This spring I began volunteering with the 9C Community Garden and Park . On the Sundays when the service opportunity was offered, I went to this garden that Christel Johnson is a member of and helped weed, sweep, decorate, and clean. Before this opportunity I had never sought to garden. I saw gardening as a sweaty, humid activity that would get me covered in dirt. Through volunteering with this Community Garden I realized that gardening is more about community and enjoying the outdoors. Living in New York City, we don’t get much of a chance to experience nature unless we make an excursion to a park or are lucky enough to have a house outside of the city to visit. This small community garden gives people an opportunity to be around plants and trees and sunshine right in the middle of the city. Neighbors come together and get to know each other as friends, and the basic act of planting something, or decorating a plot, or sweeping up a walkway to make the garden all the more beautiful is therapeutic and a wonderful break from the hectic rush of city life. Another plus is that the garden is located in Alphabet City, an area I almost never visit and that is covered in interesting restaurants, gardens, and art. I hope to visit the 9C Community Garden and Park often this summer when I am in the neighborhood, and I plan to return to volunteer whenever the opportunity is offered by Christel. I encourage anyone to do the same.
I volunteered to help out at the Spring Fair at Friends. Initially there was not a lot for us to do, but we eventually got assigned to manning the bouncy house. It was our job to line the kids up, split them into groups of six, and lead them in a countdown to signify that the previous group’s time was up. It was hectic to say the least, but it was amusing to interact with the children. We had the opportunity to connect with younger students, which is rare as an upper schooler. I remember how exciting it was for me, as a lower schooler, to attend events like the Spring Fair, so it was a nostalgic experience. It was a great way to spend a beautiful day.
On Tuesday, April 29, I and the rest of my grade of sophomores partnered with Scenic Hudson for Service Day. Scenic Hudson is a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting and restoring the Hudson River and the Hudson River Valley. We arrived slightly early to school that day, at 8 am in the Meetinghouse, and we sat by advisory. We were then placed into buses and drove off to Beacon, specifically, Long Dock Park, where we met the Scenic Hudson Staff and divided into working groups, once again organized by advisory. Along with a few of my fellow advisees, we took a long walk across a path, where we primarily focused on picking up pieces of trash and litter that was so carelessly left. Since there was lots of trash and it was a long path, the entire process of picking up trash took at least an hour or two. After the long walk, we headed back to where we first began, and had lunch with the rest of the grade nearby. After lunch, we went back to work, this time raking leaves and cutting branches. It was slightly less organized after lunch, and I split up to work with fellow students outside my advisory. After a couple of strenuous hours of work cutting branches and raking leaves, we all left Scenic Hudson and returned to school.
I had lots of fun during Service Day. I found that doing community service can be fun and all you need is a positive mental attitude for it to be so. I had lots of fun talking with a bunch of other students I don’t often talk to, and also with some of my fellow advisees. It seemed as though once our grade worked as a community to accomplish multiple and various tasks at hand, nothing could prevent us from doing so. Service Day was a great experience for me and I look forward to participating in it next year.
A few weeks ago, I participated in Friends Seminary’s annual Big Fat Service Day. I had lots of fun working with students of all ages at the school, from Seniors to 4th graders. I started in the morning with preparing meals for guests of the Friends Shelter, as well as coloring birthday cards for God’s Love We Deliver. Then there was a half-hour break for lunch; however, I did not feel as though I was in dire need of nutrition, so a few seniors and I decided to go and make rainbow loom bracelets. At first none of us had the slightest idea of how to do make these bracelets; however, with the help of the rest of the community (middle schoolers and parent chaperons), we were able to make a total of 56 bracelets. I then went down to the ceramics room, where a bunch of people were making pottery bowls for Empty Bowl’s anti-hunger event that would take place later in May. I had taken ceramics as a visual art during this year’s first semester, so I was pretty experienced in making bowls, and continually sought to help out with much younger kids who were eager to make them. While of course I at first would not have considered service at Friends to be the ideal way to start a Saturday, I had lots of fun and learned a lot from the day. I realized how effective and efficient working as a community is, and how fun it can be to do service and help out others who are not as privileged as us.
This past March, I got the privilege to work with Project Cicero. Project Cicero is an organization that accepts donated books and then sorts them into groups. After the sorting is completed, teachers come to choose from the sorted books for their own classrooms. The sorting is a very complicated and detailed process; however, once you are doing for about 10 minutes you get the hang of which books go in what group. The environment is a very supportive one and there are always people there willing to help you find the proper group for books if you are ever unsure. While the room became very hectic at points, the organization was overall a well oiled machine. At any given point it can seem like not much is being done, but by the end of the four hours, the room will have transformed from a pile of thousands to books to lots of organized boxes of books stacked neatly into piles.
I worked with Project Cicero two days this year. On my first day I was assigned to organize books. We would take books from old boxes and sort the books into fresh, new boxes. I would grab a stack of books at a time and walk around sorting multiple at a time rather than grab one each time. I did this for about an hour and felt very rewarded after sorting hundreds of books. However, this was not the end of my contributions. Soon, I got pulled over by someone that worked with the organization and got asked to helped crush old boxes that could not be reused. This process involved stepping on and ripping apart books. This is another one of the positions a volunteer could occupy for Project Cicero. Not only are there these two, fun and rewarding positions but there are others as well if you are looking for a more relaxed position or a more heavy lifting one. Book sorting and box crushing can get pretty intense at points, but there is box lifting for a more heavy lifting job and box checking for a more relaxed job. Box checking is where people sit by boxes and double check that all the books inserted into the book is in its proper group. My first day was pretty relaxed compared to the first since the teachers did not come on the first day.
