy.org/

 

Sam Kalb’s Service Reflection

For the past three years, I have been working with an organization called The Wayfinder Experience. It is a blend of theater, improv, physical activity, and creativity. The basis of the group is L.A.R.P.ing (Live Action Role Play), which is essentially long form improv played for no audience across a landscape. Wayfinder runs a summer camp, as well as monthly off season events. I have worked with them as a volunteer counselor, helping the camp run smoothly and helping out with the kids. At these events my roles have switched largely between two jobs: the first is building the sets and props which they use to make the games look cool, and the second is medical staff, dealing with the injuries that come with letting 8+ year olds play outside all day.

I have loved working for Wayfinder for several reasons. The first is that I honestly enjoy doing the work they give me. I enjoy building things with my hands, being able to craft cool looking objects, etc., and I enjoy the medical role just as much because I received my First Aid/CPR/AED license this year and have enjoyed having a chance to use my newly learned skills, as well as the fact that I plan to take EMT classes upon turning 18 and I love the practice. The second, and probably more important reason, is that Wayfinder fosters a great sense of community. It attracts a huge number of autistic, unstable, or simply troubled children, and it honestly helps. It is the community which largely raised me into who I am, and I have loved having the chance to give back to it.

The Wayfinder Experience