published on sept 30th, 2018, 11:24pm
This past summer, I volunteered to be a junior counselor at Green Acre Bahá’í School in Eliot, Maine, for Camp Green Acre, a camp for middle school-aged children who were coming to learn more about the Bahá’í Faith and to meet new friends and enjoy each other. Throughout my week at Green Acre, I was responsible for bringing kids to various activities, making sure they were well fed, making sure they were safe, teaching them about the Faith, and ultimately, being a good and close friend to them, as well as a solid role model (I tried my best to fulfill that last one:)). Besides spending time with the campers, I also spent a day editing a music video that I and some of the other counselors made with the Digital Arts interest group at camp, (the kids were all asked to sign up for different groups that they were interested in, I was responsible for looking over the Digital Arts group along with some other counselors) that was made along the song Colors by Jason Derulo, written for the World Cup. Finally, when I wasn’t spending time with my and the rest of the campers, I was spending time with my co-counselors, many of which were youth that I had met before, but many were also new people I had never met before, and were so happy to meet and share amazing times with. I was so honored to spend a week of my time at Green Acre, and I can’t wait to go back and serve there again.
This summer I was fortunate enough to work with Projects Abroad and travel to Cambodia and participate in a public health program for a month. Cambodia, one of the poorest Asian countries, is underdeveloped compared to the rest of southeast Asia and many Cambodian people rarely, if ever, have access to a doctor or proper medicine. I spent two weeks in the country’s capitol, Phnom Penh. In Phnom Penh I spent most days traveling to some of the cities least funded schools and performed basic check ups on children aged 5 to 10. Most of these children came from farming families and many had wounds which had become or were becoming infected. A major component of the check ups was cleaning and disinfecting these wounds in an effort to mitigate the odds of amputation. My group always had professional doctors with us and we were therefore allowed to prescribe some medication as well as give children necessary vitamins to fight the all-too-present malnutrition many Cambodian children face. After we completed our medical work for the day we usually had time to interact and play with the children. My group also went to a rehabilitation center for HIV+ patients who often also had mental and/or physical disabilities. At the rehabilitation center we took blood pressure, checked heart rate, and tested the blood sugar of the patients. This experience was especially moving for me.
After spending two weeks in Phnom Penh, I travelled to a much more rural part of Cambodia in the province of Kampong Speu. In the Cambodian countryside I did more medical work in rural schools and slept at the house of a local family. The check up work in the schools was roughly the same as the work in Phnom Penh. Other than working in schools, my group would travel into areas so rural that children did not go to school and the families all worked on their farms. The children there did not attend school and thus we would go from house to house in small villages and perform checkups in yards and on porches in order to get to them. It was here that I felt like our work in Cambodia was most important. My trip to Cambodia taught me an unspeakable amount and I experienced so many things I had not encountered before.
Projects Abroad Cambodia Link: https://www.projects-abroad.org/volunteer-destinations/volunteer-cambodia/high-school-specials/medicine-and-healthcare/public-health/
Over the summer, I volunteered Green Acre Baha’i School, a center of learning for Baha’i youth and children and a popular summer camp for Baha’is around the world. During my time there, I was a co-counselor for young children who were around ten years old, and my fellow counselors, the class teacher and I spent about five days teaching the kids about the meaning and the act of tolerance. Oftentimes we would read quotes from the prophet of the Baha’i Faith, Baha’u’llah, about tolerance, as well as quotes from other significant figures in the Baha’i Faith, such as Shoghi Effendi.
Through the time I was there, I made great friends with both my co-counselors and the children I was teaching. Sometimes I would sit with them during lunch, and we would talk about the class materials or just our lives in general. While I was there, I also met many long-lost friends, one of which was the class teacher I was working with who had taught me at Green Acre many years ago. It was wonderful to see her again and to catch up on all the time we hadn’t seen each other. As always though, the time I was in Green Acre quickly ran out, and before I knew it I had to leave. I was sad, but I made sure I would come back soon. Green Acre is such a wonderful place; it’s spiritually uplifting and it’s one of the best places to meet new friends and see old ones, and I can’t wait to go back and serve again.
