During the second quarter, I, as well as many of my fellow students, participated in the run around Central Park, which helped the non-profit organization provide for those who needed help. The race started on a freezing november morning, and as I got there, I could clearly the massive amounts of participants. After I had gotten registered, I got in position to run! The race was a tiresome one and sadly I believe my friend and I almost finished dead last! This did not affect me in the slightest! I had helped in a way I found most suited towards me, it was exercise and I felt extremely charitable!
This year I fulfilled my out-of-school service requirement by working with Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood is a non-profit organization that works to promote affordable health care and sex education by providing reproductive and maternal health services to women, which includes cancer screening, HIV testing, contraception, and abortion. The organization is also very involved in the counciling aspect of health services as well as lobbying for health care rights and pro-choice legislation.
In the middle of the year I spent my Wednesday afternoons at Planned Parenthood NYC in Soho, exploring the different programs that PPFA (Planned Parenthood Federation of America) offers, completing exercises and worksheets for the organization, working with the staff for upcoming projects, and also learning new information about the increasing struggle for women of different cultures and different sexualities to get affordable, fair health care.
Overall, my service at Planned Parenthood was really rewarding because I was actively doing something that I cared about, and I will continue to do it in the years to come and hopefully form a strong relationship with the organization.
On two Sundays during April and May, I volunteered at the 9C Community Garden in the East Village. It is a garden on Avenue C between 9th and 10th streets where people who live in the neighborhood, such as Christel Johnson, keep up individual plots. I helped clean up the garden by picking up small pieces of trash, pulling up weeds, and reorganizing brick structures.
The first plot that we worked on belonged to a member of the community who was no longer able to work on it herself. It was rewarding to know that we could help just by doing small tasks to keep up her plot for her. We pulled up weeds, placed them in a wheelbarrow, and then chopped them up for composting.
I started this volunteer experience knowing very little about plants and gardening, and by the end of the second day I could identify which plants were good and healthy and which were harmful weeds. I really enjoyed this service work because it was what I think service should be: fun and rewarding. With lots of homework and studying to do at home, it was nice to have a break outdoors, helping out in a peaceful community garden.
For my out-of-school service I went to Washington D.C. and participated in the Forward on Climate Rally on February 17th. This particular rally was focused on informing Obama on the effects of the Keystone Pipeline (a pipeline system that transports tar sands oil from Canada into the mid-west United States). The main issue this pipeline causes for the climate are the risk of oil spills along the pipeline, which would pollute the air and harm the waters and wildlife of the area. Over a thousand people gathered by the Washington Monument to urge President Barack Obama to stop the construction of the Keystone Pipeline. There were speakers giving speeches, leading to uproarious applause and cheers from the audience. Just from being in the crowd I felt the high spirit of everyone around me. We marched from the Washington Monument to the White House, chanting phrases like: “Hey! Obama! We don’t want no climate drama!” and holding up signs while singing and shouting.
It was a really amazing experience. I had never taken part in a protest before and I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was very excited because I knew I was worried about the problems our climate faces today and interested in the solutions we can bring about in order to help our planet. Even though there was no direct service involved, it really felt like I made a difference just by taking part in this community of people who all had the same goal: rescuing the environment and bettering the planet. The rally gained much media attention and informed a much wider range of people in the U.S. about the effects of the Keystone Pipeline. I learned a lot about what unity among a large group of people can do, and if you fight for something you truly believe in, it will definitely make a difference.
Alex’s Experience on Girl Rising
In the last two quarters, my World History I class has been interacting with kids from the Kisyoro School in Uganda. This all came to pass because of the Millennium Development Goals and the Millennium Village Project we had been studying about and writing papers on. We were writing about whether or not the Millennium Villages were an effective solution to eradicating the Millennium Development Goals. The Millennium Development Goals are eight goals set by the UN in 2000 in order to reduce poverty in the developing world. After handing in essays, we focused our attention towards interacting with kids of our age who weren’t writing essays about this topic, but actually living their lives inside of the Millennium Villages! We created VoiceThreads (basically pictures with commentary over it) about our daily lives and the community of Friends Seminary, and sent them off to Uganda. How interesting it was for us to interact with these kids in Uganda who were maturing, and learning the exact same things as us, but also living whole different lives that we couldn’t possibly imagine. After about a week, we received their replies to our VoiceThreads. A shaky, yet very careful email was sent to us with what they did in their daily lives and what they loved to do. I was impressed because they also like soccer! That project made me feel connected to those kids all the way across the world immensely. How could I not wonder how their lives were if we had so much in common?
