In the months leading up to service day, each student was put into groups and asked to research a local problem. Each team of students picked a topic that they felt somewhat personal about but my group picked one that I felt extremely passionate about, homelessness. “You know where I was when you were born? Right here”, Richard Jefferey told me the other day on the corner of my block. This is a man that has known me since day one, and hasn’t socially stuck since then. Richard has gone through many rough times including losing one of his lungs to cancer and his family abandoning him. On his birthday last year he described to me how people view him, a bum, he told me that he wants to be seen and treated as an actual human being and not garbage. This really made me think about how I treat the homeless. Richard being the exception, I don’t even notice them anymore, I just walk by. So when I was presented with the opportunity to research and possibly help the homeless shelters, I was excited. The school connected us with an organization called BRC or Bowery Residents Committee. They do more than just housing for the homeless, they help them and teach them. My team and I learned a lot from the site visit and watched them at work. The experience of talking to all the residents there and seeing how hard things can be, really opened up our eyes and we wanted to share that feeling. When it came to service day, we had already made it through the first round and presented it to the whole grade. Our time with BRC was really amazing and made me think in a whole new way.
Before when I used to pass a homeless person on the street I would only think of the terrible smell or be scared that they would do something to me. However, after this project I do not just see homeless people as “bums” but as the people they are. After studying how drugs and mental illness can affect your life my sympathy for homeless people has increased. Many homeless people were not ultimately the cause of their homelessness and have no one to turn to. This project for me has humanized the homeless. Over the course of this project I ultimately learned effective ways of research. It also allowed me to develop my interviewing skills. Finding a non-profit however, was a difficult aspect of the project. It was very hard to find places that helped the specific social issue we had. The non-profit however, ended up shaping our social issue. I think that acquiring an understanding for a problem that many New Yorkers have was extremely rewarding and hopefully in the near future I will have the pleasure of volunteering at BRC.
My group began the Youth and Philanthropy Initiative also known as YPI in January 2014 and our service project ended in the very end of April. The Youth and Philanthropy Initiative is a program for kids to choose a social issue that is present in their community. My group chose to research the topic of domestic violence. A few of us knew people who had been affected by this social issue, and thought the topic was interesting to pursue. As we conducted research on domestic violence through various internet sources such as the New York City Library Archives, we were able to learn more about the topic issues surrounding it, it’s effects and causes and a non-profit organization to support. Over the course of a few months I learned more about the topic my group chose. When we chose our social issue we knew the basics of the issue such as women are usually abused by their male partner and some run away due to the physical and verbal harm while others stay in their position. I never really thought about the children’s role in this situation or why the mother/woman would stay if she was still in some type of harm.
When we visited our non-profit organization, Volunteers of America, they had us sit in a room and explained what they did for the survivors who came to their safe house. They explained the restrictions put on families and the reasons behind a woman staying in harm’s reach, and the children’s role in these situations. From the woman’s perspective sometimes the man is very threatening or has all of the money/power over their child or is just generally overpowering his partner. In this situation the woman would feel that she has no escape and that she would not be able to financially provide for her child or keep herself safe even if she does escape from her abuser. The child’s role could be very important in these situations. The child is usually confused in this situation because they no longer have the same home, doctors, school, friends, family or privileges they had with the other parent who might not have hurt their child. Thus, I have learned more about the struggle that women, men and children experience in a domestic violence case. And how they have to think about their options in advance, while before I believed it was much more simple to leave your partner when any abuse was involved in the relationship.
Besides learning many interesting and frightening statistics and information my group worked on a Powerpoint presentation where we would explain our knowledge on the topic and our non-profit organization. Some skills that we needed for this portion of the project was to be able to organize and manage time and information. My group had five other members who all needed a portion of the Powerpoint to be completed. We had to distribute and organize a Powerpoint presentation where everyone had an equal amount of work to complete and knew what they were talking about. I also had to gain the skill of public speaking and confidence. To memorize the topic I had to present by making eye contact with the audience and to have the ability to answer questions from the judges. I had to learn to keep my voice clear, my eyes on the audience, and the presentation intriguing for everyone.
However, the project was difficult in different ways. The organization of the group was difficult to achieve with six total members. When we had to organize a site visit with our non-profit organization we had to find a time and day when we were all available, which took a few days to plan. It was also difficult to find a time when we all shared in order to practice our presentation rather than memorize the part on our own and hope for the best during the presentation. However, when we had finally finished the presentation before the judges I was not only relieved, but proud of the months work. It was very rewarding to be knowledgeable about a topic we knew so little about to begin with, and to meet with a large organization and complete an experience not many people could have. It was rewarding to see the final product and present the organized it before an audience hopefully giving them new information about our topic and inspiring them to help the cause.
The non-profit organization that my group chose was Volunteers of America. This organization has many different programs besides domestic violence all over the United States of America. Their organization is based largely off of volunteers who donate their time to their programs. In order to volunteer your time to the organization you have to fill out a form and help out with any of their programs. I was interested in the domestic violence programs that the organization had including giving children in shelters school supplies, and another program which was a once a month birthday party for all the children in that month, they usually need volunteers to give party supplies, present, and offer games and activities. I hope to volunteer my time among other programs to aid the organization in the future.
For our YPI project, my group’s non-profit organization was Safe Horizon which focused on the social issue Teen Runaways. The aspect of the project that I found most rewarding was getting to inform all of my fellow classmates about Teen Runaways and how Safe Horizon helps these teens who fled or were kicked out of their homes. This project required a lot of effort in and out of school like finding information about Teen Runaways, emailing back and forth with Safe Horizon, and going on our site visit where we met with a woman named Carolyn Strudwick. When we had our final presentation on service day, it felt very rewarding to come in 3rd place. However, I personally wish to raise more money for Safe Horizon’s Streetwork project and I want to continue volunteering for them and help out any way that I can.
