I went on the 10th grade backpacking trip. We travelled to Harriman State park by train. Once we got there we started hiking around noon. The first day was pretty hard with a lot of steep hills. It was also a pretty far distance. We arrived at our hiking shelter around 5 pm. The next day we hiked to a lake and then to our next hiking shelter. It was a very leisurely hike and extremely pretty. We had lunch by the lake and a meeting for worship (which was one of the highlights of my trip). However, once we got to the hiking shelter, it was already occupied. We knew it was going to rain that night and so as a group we had to make difficult decisions about where everyone was going to sleep (more to come on that later). The next day we woke up early in order to hike out and catch the 9:15 train. We were able to catch the early train, which everyone was very happy about. We then returned to Friends and unpacked.
I really enjoyed the trip. I felt I learned a lot. I came into the trip expecting to have a terrible time. However, I ended up really liking all the kids on the trip and interacting with them a lot. However, since I was taking the role of a leader and this was their time to bond as a 10th grade ExEd group, I tried not to force myself into conversations too much.
One thing that I did not think about when thinking about my leadership style is what do you do when somebody in the group has to do something that nobody wants to do. I tried to help out by carrying a lot of group gear and cleaning up a lot. However, my true test came the night we did not have a hiking shelter to sleep in. Deanna and Jack presented us with 3 options: hike all the way back to the previous hiking shelter, have a short hike to a large rock outcropping where we could be somewhat sheltered, stay where we were and divide the two tents and the tarp that we had among everyone. The group chose the last option. This option meant that Deanna and Jack would have to sleep outside, the three boys would get a tent, four of the girls would get a tent, and two of the girls would get a tent. This also meant that it looked like one more person would have to sleep outside. I felt that it was my job as a leader to do this. Ultimately, there was room for me under the tarp. However, even though I avoided sleeping outside in the rain, Jack and Deanna did not. I learned that being a leader (to me) means putting yourself in uncomfortable positions when unexpected issues arise. This is something I definitely want to add to my leadership statement.
In my leadership statement I included that I wanted to play a lot of games. We did not play any of the games that I was prepared to play. However, Jack and Deanna had given me movie quotes, and the second night at dinner I made up a guessing game with the movie quotes. I was really happy that everyone got involved. I then also suggested we play a game where someone throws out a word and you think of a song lyric that has that word. Everyone seemed to be having fun and this was a moment where I was proud of my leadership skills.
When looking at my leadership document now I am proud of how I acted. However my first statement was “do not judge”. I definitely judged the people on my trip before I went on it. Luckily I was wrong and they were amazing. This showed me that “do not judge” is an important part of my educational philosophy and I should try and enact it better when I am in group settings. Since I had never been backpacking before, this allowed me not to be controlling or bossy because I did not know anything about our trip. However, I know that this is something I have to avoid when I go on a trip in which I am already adept at the skills needed for the trip.
in the tarp
On February 3rd, during peace week, a small group of students, teachers, and I boarded a bus after school in the rain and drove to Yonkers to volunteer at the AFYA foundation. I knew we were going to help out with the Syrian refugee crisis, but I had no idea exactly how. When we arrived, an employee told us that every day hundreds of pounds of medical supplies from hospitals around the city go unopened and eventually get wasted. Under health codes, medical instruments that are present during surgery and other procedures that don’t get used must be thrown away after the procedure. These supplies get collected into boxes, then AFYA representatives collect those boxes and repurpose them for less well funded hospitals and Doctors Without Borders in third-world regions that are in need of such supplies. Our job was to sort, label, and package the supplies so they could be sent off to the Middle East and Africa. The materials were packaged into duffel bags to be carried with passengers on planes to the region.
We had a great time frantically running and rummaging through the warehouse and it was surely interesting getting my hands on some weird looking and bad smelling medical equipment. I greatly admire how AFYA puts the phrase “one man’s trash is another’s treasure” into effect and manages to reduce waste in New York and increase medicinal outreach all over the world. This experience inspired me to take more into consideration how fortunate I am to have access to expert medical care and think more about ways in which I can reduce my own waste while helping others.
A month after that event, I teamed up with Middle East Club to run a bake sale to support AFYA and we raised a whopping $400 for the organization!
Last year I participated in the BikeMS New York City Bike Tour. The bike tour is a 30-mile bike ride around the Island of Manhattan established by the Multiple Sclerosis Society. To participate in the race, one must raise at least 200 dollars for the fight against MS. I was very fortunate to have raised 5,500 dollars for my bike ride. I accomplished this by sending out emails to my family members and notifying my apartment building and the apartment building next door about my effort against MS. In the end, the money stacked up to an enormous amount and I was promoted to the Elite 200 Club, which was comprised of the top 200 donors in the bike tour. Of the thousands of participants and the 200 top donors, I ranked 60th overall in funds raised. At that moment, I felt elated that all of my hard work raising funds had paid off.
The ride itself started at Chelsea Piers. It then went on a route around Manhattan on the FDR and the West Side Highway. We passed many sights on our route including the United Nations, 1 World Trade Center, and the Brooklyn Bridge. By the end of the ride, I was both exhausted and elated. I was exhausted because the ride took a lot out of me and I was elated because of the large turnout of donors. I would like to thank all my donors and everyone who participates in the fight against MS for giving me this opportunity.
