For the fall semester, I was in Israel on a study abroad program. Throughout the semester, I had a few opportunities to participate in community service abroad, which gave me a lot of insight into the work that small organizations around the world do. We worked mostly with small, local community organizations. These included a beach cleanup in Tel Aviv, work at a local elderly care center that housed a few survivors of the Holocaust, and religious organizations whose missions related to social justice (https://www.womenofthewall.org.il). Getting to interact with these people from all across the country, and to hear about the important work that they do, and then support them, was an amazing experience. I have always enjoyed doing local community service here in New York, but my recent opportunities to help when I am abroad have been eye-opening. I am just beginning to understand how vital the work that some small, but strong, organizations do around the globe.
Over the summer, I was fortunate enough to be able to help out several senior citizens. At the senior center, I was an assistant teacher helping the elders learn english for chinese was their first language. I also helped lead the elder chinese chorus by playing the accompany on piano. Seeing many of the elders could only bring a smile on my face as they were seemingly ecstatic to have me there. Next year, I hope that I will be able to work at the senior center once again.
This May, I volunteered at the school’s spring fair. During the fair, I worked at the bouncy castles area collecting tickets and made sure no one got hurt. It was a joy looking over the children as I had to interact with many of them. One interaction occurred when there were too many people in the bouncy castle. A child asked me why lines exist. I responded with a succinct answer to which the child responded with thank you. All in all, this experience was a good way to interact with children.
This summer, I was given the opportunity to volunteer with the Adopt-A-Highway organization. My camp partners with them and adopted highway 1431 in Austin, Texas. I, along with 39 other kids around my age, walked along a long stretch of the highway picking up any trash we saw. The things that we picked up astounded me. I couldn’t believe the things that people would throw out their car windows onto the highway, polluting it. By picking up the trash, I was given another perspective on the amount of pollution in the world. Some of the people who were part of the organizations also gave us some insight of how this trash affected the area and what we were doing by picking it up, which made me want to be even more cautious of the things that I could do that might negatively impact our environment as well as the things that I could do that would positively impact our environment.
I was also given the opportunity to volunteer with the Nature Conservancy at the Barton Creek Habitat Reserve in Austin, Texas, also with my camp. We were told of the endangered species who have made their home the creek and how they helped keep them safe as well as how we could aid them. They explained just how much they had impacted the environment by telling us the growth of the endangered species in the area since they began preserving the creek. In addition to preserving the creek, the Nature Conservancy also allows people to swim in a specific section Barton Creek. We got to see how that creek functioned and looked in comparison to other creeks. It was incredible to see how clear the water was and that there weren’t any strange objects floating at the top or sunken down at the bottom of the creek like how we see plastic bottles or other pieces of trash in natural bodies of water. The creek had all kinds of greenery surrounding it that was actually green rather than the dried green or light brown that is the usual color of nature in most of Texas.
In volunteering with both of these organizations, I got a newfound sense of making a difference as well as being able to see what my volunteering could do to help the rest of the world. If I had not participated in those experiences, I would not have gotten the same sense of accomplishment or have been able to see that what I do makes a difference.
In the month of February, I participated in the Friends Seminary Chinese Banquet. While there, my job was to be a stair monitor and make sure there was no roughhousing in that area. My job had two other monitors and we would take shifts. Even though the job wasn’t the most interesting, from what I observed the banquet was vibrant and truly reflected on the Chinese culture many of us are unfamiliar to.
For the 2017 service day, the Freshman class participated in the Youth Philanthropy Initiative. My group chose to do their project on the overly discussed topic of homeless. The experience was quite different from what I expected and I managed to learn a lot more about the social problem than I expect. However, even though my group was unable to present the day of, it was nevertheless extremely interesting to hear about the common problems that occurred within not only the city but the U.S.A. My classmate’s presentation ranged from educational to economical and, a couple even talking about the problems of lack of food knowledge. All in all, it was an interesting experience.