This year, I assumed co-leadership of a service club called CHAI, or Children’s Hardship Awareness Initiative. As part of the club’s mission, members who wish to do so volunteer almost every weekend at either Sunday Circle, a program aimed to help special-needs children learn to interact with the world around them through gentle guidance from teenage volunteers, or the Association to Benefit Children’s Saturday Open Door Program, during which volunteers play with children from the East Harlem community while their parents take ESL, parenting, and fitness classes. Taking a leadership role was frightening initially, but over time I have come to appreciate my new ability to help Friends students engage more actively with service in their communities.
Sunday Circle has been a learning experience for me. I didn’t know what to expect during my first visit, but the warmth and openness from the children with whom I was working encouraged me to participate actively in the program. On one particular day, a friend and I taught a mostly non-verbal little boy named Abe with a love for music a song and game that I learned at summer camp. Seeing Abe, who sometimes struggles to get out of his own head, learn and love the song was so heartening to us; we could really see the impact we were making on these kids’ lives. Some weeks are harder than others, but earning the children’s trust and being able to give them a safe space for positive interaction with their peers has been such an amazing experience.
The boys’ and girls’ varsity soccer teams went to Tobago for preseason to play the local teams on the island and train. We hosted a large workout session which 50 kids that were locals showed up to. Playing and interacting with the kids was one experience that I enjoyed, but after the workout, we distributed lightly used soccer equipment such as cleats, shin guards, socks, shirts, and gloves to all the children that needed them, and that was the most memorable experience of the whole trip. Being able to directly give to those in need is always touching.
Last summer I participated in an oyster cage building activity on June 16. We were split up into groups who worked on different parts of the cages. I was part of the group who cut sheets of wire from a large roll of cage wire. We used clippers and wore gloves to cut the wire sheets for the cages. Next we clipped off any bits of wire that stuck out undesirably. These would get in the way later, so we had to remove them. We left some of the bits on each side, as they would be bent to allow the sheet to clasp onto another sheet. Next the sheets went to a different station that bent the sheets in half. This station formed each sheet into the desired shape of the cage. Next, the bent sheets were brought back to my group. We bent the bits that we left on the sheets from the first clipping and connected them to another sheet of wire. Once we had done this, the cage was completed. After we had finished making all the cages we needed to, I swept the floor for metal scraps, and put away clippers and gloves along with three other volunteers. My experience at BOP was very pleasant. Although I got a large sore bump on my hand from all the pressure during clipping the wire, the atmosphere of the houses we were building the cages in was relaxing. The Billion Oyster Project’s mission is to distribute 1 billion oysters to about 100 acres of reefs located in the Hudson River. These oysters would help clean the water and hopefully clean and bring life back to the river. You can visit the Billion Oyster Project at https://billionoysterproject.org