I also went to the movie in the meetinghouse, Girl Rising. Girl Rising was a movie about how important it was for girls all across the world to have an education (http://girlrising.com/). It showed all of the horrible things that had happened to these poor young girls, yet it always ended with a bright note. Every girl who got an education seemed to be immensely happy that they were getting the thing I and probably this whole school takes for granted every day. The movie reminded me of the kids we had interacted with in Uganda. Had they lived lives in darkness and without an education? Were they bettered by the Millennium Villages and were now getting the education they so desperately wanted? It had made me think that everyone deserves an education and it is Friends Seminary’s job in the future through service, to make that happen.
In early March, I was part of a group of ten 9th grade students who participated in the Global Concerns Student Workshop. The Global Concerns Student Workshop is a program in which Friends has been participating in for a few years. This year, the theme of the workshop was Women and Girls: The Key to the Future. This topic corresponded with what we had learned in World History I researching the Millennium Development Goals. It was particularly of interest to me because for my essay on the Millennium Development Goals, I chose to research the third MDG which is to achieve gender equality and empower women. I learned about the lives of women and girls’ lives in developing countries, specifically in sub-Saharan Africa.
The research I had done for my essay was helpful at the Global Concerns Student Workshop. Once there, at the Mutual America Building in midtown Manhattan, all ten Friends students were given name tags and split up. We were placed in groups with about five or six students from several schools in the New York City area. Each group was assigned a country; my group was the Democratic Republic of the Congo. We were given fact sheets about the Democratic Republic of the Congo and outlines of the most prominent obstacles women and girls face in that country. We were also given a list of possible interventions and the costs of each. We learned that in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a major obstacle to girls’ education is that they are responsible for providing clean water for their families. Hours are spent walking to water sources and back; hours women could use pursuing education or learning new skills. Some ideas for solutions included the construction of wells, water pumps, and the distribution of water purification tablets. The hypothetical budget for each group’s proposal was 3 million dollars. We spent a little less than two hours researching, deciding which solutions would be the most effective and economical, and making a presentation for our proposal. The workshop concluded with presentations from each group that were evaluated by several judges who asked further questions about the students’ ideas. The judges deliberated on which group had the best presentation and proposal. Although my group did not win, the experience of participating in the Global Concerns Student Workshop was, nonetheless, a fascinating and enriching one. I enjoyed learning about people who are actually working towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals in developing countries, how the interventions are implemented, the progress that has been made and the progress yet to come.
I participated in several research based projects, involving first the Millennium Development goals, and then the Millennium Villages project. I learned a huge amount about what was really being done to help people in developing countries, as well as how I could help. I also saw just how much good a few dollars made by a batch of cupcakes being sold at a bake sale can do. At first, I was skeptical that the Millennium Villages Project was really the best way forward, however, I soon realized that my main criticism of it was why it was so successful. I wondered why they were investing everything into achieving all of the Millennium Development Goals in a few villages instead of investing it into getting broader results. I now realize that all the goals have to be achieved to make progress. How can child health be achieved if malaria is still prevalent? How can gender equality be a feasible possibility if maternal health is not good? This is what makes the slower, more gradual idea a better one for the Millennium Villages Project.
Seeing the film Girl Rising was an eye opening experience. Living in New York and being part of the community that I’m in enables me to take so much for granted. I rarely think about how fortunate I am to go to a great school, let alone any school every day. It is heart breaking to see the sacrifices that these girls and families have to make for minimal educational opportunities. I cannot imagine being in their position and not having basic freedoms. The fact that some girls are expected to marry at such young ages is upsetting to me as a 15 year old girl. Being married at 12 and even as early as 7 is a global tragedy and should not be accepted. These girls are so young that they are not aware of what is happening to them. As the movie explains, education is key.
In many developing countries like the ones shown, it is considered undesirable to have a girl because they cannot to support their family. These girls are caught in a cycle of continuous poverty and are not given the opportunities to break free. However, Wadley, a little girl from Haiti, is an example of a girl who is determined to break the cycle. Wadley really impressed me because after the hurricane destroyed her home and her mother’s ability to make money, she insisted on going to school despite the fact that her mother could not pay. She wasn’t afraid of the danger of showing up to a school she did not pay for to get the education she so desperately wanted. She demonstrated the importance of girls being brave and determined.
All the girls in the movie knew and proved that education would improve their lives. I’m glad students from the 9th grade History classes were able to make some difference by enabling one girl to break this unfortunate trend. As a culminating piece to our research on the MDGs and our conversations with students at the Kysoro School, we decided to share what we learned with others by hosting a screening of Girl Rising. The activity after the film allowed people leave a personal message to girls at our partner school in Uganda. The money raised from our efforts will send one girl to school for four years. I feel good that I was a part of this project.