Quaker Community Day 2011
“Friends had a big impact on me by making community service a part of everyday life…It was expected that you give back to the community. The question became not are you going to serve, but how are you going to serve.”
These are the words of Dylan Waugh, Friends class of ’03, describing the influence his years at Friends School gave him in terms of community service. He is the founder and president of VISEDAL, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of young children in Managua, Nicaragua. He, along with a number of other representatives from different service-driven organizations, came to Friends on Quaker Community Day to teach and engage students in the importance of having a strong social conscience and desire to give back to the community. One of the benefits of attending a Quaker school is that we learn about the importance of community service and the rewards that it brings when you give back.
As journalists reporting on the events of the day, we meandered through the halls and popped into as many activities as could. Many a classroom was filled with students, teachers, and the various presenters from their respective organizations. A number of the groups convened to learn more on local issues and charities/programs available to help rehabilitate communities in need, such as Habitat for Humanity, ASPCA, Struggle for Education, St. Vincent’s Villa, My Sister’s Place, Reservoir Hill Improvement Council, Esperanza Center, and Jobs, Housing & Recovery. It became more and more clear the struggles that some face right here in Baltimore and just how much we can help when we put in the effort and lend some time. There was an activity designated for cleaning up our own greenhouse at Friends, led by the Green Club; E-Waste collected old technology no longer in use by its owners and disposed of them in a sustainable manner, by recycling and reusing the parts. And even in the groups focusing on the plights of communities much farther than our own, students were able to realize that geographical barriers separating us are really quite easy to overcome. Some looked at, discussed and organized efforts to help those in places such as Honduras, Nicaragua, and children in all different parts of the world for whom UNICEF was designed. It was amazing to see the impact we can make in just one day.
After discovering what all of the small groups were doing, we were approached by Mr. Paulson, who suggested that we take part in an activity in order to have our own hands-on experience. We were invited to help Habitat for Humanity bake cookies for their fundraiser. Upon entering the lower school multi-purpose room, we were engulfed by the smell of freshly baked cookies, the soft music coming from the radio that a student had brought, and the laughs that had come from cookies that were misshapen or burnt. We washed our hands and began spreading out flour, and pressing the adorable house-shaped cookie-cutters into rolled out dough. We talked and joked around while baking, and we were later rewarded with the permission to eat the reject-cookies, and Mr. Paulson running out to bring back pizza for lunch. It felt good to make something concrete we knew was going towards a good cause.
The sea of students toting green bags filled with food and toiletries were members of Ms. McManus’s tenth grade English classes. They visited the Samaritan Community in Bolton Hill, where they were informed of a variety of social issues. They listened to personal stories on the struggles of navigating our healthcare and public transportation systems, as well as anecdotes of homelessness and hunger. Appropriate for Veteran’s Day, one of the clients of the Samaritan Community who spoke to the students was a veteran of the Vietnam War. He spoke of his tribulations in Vietnam and how they have stayed with him in his everyday life at home. At the end of the day, the students were truly impacted by the various stories they heard and the advocacy they demonstrated.
In addition, we had the chance to interview four of the speakers that presented during the day: Meg Ducey and William Bradford (from Jobs, Housing & Recovery), Teddy Krolik (from Reservoir Hill Improvement Council), and Dylan Waugh (from VISEDAL). All explained their programs and gave us insight into what it means to serve.
We had the privilege of interviewing Ms. Ducey and Mr. Bradford, two employees from the Jobs Housing and Recovery Organization of Baltimore. Ms. Ducey says she loves giving presentations and sharing information about a very worthy cause to students like us. JHR provides the basic needs of living (food, shelter, and rehabilitation) so that residents (who are recovering from varying degrees of substance abuse and addiction) may concentrate on finding a job and saving money so that one day they can stand on their own feet. Mr. Bradford was grateful for all JHR had done for him in helping him restart his life, and has now begun college classes as well as returned to JHR become an employee there; he’s decided to pay it forward in this way, so others in a situation similar to what his once was may have the opportunity to begin anew. “Change is the only thing that’s constant,” he astutely stated, something he has clearly learned through his experiences and hopes to make easier for those coming through JHR.
We also had the opportunity to interview Teddy Krolik, who graduated from Friends in ’03. He explained his job in Reservoir Hill (a neighborhood he is helping to strengthen in West Baltimore) as “hybrid community organizer planner”. He searches for individuals willing to help in the rebuilding of the community and gets them involved. He described the service he’s done within Reservoir Hill and outside as, “…there’s something everyone, Reservoir Hill and outside can do to help”. As the one who seeks out, coordinates and organizes the events to rehabilitate Reservoir Hill, he has become an expert in recognizing the unique talents in every individual who comes to help and ensuring that they can participate. When describing what he sees as important in looking to serve, he said, “…I think connecting students to their city [is important]; where I work is three miles from here, it’s not far. I think that is something that I’m really interested in pursuing and so far I’ve gotten indications… that these are things that could happen”.
And last but not least, we were able to speak with Dylan Waugh, also a former Quaker who graduated in the class of ’03. He created his own official non-profit VISEDAL, which caters to underprivileged children in Managua, Nicaragua. He loves that Friends emphasizes community building, whether that community is local or international. In fact, he told us that he remembers being a peer educator to the middle school kids. “Friends does a good job in making sure all of the students are involved in the community.” The idea to form a non-profit started when he went to Managua in college and saw small children begging on the streets for money. Waugh took the kids to lunch and enjoyed having simple conversations with them in Spanish. He knew he wanted to help the kids and take them off the street, so that they may have the opportunity to play, learn, and grow as normal kids. He then went on to found VISEDAL with the help of a close friend and his family. “It started that we all wanted to help in some way. It’s definitely a team effort. VISEDAL provides food stipends, clothes, and activities to over twenty kids in Managua.” He recommends to all students that want to pursue a career in service to find a cause you are passionate about. At that point, he says, it no longer feels like work, and it becomes so rewarding.
Both Mr. Krolik and Mr. Waugh indicated how, through their years at Friends and days like Quaker Community Day, they received a better opportunity to get out in the community and from there learned to incorporate service into their future professional lives.
Through events like Quaker Community Day, students are given the opportunity to serve in hopes that these kinds of activities will become a natural, everyday occurrence. Even the smallest action to help another person, a daily outreach to someone in need, can give them unprecedented confidence and strength. “Friends is full of wonderful, passionate people who want to help each other,” said Mrs. Ducey, in describing our community here. In a world that continually tries to get you down, the only way to really transcend is to reach out. Through events like Quaker Community Day, Friends students can more fully become the service-conscious and service-driven future leaders of society.