This summer I had a blast doing service. I learned all about the prison industrial complex, mass incarceration, and solitary confinement. These are all dense issues that I learnt about with other highschool and college students. It was a transformative experience because the entire time I didn’t feel like I was doing service. I was learning new things everyday and then putting what I learned into practice. We ended up making a couple of public service announcement videos and documentaries to raise awareness about the issues. The work I did with AFSC allowed for me to get engrossed in the issues and to learn as much as I could while simultaneously putting the knowledge to action. I got to meet so many different people all working for and learning about the same issue. It was one of the best experiences of my life. I would encourage anyone to definetly learn more by going to afsc.org.
At RDS the kids dressed up us in traditional Paho (the tribe most of them were from) clothing. The clothing is meant to look like a dragon.
Playing ninja with the kids
Silly Group Photo
This summer, I spent a month in Myanmar traveling with Rustic PathwaysI was able to participate in a variety of service projects. While all the projects did have an impact on me, the most meaningful was the time I spent at RDS.
RDS stands for Rural Development Society. RDS operates a children’s home in the small city of Kalaw. Most of the children are sent there to have access to a better education. RDS was founded by Tommy Aung Ezdani, who even though I barely got to meet him, I saw a light in him that was incredibly special. He truly cares for each one of the children at the home. On top of that, he is also the head of the NLD (National League for Democracy) in Shan State.
There were several girls at RDS who were around my age. At first it was very awkward and communication was hard. I began rambling and hoping that they would understand some of the things that I said. However, true friendship began to emerge after I explained that one of my friends had accidentally touched our leader Dave’s butt in a game of ninja. From there, we sang and danced to One Direction and created a hand game for the little kids in which the losers had to dance. After my two days at RDS it felt as if I had actually made a connection with these girls and broken the communication barrier.
For Service Day in May, I traveled with a group of other juniors to the Bronx, where we packaged food to be sent out to food pantries across the city. After watching an educational video on the organization, we went into the warehouse and split into groups, with a couple students constructing boxes, others loading ham, beef, and turkey into the boxes, and the rest packing them up and arranging the boxes of meat on a tray to be delivered out. After three hours work we packaged more than 12,000 pounds of meat.
I really enjoyed the experience since I felt like I was directly contributing to the community. Though it was tiring to stand and work for three hours straight, I was impressed with the amount of meat we were able to package and send out. I felt like it was incredibly important work and would love to do it again the next year.
During Service Day this year I had quite the experience. My grade was supposed to do service that helped fight hunger and I felt like this would be interesting. It was the knowledge I gained that is. The work was tedious. We packed more ham than I could’ve imagined. I never want to eat ham again. Yet at the end of the day I felt like we accomplished something and that the day was a success. Then we came back to school to watch the movie on hunger and I was distraught. It made everything I did seem obsolete. It let me know that the way we fight hunger will never work. It let me know that great changes need to be made because what we do now is only a temporary solution. This made me sad at first but as I thought about it I realized this movie shows that people are aware of this problem though. And then I thought because I watched I am one more person aware who can go out into the world and make other aware.
“Stewardship is a coming together of our major testimonies. To be good stewards in God’s world calls on us to examine and consider the ways in which our testimonies for peace, equality, and simplicity interact to guide our relationships with all life.” –John Woolman c. 1770
Over the summer, I had the absolute pleasure of doing a community service program with Rustic Pathways in Thailand. I did two programs in which I did community service the first being Intro to Community Service and the second was the Wilderness First Responder program. During my time in Thailand, I worked on a variety of different service projects, my favorite being Bobbing and Floating where we taught Thai kids how to swim (preventing accidental drowning a main cause of death in Southeast Asia). However, the memory from my service that sticks out the most was from another service project called Welcome Homes. Over the course of the summer Rustic Pathways had been building a home for an elderly couple in the community, who were in need of a place to live. I was privileged enough to see the home get finished and perform a traditional Thai house warming ceremony. The ceremony was attended by two of the couple’s friends, one of which changed my perspective on life. She was an elderly woman who lived alone and she had the best spirit of anyone I had ever seen. While we were performing the housewarming ceremony, she was hooting and hollering and making all her friends laugh. She gave everyone the biggest hugs and nicest compliments. I found out that she used to be a teacher and that now despite her old age she opens one of the local bars every night. We made an immediate connection despite the language barrier, and she even invited me over to her home to eat lunch. Although, I could not go eat with her, I know that I want to develop a spirit and perspective on life like hers. One that is fun, looks past the bad events, and is always willing to laugh and have a good time.
The old woman talking to me while preforming a traditional Thai string ceremony.
Earlier this year, I attended the HELP dinner which was an organised event to interact with young adults from a nearby group home. I assisted in the decoration of the cafeteria as well as cooking the meal which we ate all together. I found this service opportunity to be very enjoyable as I got to interact with other teenagers who live in the same city as I do. While we ate dinner, we talked to each other about our friends and what music we liked as well as which sport teams we supported. After dinner, as cookies and sweets were handed out, we played a group game of pictionary which ended up being the central source of amusement for the night as people were excited by what they would draw next. Overall, this was a really fun service opportunity as I got to cook a meal with my friends and then get to know other people my age as we all ate together.
For six saturdays spanning October to December I volunteered at the GO project. I was located in a third grade classroom at LREI, helping teach 12 or so eight year olds, sometimes less depending on the day. I arrived at 9:15, set-up with the teacher, Jennifer, then helped teach the kids until around 12:45.
I loved fworking with the kids. All of them are from low income families and struggle during school with reading, spelling, and math. Every saturday we would give them different exercises to work on their skills. It was incredible to see the kids grow and learn. Many of them improved greatly with more specialized attention, which they weren’t receiving during school. I looked forward to working with the kids every saturday, and I definitely plan to volunteer next year.