Jake’s Service Reflection

One of the most interesting experiences I had doing service this year was at the People’s Climate March in September. I didn’t march with the Friends group – instead, I helped my cousin, a videographer, document the event (here’s the link). Participating in the march was a powerful experience. Here were 400,000 concerned citizens taking over the busiest streets in the city to demand change (I was particularly impressed that the march shut down 42nd street). Environmental issues are a strong interest of mine, although traditional grass roots activism like this is not something I often do. I am generally more interested in the pragmatic aspects like policy change and technological innovation. Still, I was really happy about the March’s high profile, and I felt that participating in a it was a worthwhile thing to do. The March helped to highlight an important UN environmental conference, and it also came less than a year before the Paris environmental summit this summer. I felt that as a participant and documentarian of the event, I was reminding our political leaders that the public is serious about climate change.

 

Linus Service Reflection

Last Summer I went on a service trip to Alaska. I stayed in a very small Athabaskan community of less than 100 people, which was located about five hours from Fairbanks. The trip was very fun, and it was very interesting to see how a culture with almost no access to American pop culture functioned. I spent a lot of time with the inhabitants of the community, and was honored to be a part of many of their traditions. It was also enjoyable to hunt and fish with the elder members of the village, their only source of food being what they can hunt or grow themselves. Constructing a 15′ x 25′ outdoor cooking facility was a rewarding experience, and I enjoyed doing many different parts of the construction. My time in Alaska has affected the way I view many aspects of living in such a different place (New York City).

My Nepal Experience

A large part of the overall trip experience had to be the traveling. We spent a good amount of time on planes and in airports half-delirious and sleep deprived. Arriving in Abu Dhabi airport was my first experience of culture shock on the trip, being surrounded by a culture other than your own and trying to use pleasantries of your own language only to realize that they don’t speak your language (a bad habit that lasted at least 3 days).

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Our initial entrance into Kathmandu after picking up our luggage was a little surreal. We were all tired and it was very dark when we got into the van and rode through the city to Hotel Himalaya Yoga.

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After exploring the city of Kathmandu for a day, we flew to Dhungadi and prepared ourselves for the proceeding four days in the village of Dhumaliya. We were given a small language book, a lesson of simple Tharu phrases, and new Nepalese names. (Jada > Jyoti or lamp).

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Our village experience was the most surreal experience I have ever had. Upon our first entrance into the village, we were greeted by everyone and walked to the current school where we had a very long, but very impressive ceremony. We introduced ourselves, we thanked the village as they thanked us, and we did a lot of dancing. Once the ceremony was over we met our host families and we set off to our homes for the next few days. Lily and I had a host family of 4 (mom, dad, Asmina, and Samir).
We were given our own own room with a surprisingly comfortable cot, a table to put our bags on, and they were setting up a light for us as we entered their home.

That first night we bonded with our host brother and sister as well as the neighborhood kids almost immediately. There was a lot of laughing and confusion, but with Sinead and Lauren as our neighbors, we all got together and played volleyball-esque game with the neighborhood children.

After surviving our first night of dinner with our family (and others who had came to watch us) and running out in what felt like the middle of the night (but was really only 10 o’clock) to go to the charpi (latrine), we had breakfast and half of us headed out to do some cultural learning. We visited a temple and learned more about the Hindu religion and we went fishing (using large nets) with the village people.

After lunch, my group started on the worksite. We sifted sand, carried (heavier than they look) rocks, and rhebarbed the afternoon away.

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The Nepal trip included a lot of hard work and long days, but it was something I would have never been able to do otherwise and I will cherish it forever. I’m very much looking forward to next spring break.

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Nahid’s Summer Service Reflection

This past Summer, I volunteered at the High Water Women Annual Backpack Drive held at the Credit Suisse building in Manhattan. High Water Women is a non-profit organization that educates, helps, and supports low-income women and youth. Each year, the organization donates backpacks filled with school supplies to thousands of children in need as part of their mission plan. At this year’s drive, I helped pack these backpacks, organize supplies, transport deliveries, and recycle boxes.

“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.” When reflecting on my service this summer, and really every service opportunity I have participated in thus far, this quote by Quaker John Woolman (c. 1770) really stands out to me. As students, teachers, faculty members, and parents of Friends Seminary we enjoy certain privileges many do not and we often take them for granted. Volunteering is a manner in which we are able to give back  to the community and it is our responsibility to do so. Woolman claimed that in order to be good stewards, we  would have to examine the way in which our testimonies interact. When I volunteered this summer at the backpack drive, I realized I was making an impact on the lives of hundreds of children. Being more privileged than the kids I was packing backpacks for, I knew that I was upholding the Quaker ideals of equality and simplicity. Providing kids with school supplies so that they may learn, thrive, and grow in “God’s world” is how I was able to nurture my “relationship with all life” this Summer. Understanding my service from this Quaker perspective showed me how unique of an experience it really was.