My second day, I returned to crushing boxes and even got assigned to moving dumpsters up and down from our room and the basement. While, this job seems pretty gross, you really develop a relationship with the other people you are working with and are constantly in motion so you don’t even realize the dirt on your hands. Throughout my second day, I shifted back and forth between sorting books and box crushing. With all the teachers visiting every 30 minutes, book sorting was much more intense the second day and would stop when the teachers entered which is when I would return to box crushing. Honestly, I found the environment to be warm and welcoming and you are almost never standing still so definitely come prepared to work, but by the end the work is very rewarding and you will truly feel like you made a huge contribution to the overall goal.
I participated in the Sports Bra Challenge Sponsored by the Seak Foundation. Seak is a non for profit organization dedicated to empowering women to not determine self worth based on their appearance. The members of Seak address this issue by encouraging women to become active so that they can feel more comfortable as themselves, no matter what they look like. At Friends Seminary, I belong to a club that is called Seak, which practices the same ideas as the larger Seak foundation. That is why we all participated in the sports bra challenge. The challenge was an all day fitness event in Union Square where everyone spins together wearing only sports bras. To participate everyone must rent a bike, and the prices vary based on the location. All donations and proceeds from the event go towards women, different events, and the SEAK Builds Confidence Project, which is a project where the foundations joins forces with a school that does not have a gym or any fitness programs. The entire sports bra
challenge, was a incredible up lifting experience, and I am glad the club I belong to could contribute to such a remarkable cause.
Watching Girl Rising and participating in the 9th grade service-learning project has been an eye-opening experience for me. We worked to raise money to send a girl in Uganda to school through the organization Connect to Learn. We did this by having two bake-sales and by having a suggested donations table at the Girl Rising screening. We also communicated with children at the Kisyoro School in Uganda, and talked about issues in our societies and ways to solve them.
This experience has made me realize just how lucky everyone in the Friends community is. I realized how easy it is for me to take my education for granted and sometimes even think of it as a burden. When learning about girls who would do anything to be educated, it makes me feel ashamed for the countless times I have complained about my homework or not taken full advantage of the educational opportunities that are available to me. It meant so much to me to be able to participate in this project to give another girl the same opportunities I have.
When I signed up for volunteering with a third grade classroom during their library time I first thought it would be an easy, fun way to finish my service. I didn’t think of it as too big of a commitment, only as something to do once a week surrounded by something I enjoy: reading. I showed up on the first day and was immediately thrown into working with a whole group of eight year olds who were complete strangers to me. I sat down in one of the child sized chairs as Constance the librarian taught the lesson about books in different cultures around the world. I was hesitant to talk to them, not wanting to seem imposing or condescending.
Constance asked me to read to them one day, and I found myself getting nervous as I read a riddle book. I reminded myself that they were just third graders. They weren’t judging me. They sang songs in front of each other and weren’t embarrassed about it. Before I read the book a few of the girls came up and clung onto me, and I realized that I was really happy volunteering with these kids. I was making library time easier for Constance while enjoying myself and getting to help out. I would recommend my favorite books to them and talk to them about authors.
I took on a leadership position when I volunteered with the third grade class and I discovered that I could be a leader, even if it was only with eight year olds. I can look back at this experience as a lesson for the future.
In history class this year we researched the Millennium Development Goals and on top of that made presentations for one of the schools within a millennium village, the kisyoro school. Researching about the kisyoro school was very interesting because it opens my world up from the dense, populated city of new york to the rural country of Africa. It was interesting to learn more specifics and details about not necessarily that many schools like the kisyoro are impverished, but the fact that times are changing and with the help of the millennium development goals the poverty and general problems within Africa and the entire world as a whole can be fixed from its negative state into a better world.
In 9th Grade History, I volunteered to direct the incoming people to the Meeting House and, like everyone else, researched the MDGS and the MVPS as well as making voice threads and blog posts to communicate with the Kysioro School. In this year long service project, I learned more about how people my age live in different parts of the world. It became clear to me the things that I grow used to, take for granted and sometimes even hate, are privileges rare in places like Uganda or any of the places the Girl Rising movies addressees. I learned to appreciate everyday things like school or free speech since people don’t have it. I now appreciate the fact that my life necessities are at my disposal and I don’t have to work night and day to get them. These service projects have taught me to appreciate the things that I looked at as given, as a privilege I share with my friends. The voice threads, however, connected me to these people and really made me see the humanity behind these problems and think about how these people are not far away. It made me see how they’re just like us and that these problems you read about on the news isn’t some distant story that does not affect us, these are people who you can help and communicate with. The MDGS and MVPS, in short, made me realize what the problems where. The Voicthreads and blogposts made me realize how close we are to the problem and our work with the Connect To Change Foundation, made me realize what I can do to help.