Anna’s Service Reflection: The Chalk Walk & Street Harassment Art Installation

When we (the Service Committee, R.A.N.E., and Feminists at Friends) began our work, I think some people in our community didn’t understand why street harassment was something that we were even talking about. Why spend time raising awareness of street harassment when the world has bigger problems?

For the answer to that question, we turned to the men, women, and gender non-conforming members of our community who have experienced street harassment. We looked within ourselves and gave voices to experiences that, for some of us, were once an enormous source of shame.

Growing up in New York City, I (and most or all of the girls and women I know) experienced street harassment at a very young age– around eleven years old. And it’s not only uncomfortable, it’s scary. It’s scary when someone exploits your vulnerability and forces their image of you upon you. You may see yourself as a kid, but what happens when someone stares, howls, hisses, or says sexually explicit things to you when you’re walking to school? What happens as a result of the rape culture you’ve grown up in? Most of us blame ourselves. We think abut what we were wearing or how we were walking, when in reality we are not to blame at all.

The Chalk Walk and the Art Installation were both successful in many ways. The Chalk Walk brought together a group of students to spread a message of respect across the neighborhood. We wrote phrases of our own making and phrases suggested by Hollaback! (an international anti-street harassment organization). Some included: “MY DRESS IS NOT A YES” and “MY NAME IS NOT HEY BABY.” The Art Installation in the Quaker Library provided an important physical space to safely meditate on an issue that, by nature, is rooted in discomfort and an absence of a sense of safety in public spaces. The photographs, text messages, poetry and audio recordings of personal stories from the community were all very moving. I felt extremely lucky to be part of both of these projects.

Volunteers for Peace: Alex’s Summer Service

This summer, I worked with the organization Volunteers for Peace in Ham, a small village in the Picardie region of France. My job was to help restore the Chateau D’Ham, a castle that had been destroyed by the Germans in World War I. I got to Ham on August 1st, quite unsure as to what was in store for me and found that I wasn’t the only one with these thoughts. I was to be working with kids my age from all over the world. I was sharing a tent with kids from Spain, Turkey, Italy, and Mali, so conversation at first was difficult; however, we all were able to speak to each other through a mixture of English, French, German, and Spanish.

After settling in, we began our work, which was mostly all outside, except for some work done on the interior of the castle. I began my work in the garden, building a wall that had been severely worn down. I had to make cement, something I had never done before, which I found quite fun. After working on the wall, I dug. I dug a lot! For about three days, I cleared a giant hill of dirt that needed to be removed so that the wall could continue. Work was tiring; however, the down time that I had with the rest of the group was very entertaining. The leaders of the project helped provide activities that everyone could participate in. Games of soccer were organized, cards were played, and on the weekends there were excursions to many different places.

Our weekends were very informative. We traveled to World War I battle sites, museums, and graveyards, which informed us to the historical context for the work we were doing. It was interesting to learn of the severity of the events that took place in the location that we were staying. Besides learning about the history of France, we also learned about French culture. During meals, volunteers were assigned different jobs. Some cooked, some cleaned, and some set the table. When cooking, two old French ladies helped prepare meals that were both local to the region and also favorites. The French cheese was not something that I would want to take back with me! My favorite trips were to the towns of Amiens and Chambly. Whilst in Amiens, we watched the Amiens Cathedral light show, where the cathedral’s impressive facade was lit up in an impressive technicolor light show. In Chambly, we went to a Ligue 3 French football game. Even though the players were only semi-professional, it was still fun to feel like I was a part of everyday French life.

When my work concluded, I was very happy with what I had done. We had completely rebuilt a wall of the castle and had improved it’s facade immensely by replacing many of the bricks. Others who had worked with the group had massively rebuilt the garden, with new beds for prospective flowers everywhere. This trip was like no other for me. I learned about history, improved my language skills, and also experienced a culture that was almost completely new to me. I will not forget this experience.

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website for volunteers for peace: https://vfp.org/

Evan at Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen

This summer I worked at Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen, where I helped feed 1000 hungry New Yorkers every day.  Holy Apostles’ mission is to feed the hungry, comfort the afflicted, seek justice for the homeless, and provide a sense of hope and opportunity to those in need.  It was great to take part of such a nice foundation that helps those in need everyday.  I helped the soup kitchen by doing many jobs, like cleaning dishes, collecting food, wait on tables, and participate in handing out food on the assembly line.  Volunteering gave me a sense of fulfillment and happiness, especially when I saw the smiles of people who were enjoying a delicious meal.