At a semester program called HMI, I helped organize and recycle the recyclable waste. Every week, the blue bins around campus would overflow. A few students and I volunteered to help empty the recycling. Before leaving for a recycling plant, we would have to organize all the different types of recyclables. As an example, we would have to organize all the number one plastics together and put them in their own trash bag. We would organize before we left, to minimize the time spent at the plant. The drive to the plant was about fifteen minutes. At the plant, we would follow the signs telling us where to dump the different types of recyclables. We would then drive on back to school.
On May 13th, I spent the afternoon making bowls in the Ceramic Studio for Empty Bowls. This was the first time that I had participated in the project. Empty Bowls is an international project to fight hunger on a community level. At the beginning, Jack gave a thoughtful discussion on hunger in New York City. I knew that hunger in New York City was a large epidemic, but hearing that 1/7 families do not know where their next meal will come from surprised me. To me, the idea that artists and groups can create bowls, and in the process, attempt to end hunger is incredible. It is great to be able to do fun activities like pottery, and help people at the same time. With only 5 people there, the event felt personal. I enjoy making art, so this organization is particularly attractive to me. Although I am disappointed that I have not attended more sessions in the past, I look forward to attending many in the future.
For the past two years, I have been involved in photographing children that live in the various homes provided by the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services (JBFCS) (https://www.jbfcs.org/). This past christmas, I participated in creating a music video with the children who live at the Henry Ittleson Center, which belongs to JBFCS. Here, young, emotionally traumatized disturbed children come to the Center to seek treatment. Ranging from 5 to 13 years old, they are often diagnosed with psychosis, depression, bipolar disorder, and post traumatic stress disorder. These children come to live at the Ittleson House after they are referred.
This past holiday season, I participated in shooting a music video of these children. Initially, I was apprehensive, as I was warned that the children are often unpredictable around Christmas without their families. As soon as I walked in, a young boy ran away, refusing to be apart of the video. I feared that the day was doomed. However, I was happily surprised at the response. I asked girls of various ages to choose the music, and the boys decided on the instruments. They performed 8 songs as an ensemble. The girls were dressed in pink wigs, and sang into sequined microphones. The boys had their hair sprayed in bright colors, and played blow-up saxophones. It was my my favorite day as a photographer for JBFCS yet. By the end of the day, the boy who had once left, was drawn by the music. He came back, and thanked me, explaining that he was now inspired to take photographs just as I do.
This summer I volunteered with an organization called Imagine Science Films, a non-profit film company with an emphasis on science. In addition to their annual film festival in New York, they also host satellite festivals in other cities. They also have a Youtube channel that is home to many short films. There’s a film series on their channel called Spotlight Films. In July, I went out with other volunteers at Imagine Science to produce a couple Spotlight Films. In our first, we met with the organizers and volunteers at North Brooklyn Farms, an urban farm in Williamsburg. Later we filmed the Biobus, which is a bus that teaches inner city youth about microbiology and New York City’s water. After spending many hours interviewing and filming, we then edited the films. It was a great experience and I’d love to volunteer there again.
This summer, I had the pleasure of volunteering at Sail Newport. Sail newport is a public access sailing program located in Newport, Rhode island. This program has the goal of providing access to sailing programs to a variety of ages. The kids start around age six, and Sail newport offers advances programs for people up to age 18, the maximum age allowed to sail in local regattas. This organization is unique in that area, in that it offers sailing programs while not connected to a Yacht club. This means that anyone can learn to sail, without being members of a Yacht club. As most of the children’s parents do not know how to sail, this program gets them out on the water. Sailing is one of the worlds most enjoyable sports, and this program offers access to it for those who might not otherwise be able to have it.
