Over spring break I went to Nepal with several other classmates in order to start construction on a school in the rural village of Domalia. It took us two plane rides to get us to Kathmandu and then another one for us to arrive in Dhangadhi, which was the nearest airport to Domalia. The moment we got there the entire town greeted us with music and dances. The first day we participated in a four-hour opening ceremony, broke ground on the school and finally met our home-stay families. We immediately felt accepted in Domalia.
The best part about this trip was working with the community on their new school. I remember that on the first day of work locals had already been at the worksite for hours and had large pits dug up before anyone from Friends Seminary even started to dig. Everyone in the community had the common goal of building this new school to improve the education of future students. Staying with my host families made me want to help build the school even more since I bonded with the students who would be using it. Everyone around the world deserves the ability to learn in a safe and stable environment. This global educational experience was very important to me since I was not only able to learn about a new culture but I actually helped out a community and the future of its education.
Picture of the old school
Breaking ground on the school site.
My host brother and I.
Working on the school.
This spring break I was a part of the Spanish language trip to Peru, a joint ventue between Friends Seminary and Envoys. We had a fantastic time exploring many different communities within the country as well as the natural wonders that Peru has to offer. We also learned from and volunteered with members of these local communities to collaborate on mutually beneficial projects such as planting fruit trees that provided shade, income, food, and fresh air. These service experiences were so valuable to both us as a group and the recipients of our work because we did not come to do help with what we thought the recipients would like, we listened to their needs and used our skills and resources to address their needs as best we could. This difference between coming in to satiate our need to feel good about ourselves and feel that we were good people versus the willingness we showed to understand their issues from their point of view and help only in the capacity that they needed and wanted makes all the difference in the world. The service we did truly felt like it was positively impacting the lives of the people we worked with, and it felt like we were truly addressing the problems that the local populations were dealing with. I remember reading an article several years ago about how much of the aid that first world countries were sending to impoverished third world villages was not actually addressing the issues facing the population, and was merely a way for the donators to feel fufilled, meaningful and good about themselves. And having now done sevice alongside locals who were in charge of the work we did, I can say that service in this fashion is far more rewarding then donating items that one thinks are needed in a community where the people recieving the aid are not even known, let alone acquantances that have been met in person. Taking the time to work with the local population to learn about, asses, and then address the problems they are facing is the most rewarding service bar none, both for the recipient and the volunteer.
This year I have been peer tutoring two freshmen in Spanish, and our experience is one that is very meaningful to me. Being half-Argentinian, Spanish is the language of my grandparents and also the one that my dad grew up speaking. I have always wanted to achieve fluency in Spanish because the language is such a large part of who I am, and i truly enjoy helping other students improve as well. The world is wide open to those who are bilingual, a fact that I know not only from my time in Argentina but also from the last two weeks I spent in Peru over spring break. It is one thing to visit another country to try and understand it’s culture but it is another experience entirely (and a far more rewarding and enriching one) to be able to communicate with the people of that nation and see their world through the daily lives of those who actually live in that country.
And this is why I find our peer tutoring sessions so rewarding, the fact that I can help fellow student develop a skill that allows them to expand their world, interact with people from a different culture while charing a common language. Speaking Spanish allows for opportunities abroad, better job options in their careers, and also an increased knowledge and respect for international cultures. It becomes harder to ignore the problems plaguing the international community when you form connections with new friends abroad, and becoming bilingual is an excellent way to ensure that one never loses sight of the world around them. I’m very grateful that I can share this aspect of my culture with other students and give them the opportunity to experience the world empowered and enriched by a second language.
Statistics are important to the real world because they enable us to assess problems in a mathematical and logical way. In the HOPE count, statistics were essential for analyzing and interpreting the data we picked on Monday night. With the information we collected, the government can make decisions on how much money/resources need to be allocated to homeless problem in New York City.
Before the HOPE count, I was quite naive about shelters. I knew of their existence; however, I did not think they were used very much by the homeless. On Monday, my group encountered very few homeless, and I came to learn that the area we were in had two shelters. Furthermore, some of the people we met were already on their way to a shelter or planning to go. Shelters are integral for helping New York City’s homeless and should received investment from the government.