Earlier this year, I volunteered to work at the lower school halloween party. Attending friends lower school, I remember how much I loved the halloween party and wanted to be help now that I was able to. I worked on the haunted house. With other students, we decorated the PE hallway, handed out candy, and tried to scare the little kids coming through (not too scary though). It was great to be apart of this fun day for these children.
I’m a new student this year in 9th grade, and participating in the Youth Philathropy and Intiative project was both a very rich learning experience and a wild roller coaster. My group and I spent weeks trying to find a non-profit to sponsor for the YPI competition, but unfortunately even though all of us reached out as far as we could, none of the organizations we contacted responded to us. Even though we couldn’t campaign, I learned quite a lot from this year’s YPI. I’ve been participating in acts of service all my life, and not many have been as rich as this in respect to gaining experience with working with people and organizations around you. We had to formally call each of the non-profits that we chose, something that I had never done before but I learned a great deal from. Watching my other groups work hard and collaborate with each other to campaign for their non-profit allowed to observe and enjoy the reward of the people who the non-profits were helping. Overall, I enjoyed participating in YPI, and even though I won’t be participating in it next year, I’m excited to see what new opportunities await the young students who will campaign for their future partners.
As a new ninth grader, I enjoyed working with the Youth and Philanthropy Initiative. I think I now fully understand the mission of this organization and I do believe in the idea of connecting adolescents to social issues. By not only introducing high schoolers to what may be unfamiliar social issues, but also giving them freedom to choose individual organizations which work against social issues that they are passionate about it is an effective way for high schoolers to become involveled.
I also enjoyed hearing about the ideas and organizations that other groups came up with and found. I was fortunate enough to be a judge during the final round, and being able to have a say in which wonderful organization won the grant was a great experience. Being able to listen to my peers present their passion in specific social issues was powerful and enabled me to learn about various social issues. Listening to the presentations made by other groups was my favorite part of service day.
A few weeks ago, the ninth grade had the pleasure of participating in the YPI project. Although my group did not make it to the finals, we we still got to watch our classmates present their charities. Listening to the 10 groups, I realized that I did not want the money to go to one single charity. I had become so enthralled in each presentation that I thought that each charity deserved the 5000 dollars. At the end of the day, I felt more involved in the New York community having learned about all different types of charities my classmates were involved in. I felt a strong desire to improve my community and give to those who are less fortunate. Although only one group could win the 5000 dollars, I felt like it didn’t matter which group would win because in the end people in need would receive the help that they needed.
For the 9th grade YPI service project, my group decided to work with the Coalition for the Homeless. When we visited the Coalition, we were welcomed with kindness and were impressed by their many programs. We learned that not only did they help homeless people directly by providing them with shelter and food, they sought to end homelessness by attacking changing the laws of NYC to accommodate homeless people better. I grew much more enthusiastic about helping the Coaltition as our visit went on and was touched by the stories they told us about helping their clients. Now when I see homeless people on the streets, I try not to ignore them and give them any spare change I have. Working with the coalition really changed my perspective on homeless people.
I have been involved with Kidz Theater, a non-profit teen theater organization, since my sophomore year and have had some of my most meaningful learning experiences there. Being a non-profit institution, KT’s revenue derives from ticket sales, classes, and donations. The professionals and kids alike who volunteer devote massive amounts of time and energy to producing great art and fostering an incredible, loving, supportive, professional, learning environment.
On this day in particular, all of the technical elements of the show that I’m in, “Legally Blonde,” had to be loaded into the theater and set up. Students from New Jersey, Staten Island, Long Island, and other locations made the trek, despite school and travel fare, to arrive at the theater and help focus lights, paint set pieces, clean up the dressing rooms, and facilitate the transition from rehearsal room to theater space. It was creative in both senses, as the show came together before our eyes. I learned new technical skills, became friends with more of the staff, and developed closer relationships with my fellow cast mates. People who weren’t even in the show came by just to say hello and lend a hand! It’s amazing how art will bring people together like that. It was a tiring, beautiful time, full of hard work, collaboration, dedication, communication, and selflessness, values that Friends has imparted on me throughout my years here and that I hope to take with me as I travel and grow in life.