Over the summer, I volunteered with Lenox Hill Hospital on the Upper East Side. I was part of a high school summer program. I worked on the Intensive Care Unit visiting with patients throughout the floor. I was able to interact with patients and their families and help when they needed a hand or an errand. Not only was I able to help with patients, but I also got to help out with the organization of the unit. In the mornings, I would restock the floors with gloves and gowns and help the clerk on the unit. Through this experience, I was exposed to how a hospital worked and the endless professions within it. I enjoyed this experience because of the relationships I was able to build with not only the patients, but with the nurses and the other people that make up a hospital.
Over the summer I volunteered at my Tibetan school’s summer camp program. During that time, I was able to help teach young Tibetan students on Tibet’s rich culture and language.
One of the best things I was able to do while volunteering was to help teach the younger campers how to sing and dance a Tibetan zodiac dance. Not only did they perform the dance superbly, but they also learned how to say the 12 zodiac animals and what each animal does in Tibetan. I was able to play the music for this dance, and I’m still amazed by how quickly these campers learned the song and dance.
I was able to not only learn how to play the “piwang”, or better known as the Chinese “erhu”, but to also play the piwang for a final summer camp group song. Lastly I helped create (fake) instruments for the older campers’ dances, and Tibetan masks for the Lhamo (Tibetan opera). During this time, I was able to learn about the history of Tibetan arts, and how it has changed over time.
I was so thrilled to still be a part of my old summer camp, and to be able to learn more about my heritage while helping to teach others as well.
Every year at Friends, the school creates bags for Gods Love We Deliver. Gods Love We Deliver is an organization that delivers food to those who are too sick to cook or shop for themselves. As a way to show that there are people out there for them and to put a smile on their faces, Friends decorates bags that will be given to those involved with the organization. They receive the bags over the holidays and hopefully it brightens their day. Eighth period one day in December, my entire grade decorated bags. Everyone in school was involved and it really brought the community together. After the decorating was over, all the beautiful bags were hung on the ceiling of the meeting house. It looked very pretty and the tradition of the community decorating bags and then hanging them is something I really enjoy about Friends.
So this past summer I had the opportunity to have an amazing experience, in China. I, and a bunch of other participants in the ICEP program were able to travel to three cities in China. Over the course of a month, we had the opportunity to teach over 200 kids some basic English. My favorite kid, was Joe. Joe was the bomb. He was a super active guy. He was like 7 and all he wanted to do was learn English and be with us. In the first week in china, we were pretty tired. We slept on the bus to and from the various schools. Joe, who rode the bus with us, would wake us up and say “play games?”. All he would say. He was super good at a ton of games though. His favorite being “Ninja”. I spent a ton of hours playing games and teaching joe english. Watching his vocabulary grow. He was a good kid. Being 7-8, he didn’t have any contact information. I haven’t seen or heard Joe since I saw him at the train station. But, I still remember Joe. Fantastic kid.
In late April, I worked with MillionTreesNYC on forest restoration day, focusing on stewardship and caring for young forests that have already been planted. In this endeavor, MillionTreesNYC and NYC Parks are joined by the Natural Areas Conservancy, a non-profit organization whose sole focus is to enhance and preserve the natural areas of New York City, including forests, wetlands, marshlands and other natural resources critical to protecting the city’s shorefront from storms such as Sandy. The organization also helps care for new forest trees in natural areas by removing invasive weeds and vines, picking up garbage, and mulching. Looking back on this day, although it was a pain to get up to Van Cortland Park in the Bronx, it was 100% worth it. Not only are trees necessary for our survival, but they look beautiful and add a sense of beauty and purity to places that may have before seemed otherwise. I am happy that I was part of an event that not only helped preserve wildlife, but create it too.
After working with God’s Love we Deliver for several years now, I knew exactly what I was walking in to with this service event. Me and a bunch of my friends decided that Birthdays in a Box would not only be a fun experience, but also that it would be nice to be able to bring joy to someone just by writing them a letter, drawing them a picture, or putting napkins and other necessities for a party in a box. After helping pack things such as utensils and napkins into boxes, I did something more creative- I wrote cards to the kids. I am happy that I was able to participate in such a well organized and fun event, and I’m happy that I could bring happiness to someone through the actions of me and my friends (it was a joint effort).
Last week I participated in a service event in which I donated and organized books- the event was called Project Cicero Book Distribution. I along with other volunteers helped Project Cicero organize, display and distribute gently-used children’s books to teachers from under-resourced public schools in NYC. I brought nearly 10 books mainly for kids in Kindergarten or 1st Grade. Afterwards I stayed to organize books and put them in boxes to be shipped to the under-resources schools.
Looking back on this event, although it may not have been as labor-intensive as other events, it was just as significant in the scheme of service. I am glad that I was part of the attempt to help underprivileged children, whose schools don’t have the resources to obtain these resources- in this case the “resources” being books. I haven’t read these books in over 10 years and wasn’t planning to any time soon and without a doubt this was the best possible thing to do with them.
A few weeks ago the school hosted a service day in which we made bracelets, made bowls, created birthday cards, etc. I came in to school with my brother not knowing what I was going to do, and ended up being pleasantly surprised. Instead of long, tedious service like I have experienced in the past, this was much more exciting and entertaining. In addition, knowing that the bowls we made would be used and sold, other than feeling pressure (just kidding) to make a quality bowl, it was fulfilling to finish something I was proud of and I knew would help those in need, or who need something to eat cereal or ice-cream in! All in all, I am happy I attended such a fun service event, and I’m happy my hard work was for a good cause!
On the day of service that the school set up we went upstate to work with people committed to help preserve the Hudson River, the wildlife within it, and the nature surrounding it. After a long bus ride, nearly two hours long, we finally arrived. We split up by advisory and my advisory was assigned with the task of cleaning up the edge of the river, i.e. picking up trash. We put all of the trash that was either in the river or beside it into trash bags, and then gave them to the people working there. We picked up everything from beer cans to loose string, but regardless of what we found or how much we found we were aiding others’ in the attempt to clean up the Hudson River.
Looking back on the process I am actually really glad that I was able to partake in such an experience. As a New Yorker I know how polluted the Hudson River is and although it may have seemed tedious and even boring at times during the event, looking back I am happy to know that I helped clean up the river that I, along with thousands of others, see every day, even if it was a small amount.
Last Saturday, I helped with check in at the reunion held at Friends. I did not expect to be as inspired as I did by all of the alumni–what they have gone on to do with their lives after Friends, and the memories that they had from the school. A couple of the alumni even began tearing up when they arrived, after either seeing the massive changes in the school since they were here or simply the flood of memories that came when they walked in. I hope that I was able to make an impact on the alumni by showing them what a current Friends Seminary student is like–something that I am extremely proud to call myself. Being a new student this year, I have really felt such a sense of community, and I hope that I, too, like the alumni, will return to Friends one day and remember that unique sense of community as they did. Seeing how fondly they remembered the school and their time here inspired me to make the most of my time at Friends, as I know that I will remember it as fondly after I graduate.