My group’s social issue for the Youth Philanthropy Initiative was drug abuse in New York City. When I started the project I was hesitant. Before I worked and researched the social issue I was part of the problem in thinking that drug-users are to blame for their abuse. After a little research I quickly changed my opinion had a totally different outlook on the problem. Through this research I gained some essential skills. I now knew how to sort out which websites were scholarly and trustworthy, and I could fully cite a source and research.
However, some things in the Project were challenging. Lilith, my group partner, and I were sick and absent for almost the whole week of the presentation, and that made communication much more difficult. This might have been the major reason for our group not making it to the finals. We also had trouble creating a presentation with more images than words and I found that I resorted to reading the powerpoint at some points in our presentation.
The project also had many rewards. The aspect I found most rewarding to me personally was how my view of our social issue changed, and I found myself more tolerant. Also, the researching skills and citing skill I gained are going to be incredibly helpful in my high-school career. Also I loved learning about the New York Foundling organization.
Because of my interest in the Foundling Hospital, I am thinking of volunteering for them over the summer. On the Foundling website, there are many different volunteering options for all sorts of times.
Over my time at Friends I have been a part of the yearbook. This year being an editor I had more responsibilities than previous years, and it was nice to be a part of a yearbook that is largely sections for seniors. We met weekly from the beginning of the year discussing our theme ideas for the yearbook, designing layouts, editing photos, and just about everything else necessary when making a book. It was much harder than everyone has assumed it would be, there are so many components that go into making a book that people don’t understand. It would not have been possible without the service of all the other editors, staff, and Triton. I believe that this service will have a lasting impact on the school and the trend for yearbooks in the future.
On Big FAT Service Day at Friends Seminary, people gathered at school from 10:30-2:30 to do a variety of activities including meal preparation for the Friends shelter, spring cleaning for the Friends shelter, gardening at Stuyvesant Square Park, creating birthday boxes for American patients, rainbow loom bracelet-making to benefit the Kopila Valley School in Nepal and making pottery bowls for the Empty Bowls hunger event.
I decided to spend my time making pottery bowls. I worked with about 20 other students molding, painting and glazing pots. I mainly painted and glazed pots that already hardened in the kennel. These pots were then sold to people who also got ice-cream to eat in their newly purchased bowls. The money raised from the pottery bowl event was then used to help combat hunger in NYC. After making pots, I spent time making birthday cards that would be sent to patients in New York along with birthday boxes so that we could cheer them up and help them enjoy their birthdays to the fullest. Overall, it was a nice day of service.
This January a large group of kids from my Stats class went out with the Hope Foundation to count homeless people for a citywide statistic. We had to go around from 10 to 2:30 in the morning and keep track of homeless people and ask them if they want us to call them help to go to a shelter. Every time we passed someone we had to ask, “Do you have a place to sleep tonight?” “Do you have a permanent residence?” and other questions of that manner. My group was in an area around Washington Square Park and it was very disturbing to see how many homeless people were out. None of the people who said they didn’t have a place to sleep tonight asked us to call a shelter, which was very interesting for us. It was freezing the night we went out and so sad to see all these people without a place to sleep. I think the Hope Foundation is very cool because it definitely makes people aware of the serious problem our city has with homelessness.
As a part of my out-of-school community service, I volunteered at 9C Community Garden. This Community Garden is on 9th Street and Avenue C and is one of the many community gardens in Alphabet City. There, I trimmed trees, which had dead branches that were likely killed by Hurricane Sandy. I put the cut off branches into bundles to be used for another purpose. With these branches cut off, the trees could grow larger.
I live very near this garden and I enjoyed volunteering somewhere in my neighborhood. Community Gardens are a big part of the East Village and I found it rewarding to help maintain one since it in turn helps beautify the neighborhood. It was also nice to do gardening because I could see the results of my labors right before my eyes. I also liked interacting with the members of the garden, seeing how close the garden has them. It was great to experience the inner workings of a space that I pass all the time.
I spent this summer working at Columbia University Medical Center on 168th street and Broadway in the Division of Nephrology & Rheumatology. Nephrology is the study of the function and diseases of the kidney. I really enjoyed my service because everyday was different. I worked under a nephrologist and the regulatory manager of the division so I essentially did whatever I was assigned but I also went on rounds with the various nephrologists. My jobs ranged from taking the height and weight of patients, to entering notes, to making graphs, to making the patients as comfortable as possible, to organizing clinical study binders to organizing entire closets full of medical equipment. Overall, I spent the majority of the time either helping out in an appointment or on rounds. I was an extra set of ears for the patients and an extra set of hands for the doctors. This helped to move appointments and visits along. Considering my own medical history I was able to offer insight that the doctors often were not knowledgeable about to the extent that I was. I also did some office work like filing and filling out paperwork for clinical trials and doing general organizational tasks around the office, but that was not what I spent the majority of my day doing.
Whereas last year I did a lot of office work, this year I spent most of my time with the doctors seeing patients. I went to every intensive care unit in the hospital and visited every patient that had notes on their sheet about their kidneys. While it was hard seeing people in such terrible conditions, helping them and talking to them, and doing all that I could for them, was easily more rewarding than anything I have ever done. Seeing these patients makes you reevaluate your life and all that you have. Every time I see these patients and I humbled. I renewed my interest in medicine and payed more attention in the past so I could absorb as much material as possible. I plan to do pre-med in college and so that work is the perfect preparation and exposure. The work environment is unlike any other because all of the work is group work. The work feels important and you feel needed while giving back. That feeling is priceless and the experiences I have had working with these doctors all while performing service for the past two summers are invaluable.
Note: I could not add pictures because I could not take pictures of the patients I was helping.