Category: Camden, NJ

Newark – last day of service! :(

So today was our last day of service here in Newark!  It started off on an exciting note because the team that usually stays at the Girls and Boys Club was able to go to the United Way of Essex and West Hudson headquarters in the morning.  Most of us sorted clothing donations for an outdoor market tomorrow but I went with two other people to clean out the parking lot for the market.  It was nice to get out of the Club for a little bit and work on different service projects in the morning.  It was also great to see how much effort people put into sorting clothing for the market.  One of the things that has been stressed to me in life is service with respect, meaning that the people we work with deserve the opportunity to shop for clothes that have been sorted and organized to make it easier to find articles of clothing.  In the afternoon, we came back to the Boys and Girls Club and worked with the children one last time.  It was great to see how many children remembered us and ran up to us.  We had a wonderful afternoon that consisted of decorating bags for the egg hunt we planned for the children.

I had a particularly striking conversation with a 9 year-old girl today.  She was working on homework and labeling the capitols on a United States map.  I started talking with her about school and she told me that she loved math and that she learned her times tables when she was in first grade.  This blew me away, because everyone I’ve known didn’t start multiplication until third grade.  She told me she was advanced for her age and that her dream was to go to Harvard and study math.  To hear such ambitious goals from such a young girl was inspirational, and I pray to God that her circumstances will not hold her back.  Our team was reflecting later about how so many of the kids here are so smart and observant.  We wondered if maybe the person who could cure cancer one day was born in an area suffering from urban poverty and a failing education system.  These kids have so much potential but are unfairly being held back by circumstances beyond their control.  Working with the kids this week and hearing their stories really helped me understand the effects of urban poverty and why everyone needs to care about this social injustice.  Beyond the ethics of the situation, when one group of people is being subordinated, all of us suffer.

This week has been eye-opening, to say the least.  I am so proud of our team and the work we accomplished.  Everyone was so engaged with the kids and had multiple conversations throughout the day, everyday, about the causes and effects of urban poverty.  I am grateful to United Way and the Boys and Girls Club of Newark for making this experience possible and for my incredible team for being beautiful (this was suggested by Damilare).

ASB Newark, NJ 2013!

Hey all! It’s hard to believe it’s already the 5th evening of my ASB Jersey trip! Over the past few days, my team (“Team Rocket”) and I focused on doing demolition work at a church (and a bit at a house as well). It was a good learning experience for me, since I have never really done real physical work in my life. We were scraping dry wall off of walls, tearing down ceilings, ripping nails out of wood…I guess you might say we were beating up the building. It was a lot of fun once I got into it, and it was the kind of work where you got to see the results immediately after finishing it. The church and house we were working at had suffered significant damage during Hurricane Sandy, and I found it quite sad how even months after the incident they were still in shambles. However, it was good to know that we were making a difference by helping out. Of course, we wouldn’t have been able to get as much done as we did without having a great team! I never would have thought that so much work went into destruction!

Well, that’s just about it. Tomorrow we’re off to NYC for a free day, so the work of the trip is done. It has been great getting to know my teammates, as well as giving a   hand to the Sandy relief efforts (they were really able to benefit from our help!). I wanted to do “something different” this spring  break, and I’m glad that I signed up for ASB!

ASB TEAM JERSEY OFFICIAL DAY 4

It’s our last day here with the kids. We’re going to NYC tomorrow to relax and chill out. Today was just plain chaotic, haha. I was going crazy! We went to help United Way organize and sort clothing in the morning and there about 40 boxes of clothing that needed to be sorted through by size and gender. We had so so SO many orange blazers and black jeans lol. It was ridiculous. I never folded so many clothes in my life before!!!

We did an Easter Hunt with the kids in the afternoon. They were really happy when they found their eggs :) We also gave them supplies to decorate their own Easter Bags to put their eggs in. I met a wonderful kid today. He plays the drums so so SO well! He’s going to be famous one day, haha. He’s such a nice and sweet kid too.