During the summer, I assisted instructors in teaching smaller children. They were not beginners, having sailed for approximately two years. As a result, they were learning slightly more advances material. I assisted in teaching them the correct sailing technique. On multiple occasions, I demonstrated the correct way to tack the boat, among other skills, much to their amusement, as I barely fit into the tiny 5 foot long boat. Working with sail newport was a highly rewarding experience. Last summer, I also helped here, and this summer, I was able to expand upon my experience from last year. Teaching younger children the correct technique was very rewarding. I really enjoyed this summer, and I really hope that I can return next summer
“Letting your life speak” means that actions are the best measure of you as a person. This summer I met children and young adults who let their lives speak.
In August I volunteered at a camp for autistic children called the Friendship Circle . The Friendship Circle is an organization that helps special needs children interact with volunteers through music, psychical activity, art, and more. We took two trips in the four day period to the Intrepid and a playroom called Funtasia. For most of these kids, life consists of twelve month programs with only a week or two of break. That is why the Friendship Circle is so important: it helps children who otherwise have very little time to play a chance to have fun.
I worked with a non-verbal 13-year-old named Willem. Willem has a hard time functioning on his own, so his caretaker worked with me at the camp. Together, with another girl named Julia, we helped Willem go around to all the camp activities. At first I questioned my work: since I had never worked with a child so far on the autism spectrum I wondered if anything I was doing was affecting him. However, by the third day he was able to recognize me, and by the final day he was giving me kisses and hugs to show his affection. Although he could not say that he appreciated me, I knew I was impacting his life for the better.
I have been volunteering at the Friendship Circle for over a year now, and I know many of the counselors there. Those who spend part of their summer doing service show that they are compassionate people. They “let their lives speak” for them in that they do not need these children to tell them that they are doing a good job, they just know that what they are doing is helping others. The children “let their lives speak” in that they never intend to harm anyone. Their smiles, hugs, and kisses speak for themselves.
Some Arabic students at Friends went to Jordan for part of Spring Break. While there, we spent time with an organization called Friends of the Earth Middle East, an organization that strives for ecological awareness and preservation. They also emphasize the importance of international peace and diplomacy between Jordan, Syria, Israel and Palestine. We learned a lot about the challenges Jordanians have with water and efficiency. One small project they are working on is making a bird house from recycled soda bottles filled with sand. Together, we helped to fill many bottles to contribute to their birdhouse.
This year, the entire tenth grade traveled upstate for Service Day. We went to a facility owned and operated by Scenic Hudson, and organization determined to clean up the Hudson River and keep its ecosystem preserved. While there, we did several jobs in order to improve the Scenic Hudson facility, and worked alongside many volunteers that worked for Scenic Hudson.
At the facility, I did several jobs. First, my advisory group shoveled gravel into wheel barrows, which we then dumped into various potholes along the drive way, which we would then even out into a flat surface. Next I took wheel barrows full of a plant species that was invasive to the area, which was moved from the drive way to a secluded location. At service day, I learned the importance of hard work and how valuable it can be to make a difference for a community.
Earlier this year, I took part in a Book Drive that was held by Project Cicero, an organization that gathers books for libraries in New York City that lack resources. This book drive was for books for elementary school children as well as middle school children, and was mainly picture books but featured actual books as well.
At this event, I donated four picture books. I also sorted the books and put them into boxes, which were later shipped to Project Cicero. This event enlightened me to a cause which I had not previously known about, and I am glad that I had the opportunity to help make a difference through literature.
Earlier this year, I worked at the Friends Rummage Sale. At the Rummage Sale, various pre-owned items were sold to people. Clothing, appliances, books, games, toys, and furniture were all donated to the rummage sale. These items were then individually priced and sold by volunteers, most of whom were Friends parents and alumni. For the first hour, donations where sorted, being placed in respective areas based on what kind of category they fit into. They were separated into clothing, games, jewelry, furniture and appliances, and odds and ends. After an hour, once everything was sorted, people came into the rummage sale and started shopping, and volunteers started to sell the donations.
At this event, I first carried chairs into the outer courtyard as space for donations. Then I sorted through clothing, putting them in specific groups depending in gender, age, size, and the type of clothing. After people were let in, I helped to sell the donations and I helped with pricing. This event taught be about some of the basic principals of business, and it am glad to have helped the Friends community.