Hope Count Website:
For my service outreach, I volunteered as a baseball coach at Pier 40. Pier 40 is a baseball camp aimed at children age 6-12; it has been providing excellent opportunities to foster and help cultivate the talent of many young athletes over the years, including me. I went to the camp for 4 years. I still go there several times a week because my baseball team practices there, so I have formed many meaningful bonds with the staff there. Sadly, Hurricane Sandy had a horrific effect on the facility because it is literally on the water. It took 6 months and copies fund raising before the pier opened again, but it was still in a tenuous position. Funds were very limited. So, I decided to volunteer as a coach to ensure that the great tradition was upheld. I think that Pier 40 allows for young kids throughout the city to hone their skills, get exercise, and form lasting memories. My weeks as a coach to the young kids was extremely meaningful to me. Not only did I have a great time mentoring these young children but I also felt that they learned a lot from me. That was in August. Pier 40 is still on its road to full recovery, but it’s in a much better state now. I hope to volunteer again this summer too.
This year I served as an assistant teacher in Rochelle Itzen’s 5th grade flute class. I worked with the students one-on-one to help them improve both their technique and musicality. I acted as a second pair of hands for Rochelle so that she could offer every student a pseudo-private lesson during each class period. Over the year, I saw vast improvement in the kids’ playing ability and watched them progress through the entirety of Suzuki Flute Method’s Book 1.
We are in community each time we find a place where we belong and find we are needed. Peter F. Block
I feel like this quote really addresses my experience with in-school service this year. I’ve worked as a peer tutor before and I’ve really enjoyed it – the process of teaching another student taught me a lot about myself as well. I learned what it must be like for my own teachers to deal with the struggles of the student they attempt to help as I worked with my tutees to overcome the obstacles that courses presented. However, my position as assistant flute teacher gave me a whole new look at my place in the community. Flute is something that I really care about and that is a part of my identity. To be able to share it with a crop of young students made me see how to combine my love of performing arts with a passion for service – this was a job that was specially suited to my skills and interests. It was really rewarding to watch the kids learn how to play and even how to enjoy playing. And at the end of the year when they played the final piece of the book, the pride I felt made me completely forget that I was doing service.
I completed most of my service at the United Nations Human Right Conference in November of 2013. This was a great since I was able to recieve service hours while having fun. In the conference we discussed the current ways in which different groups of people were having their rights taken away from them which was very insightful. This was a great experience and I look forward to participating in it next year.
On Martin Luther King Jr. Day this year, I volunteered at Trinity Place Shelter on 97th and Amsterdam. The shelter serves LGBTQ homeless youth. A group of students and I painted and cleaned the shelter. We also got to learn about the demographics of LGBTQ homeless youth, which I was unfamiliar with. It was interesting to think about how youth does not necessarily mean teenagers–it usually focuses on an age group from about 18-22. Many LGBTQ Youth become homeless because of their transition to the city from more rural areas. The city is extremely expensive, thus the switch from whatever area they are living in is difficult. It was also interesting to get more of a visual of homeless shelters. In many discussions in and out of school, I have found that students casually throw around the word “shelter” as a place for those who do not have housing to immediately go to. Trinity, along with many other shelters, is merely a night stay–people can only live there from about 9 pm to 7 am. Similarly, it can only hold about 15-20 people. While this is a large help, it is a rather small amount in comparison to the thousands who remain without a home. I came out curious how we could change housing policies in the city, as well as how we could increase the capacity of certain homeless shelters in New York.
Here is a photo of me painting one of the columns at Trinity Place Shelter:
I helped with lighting and stage management during the school musical Les Miserables. I decided to help with the show because of my passion for theater and theater tech. I was responsible for running the light board during the show. I was able to help make the musical successful and that meant a lot. I hope to be involved in the Drama program at Friends next year and look forward to what is to come.
Last week was the culmination of the year-long efforts of Friends Seminary Empty Bowls. Empty Bowls worked with the entire community all year long and organized an Ice Cream Social as a fundraiser for Share Our Strength. As a student volunteer, I saw the smiles on kids faces as they ordered ice cream sundaes, parents as they admired the bowls, and everyone who attended as they all helped raise almost $1000 for the fight against hunger. I truly valued the commitment of each and every person who helped in some way and I’m looking forward to bringing in more help from the Friends Community to make this organization even more successful event next year.