One kid hugged me and cried today!! She didn’t want us to leave and she wouldn’t let me go…The kids here are so sweet and I hope that during the past few days, we made a difference in their lives. I’ll always remember my ASB NJ experience

Lastly, I love all my new friends and my ASB Lafayette Team! You guys are absolutely awesome and we better have reunions when we get back to Lafayette :)

Kiyah, Marisa, Mary, Kerri-Ann, Damilare, Taylor, Kelly, & Kate — <3 you all!!

ASB Newark

Today was my third (and final) day of working at the Boys and Girls Club of Newark, New Jersey, and I am not looking forward to leaving. On the first day of the trip, I was a bit apprehensive. I’ve always been shy and I was worried about bonding with my team and making friends with the other volunteers. I was also nervous that I wouldn’t know what to do with the kids, or that I wouldn’t be able to hold a conversation with any of them. After the first day, all of my fears were relieved. The kids were fantastic, and I already felt like I was bonding with my Lafayette ASB team and the other volunteers. My patience was tested in more ways than one, but overall, it was a learning experience and a fantastic day.

During my second day, I felt like I really bonded more with the children. I saw some familiar faces and met some new kids. Overall, I felt more comfortable then I did the day before. I had a better idea of what to expect and got the gist of how the program is run. I was able to hold meaningful conversations with a lot of the kids and give them reassurance and positive encouragement that they didn’t seem to be getting from many other people in their lives. I got to talk to more of the kids who I hadn’t gotten the chance to speak with the day before, and by the end of the day, I had a nickname…”2 Chainz.”  I got to play pool, paint in the art room, and get destroyed in multiple arcade games. I also felt more comfortable being myself and opening up to other volunteers, both from Lafayette and from other places.

Yesterday, I got the chance to do a different type of service. I spent the day on Staten Island doing Hurricane Sandy relief work through the organization Tunnels to Towers. The story behind the founding of this organization was truly inspirational. I spent the day putting up sheet rock for the walls of the home of an 82 year old woman whose home was completely destroyed by the storm. It was amazing to see the damage that was done. Windows were shattered, debris was still everywhere, and tops of miscellaneous houses were in others’ backyards. It was amazing to see the damage that was done and to hear stories about how little aid some families and individuals were offered. I’m very glad I got the chance to experience something a little bit different.

I am very sad that today was my last day of service. I absolutely loved this week. I’ve built so many relationships with people. I’m so glad I got to bond with the children and hear about their experiences. I’m also so happy that I got to know my ASB team so well and make friends with new people who I wouldn’t have met if it weren’t for this experience.

Boys and Girls Club

The children of Boys and Girls Club in Newark, New Jersey are beautiful! They are so vibrant, creative, and smart. For the majority of my trip I worked in the Art Room helping kids paint, draw, and create projects. Since the Boys and Girls Club is severely under funded, the kids don’t usually get to do individualized activities. For example, since there is one art teacher, the kids are not able to paint since one person can not handle 10 kids with paint. I worked with 3 other volunteers in the Art Room, which gave the children equal opportunity to have one of us assist and talk to them for awhile. I’m really humbled that I got to meet such great kids because despite the issues that there neighborhood is experiencing, they are so joyful. There are some kids, however, that do like to fight and are very shy due to the lack of affection and care they get at home. It was easier to bond with some kids than others for this reason. Overall, I the kids that I worked with made my day and changed my life; I can only hope that I did the same.

ASB TEAM JERSEY OFFICIAL DAY 3

Oh my god! I can’t believe that it’s day 3 already. Time really goes by so fast when you’re having the most fun :) When I told the part time staff that I really appreciated all their hard work for these kids and how impressed I am, I knew I had made their day. I really give them a lot of credit for working with these kids [150 kids and 3 full and 4 part time staff?! — that’s insane]. They told me that for some of these kids, lunch is the only meal they get to eat every day. I was so sad when I heard that. I got close with one particular kid and she became very attached to me [she wouldn’t even let me go get lunch lolol] But she started crying after I came back from lunch because she said she was hungry and she didn’t have anything to eat. Then the staff brought them some pizza, chicken, and bread and they ate happily. Piecing the its and bits of information that they tell me together, I can tell that they come from complicated family backgrounds. I want to be a role model for these kids and I realize that what we’re doing right now, giving them attention and inspiring them, might be a turning point in their life.

