From Jack ’14:
With the home stretch behind us, we’re headed full speed to the end of our trip. The benefits of service aside, I’m definitely looking forward to getting home. Earlier today, Travis commented that it felt like the time had flown by (that we had left Drayton circle only yesterday). I can’t say I share this sentiment. This trip has been a very long alternative to spring break, and I remember living through every moment of it, whether interesting or dull.
These last few days in particular were routine to a fault. This included the awkward timing of the dinner shift making dinner uncomfortably late. The only break from the final week’s doldrums was our service work and our fellow volunteers. In retrospect, I guess this could be said about the entire trip, though the satisfaction of doing service and the novelty helped smooth out the first week or so. The fatigue has begun to set in, however, and I suppose a lesson can be learned about appreciating those who dedicate their lives to service by understanding the effort their work requires.
That isn’t to say the trip has been boring. To do so would be a disservice to the wonderful people we’ve met during our brief stay in D.C. and the help we’ve both given and received. Personally, the human factor is what made the trip. It is something in the nature of volunteers, a consequence of what it takes for someone to give themselves over to service: you’ll only meet the most interesting people.
From Zaid ’14:
When not working in the kitchens, we have the privilege of exploring DC and acquainting ourselves with its myriad of sights, sounds, and tastes. Just yesterday, we visited both the Holocaust Museum and the National Gallery of Art. Today, we took a tour of U Street, the historic heartland of African-American culture in DC. Once nicknamed “Black Broadway”, the neighborhood is well-known as a center of the arts in Washington, alive with music and food just as it was over fifty years ago. It is also home to Ben’s Chili Bowl, the legendary landmark of U Street, and Bill Cosby’s eatery of choice. We stopped in at the Chili Bowl for dinner, and listened to the manager give a quick talk on the history of the establishment. While the area was engulfed in violent riots following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968, the Chili Bowl remained open and served as a sanctuary for the community, standing above the ashes. The founders, Ben and Virginia Ali, have entered the DC Hall of Fame for their decades of service to their community at Ben’s Chili Bowl, which former mayor of DC Adrian Fenty called “one of the greatest treasures in the District of Columbia”.
We continued our self-guided tour of U Street into Meridian Hill Park, where unfortunately we could not witness the park’s signature cascading waterfall, as due to the frigid weather all fountains were shut off. However, we did get to see a grand statue of Joan of Arc, and a patterned cobblestone grid that seemed oddly suitable for a game of human chess. Kyle practiced being a gargoyle, and Anh went all “Assassin’s Creed” on the steps, which means he was running and jumping on everything, all the time. As the frost pressed on, we had to hurry our tour along, but not before we stopped off and picked up some goods at the gift shop by the Chili Bowl. All in all, it was a refreshing experience to take some time out of the kitchen to immerse ourselves in the rich history of the area. We then returned to the hostel and promptly settled into what became known as the “chili coma.” We will sleep well tonight, and prepare ourselves for a full day of service tomorrow.
Today was our last day at the DC Central Kitchen’s Nutrition lab. We prepared meals for area public schools and local group homes. Although we did not have a direct connection with those we were serving, our experience at the William Penn house made us realize that a direct connection with the ones we serve is not always necessary to make a difference. We made a difference by assisting the staff with an overwhelming amount of meal preparation, labeling, and cleaning.
At the end of our service, the chef and other DC Central kitchen cooks treated us to lunch. The lunch was nothing less than spectacular! We had a choice of meatloaf, baked-chicken, potatoes, corn and beans, salad, tortilla chips, and homemade punch. While we were busy preparing meals for others, they prepared a thank you meal for us. Moreover, they gave us food for thought by telling us that we should always take our education seriously and be true to ourselves.
So far, we have completed one full week of service and we are moving on to new locations in the coming week. As we reflect on those we have worked with and those we have served, we are extremely thankful for this experience.
