Submitted by Nell, Jane and Laura:
“Stewardship is a coming together of our major testimonies.” At least that is what John Woolman thought—even though he said these words all the way back in1770, they still hold true today. His words challenged us to think about the ways that we actually live the testimonies through the relationships we have with others. How can the testimonies that are so much a part of our Quaker education be manifested through stewardship?
We decided to spend a part of our summer working with a population that is often marginalized—a group of human beings whose light often is not admired—though it should be. We decided to work with autistic children through the organization Friendship Circle.
Overview of Program:
This summer we volunteered at the Friendship Circle Summer camp for one week. The Friendship Circle is an organization that strives to help children with autism by creating opportunities for them to interact with others through educational and fun activities. The organization utilizes teenage volunteers who help run these programs and act as counselors who encourage the children to participate in them. During the year, the Friendship Circle offers weekend programs such as the Sunday Circle and Friends At Home to continue to help these children during the school year. Click on the links to learn more about the programs they offer. The summer camp we volunteered at was five and a half days long and consisted of various activities in art, cooking, sports and music. We also went on a two trips to the Intrepid and an arcade! Each volunteer was assigned to a child with autism and helped them throughout the week. By the end of the camp we all had bonded with our “special friends” and made a real connection with them.
Nell with Justina and Julia on a toy boat at the Intrepid
Nell: Going into the Friendship Circle camp I was a little unsure of what to expect because I had never volunteered with kids with autism before. I found out about the program through the Oblivion where it was listed under summer community service. After meeting my buddy and doing some arts and crafts, I really was amazed at how well we both interacted. My buddy really enjoyed soccer, dancing and music and felt great helping her through these programs. She also loved going to the Intrepid museum and interacting with the exhibits. After the camp ended I felt like I really accomplished something great and helped someone who really needed it. My buddy and I were able to interact and learn from each other which was an interesting experience. Overall, I really enjoyed the program because I was able to gain a new perspective and learn more about autism.
Jane and Justina pose for a picture
Jane: I was nervous when I arrived at the Friendship Circle camp on Sunday. I wasn’t sure what my experience for the next five and a half days would be like because I had never worked with an autistic person before. However, after Justina and I met, talked and did an art project together I had a better sense of what it is to be autistic. Although autistic people have a hard time connecting with others, it is not impossible. That was shown to me in the times she would take me dancing around the room (she loved dancing) or when we would work on an art project. We also has a great time at the Intrepid together, as shown in the first four pictures. It was a great experience to learn about autism, and how, over time, an autistic teen can learn to connect with others. I learned a lot from Justina, and I would recommend working at the Friendship Circle for a fulfilling experience working with peers of a similar age but with totally different life experiences.
Julia and Laura with a plane.
Laura: I first heard of Friendship Circle through the non-profit day at Friends last year. I volunteered at their Sunday Circle program on Sundays during the school year, and the director encouraged me to be a counselor in her camp. As it turned out, Jane and Nell had heard about the opportunity as well, so it was great to have Friends well represented! On the first day, I was extremely excited to meet my “special friend.” All I knew was that her name was Julia and she wore glasses. When I finally met her, I realized that I knew her from volunteering at Sunday Circle. She seemed to recognize me, but kept on repeating “I’m being shy.” However, throughout the week I got to know Julia better as we did fun activities like art, water sports, and baking. Soon, she opened up, and when she said that she was being shy, I was able to reply, “Don’t worry, you’re not being shy Julia!” One of the highlights of my time volunteering was our trip to the Intrepid. It was amazing how Julia’s eyes lit up when she could interact with exhibits and make her signature peace sign pose in all of the pictures I took. Oddly enough, my other most memorable moment with Julia was when she threw a tantrum at the end of the day because she didn’t want to go home. It was stressful in the moment because she was screaming and I had to figure out a way to convince her to leave. I had never seen her cry before! However, I realized afterwards she was upset about leaving because we had had a really great time together. And it dawned on me that it was difficult for me to say goodbye too. I had learned so much from her and it was her light that allowed me to see so much about myself and my place in the world. So I hope I can keep in contact with Julia at Sunday Circles throughout the year!
Julia’s signature peace sign.