I spent most of my day working and organizing the art room with Kelly & Mary. It was very difficult to organize because there was just so much stuff!! But as a team, we worked hard and the room looked beautiful in the end :) I want the kids to feel happy and know that they can find their own art supplies without making a big mess, haha. One kid painted a drawing for me yesterday. I’m going to hang it on my wall :)

Big Shout Out to my ASB NJ Team again :) You guys are the best and together, we made so many new friends here and our bonds get stronger and stronger every day :)

ASB TEAM JERSEY OFFICIAL DAY 2

Hey everyone! I can’t believe it’s Tuesday already. This week is just going to fly by so quickly. But the fun never ends :D There were a lot more kids today! I definitely got to interact with a few of them and knew their names by the end of the day. I stayed in the art room and painted beautiful drawings with the kids. It was very chaotic but I realized that these kids really crave and need individual attention to grow. The smiles on their faces really brightens up my day :)

I learned a little bit more about the Boys and Girls Club here — usually, around 160 kids per day would walk in through the doors and there are only 3 full time and 4 part time staff employed here. I was so shocked when I learned that. This place is essentially free for the kids — families only pay $14 a year. The mission of the Boys and Girls Club really inspires me and touched my heart. They provide so much for the kids and the families really appreciates everything that they do.

I also grow closer and closer to my team mates every day. I realize that each of them has his/her own unique personality and that’s what makes our ASB Team NJ so awesome!! We each add our own flavor to this trip and the experiences that we make here will always be with us forever :)

Big Shout out to my ASB Team NJ :) Love you all very much <3

Newark Day 1!

Today was an amazing day here in Newark!  We were sent out to our work sites for the first time!  I spent the day here at the Central Ward Boys and Girls Club cleaning the facilities and running activities for the children.  Most of the time, I hung out with a 10 year old girl and helped her with arts and crafts and talked with her a lot.  It was great talking with the children and learning more about their experiences with the Boys and Girls Club.  One of my favorite parts of the day was going through about 50 photographs the children had taken of each other a few months ago.  The photographs were beautiful and helped us understand how the children see themselves and each other.  I’m looking forward to possibly going on a field trip with the kids tomorrow and maybe even organizing the art closet!

ASB TEAM JERSEY OFFICIAL DAY 1

Hello everyone!! :) Oh my god, I’m so excited to tell you about my first day at the Boys & Girls Club here in Newark NJ! Urban Poverty has always been the social issue that is closest to my heart and I’m so so so SO excited to embark on this wonderful trip with my peers from Lafayette College. I was placed in team Wolf Pack and we stayed at the Boys & Girls Club while others helped out with Sandy Relief. Today, a couple of team members and I decorated a bulletin board and drilled it into the wall!! It was pretty hard. But with our super good friend — Mr. T Square and his friend, the drill, we accomplished our mission!! Check out the pictures on facebook because it was pretty cool :) I never drilled anything before.Hanging up this bulletin board took a while before getting the whole thing straight and getting all the holes right, etc. It looked fabulous when it was done and we’re so proud of it!! I also made origami roses for the bulletin board that Kate made in the Games Room :)

I couldn’t sleep on the cots though, haha. I woke up at 5 AM and I started studying and reviewing neuroscience LOL! Yeah, I’m doing homework at 5 AM during a break LOL! This is so sad :)

Jersey Bound!

I’m so excited to get to Newark tomorrow! As this semester progressed, I’ve been anxiously waiting for spring break to come, and now it’s here. My team and I are just about ready to make our way to New Jersey in the morning.

When I first learned I was going to be a part of team NJ, I was really excited. I went to high school in the middle of a small city, and while I personally did not experience the effects of poverty, I saw it in the environment around me. However, I never did anything to learn more about it. I’m eager to better understand urban poverty on a deeper level. I want to know more.

This is my first service trip, and I’m really excited to get to know my team better and start our service! Even though we’re not leaving until tomorrow, I’m going to say goodbye for now, Lafayette! Newark, here we come!

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