-Washington D.C. service group
From Jeanie ’15, Arielle ’14, Haleigh ’14, and Scarlett ’14
Over the past two days, we have been working with Brad Ogilvie and a few interns at the William Penn House. When we first met Brad, he sat us down and talked to us about what service truly means in his eyes. He described our inner struggle pertaining to service as “ego verses grace” and then went on to explain that, “service only happens by making comfortable people uncomfortable”. He meant that we, the George School volunteers, need to go out of our comfort zone in order to provide genuine service. Brad also emphasized the need to build a personal connection to those we are serving and to build a friendship. Even just sharing our experiences with one another and listening to each other’s stories could be considered “service.” His point of view was very different from anything we had talked about before and it was eye-opening for each of us. The lesson Brad had shared made all of us rethink the way we approached our service in the beginning of the week, and it resonated with us powerfully.
At the end of day four, we had the privilege of meeting Janie, a longtime friend of Brad. She has devoted the last sixty-two years of her life to bettering the community through standing up for the rights of the poor in Washington, DC. Janie’s mission is to improve the lives of those who are just one paycheck away from homelessness. Therefore, Janie is very passionate about gardening and teaching others how to grow organic vegetables for themselves in order to promote a nutritious lifestyle. Janie also gives so much of what she has to others. She said, “everything that I have two of in my pantry, I give one to someone else who needs it,” while also noting that she barely has enough money to support herself.
The next day we went to Capitol Hill Methodist Church to help out another of Brad’s friends, Rob, who runs a breakfast kitchen Monday through Friday for anyone who wants to come and share a meal together. We helped prepare the food and then we sat down to eat with those who were in need of a meal. During that time Rob read a couple of excerpts from the bible to enlighten us, and eventually shared his story with us. Rob told us about how he now shares his house with seven other people who he once brought in as strangers. After reflecting on the past few days, we realize that service is not something we should only do on special occasions and trips like this one. It is something we have to do on a daily basis and integrate into our lives and communities. We must break down the barriers we put up between ourselves and those we are serving, and true service will be mutually beneficial.
By Maggie ’14
It’s been an interesting few days so far in Washington DC. We’ve worked at So Others Might Eat (SOME)–a food kitchen for the less fortunate and DC Central Kitchen (DCCK)–a food service organization serving clientele that usually would be unable to afford those services.
These experiences, especially at SOME, really opened my eyes to what life can be like for people less fortunate than me.
We also spent the day today at the William Penn House, a Quaker service-camp organization, and some of us helped them set up a seed facility to grow garden food for the needy, while others of us went out “in the field” to help build and install a railing for a disabled woman so she can access her basement.
We’re scheduled to continue service at DCCK next week and I’m looking forward to it. The experience thus far has been very rewarding, and I think it’s fair to say we’ve learned many lessons in our short time here.
Over the next few days spring service trips will be departing from George School. Students and faculty will be traveling together to France, Mississippi, Nicaragua, South Africa, and Washington DC. You can read updates from the trips right here on the blog and learn about the fun and important work our students are completing.
Learn more about each of the trips below:
Started in 1957, this relationship represents the longest running student exchange program between a US and a French high school. George School students work as teachers’ assistants in a variety of educational settings and live with local host families. A trip to Paris is one of the highlights. Students also join their host families for local sightseeing. French students, in turn, visit George School several weeks later.
Students work with Habitat for Humanity helping to build affordable houses along with those who lack adequate shelter in Northern Mississippi. The group also enjoys potluck dinners with current and future Habitat homeowners and other members of the community. Students build relationships with the community as they build homes. There also are opportunities to explore local sites of interest in northern Mississippi.
Students work as teachers’ assistants in our sister school in Barrio Riguero, a working-class Managua neighborhood. Other service opportunities may include repairing and upgrading
schools and health clinics in impoverished areas. Students stay with host families who speak very little or no English. Cultural excursions typically involve visits to artisan markets, and historic sites, as well as the lakes and volcanoes for which Nicaragua is known.
The South Africa service project immerses students in a cross cultural exchange with families from different communities in Capetown. Students will volunteer at an elementary and middle school during the day and assist at an orphanage in the afternoon. The orientation will include a review of the U.S. civil rights movement and conclude with an intense study of civil rights and apartheid in South Africa. Students will end their service by visiting the apartheid museum in Johannesburg.
Students volunteer at Martha’s Table, SOME (So Others Might Eat), DC Central Kitchen, and a local mission. Using Hostelling International as home base, students will have the opportunity to visit museums and explore our nation’s capital.