The following essay on community service was written by Liana Hitts, a middle schooler, enrolled in City Congregation’s Bar/Bat Mitzvah program. Students spend a year and a half researching their heritage, values and beliefs, and write on a Jewish subject of their choice, their major project; they also perform 13 hours of community service, and write about it. An example of this component can be seen below. The process improves both the student’s writing and critical thinking skills, as well as their self confidence and overall maturity.
Helping people is something that I have been doing for a long time. When some are told they have to volunteer for community service, they groan and complain. However, I knew that it would be no big deal because helping others feels natural to me. Even small tasks such as running an errand for a teacher or assisting a classmate with their homework makes me feel good and like I am making a difference in the world.
My dad was always very active in the community. Does anybody who lives in Sunnyside remember the dirty, beat up Barnett Avenue? Well, several years ago, my father and I along with about two dozen other volunteers, planted daffodils on the top of the hill. That was only the beginning of the rebirth of Barnett, to make the street look nicer. A new sidewalk was installed, along with new fencing and so many other things that make it look all the more presentable. But I feel proud being one of the few who kicked off the renovations on that street. It is now more enjoyable for everyone who walks past.
For my community service for my Bat Mitzvah, I volunteered at several places.
One of them was an organization called Greening Queens Library. This organization purchases greenery and asks for volunteers to plant them in front of Queens’ public libraries. I enjoyed this project because it taught me how to garden small plants. Even though I got pretty dirty, it was a fun and educational experience. Even now, a couple months later, if you pass in front of the Woodside, Queens Library location, you can see the beautiful plants and they will be there for years to come. However, the benefit of these plants is not only for the beauty aspect, but also it is good for our environment.
Another place I volunteered at is at the New York Cares Organization, where my mother has been volunteering for quite some time. The first thing I did was to help transport senior citizens from their rooms at a care center, to a concert hall. I did this last Thanksgiving so there was a holiday concert for that occasion. It was sad to see people in poor health – many were very thin and sickly looking. However, many were happy to see a young person volunteering to help them. This made me happy knowing that I had made a difference in their day.
Tying into my last example, I did another type of volunteering with seniors at a different care center. This was a karaoke night. We had to transfer the patients from their rooms to a social area. Then lyrics to a song that I didn’t know appeared on a screen. This was also very difficult to watch; these people, some maybe not so far from death, trying to sing the words to some of their favorite songs. However, I knew that deep inside they were very happy for an event like this. They were also, again, happy to see someone young volunteering. The patients were happy to see that I wasn’t doing this grudgingly. I was doing it passionately and joyfully, to be making a difference in their day.
Last, but definitely not least, Room to Grow. This is a non-profit organization based in Manhattan that provides assistance for babies born into poverty. Room to Grow gets donations of clothing, outwear, bedding, toys, books and so on from individuals and every three months families comes in and meet with a social worker and then select a series of five personal items suitable for that three-month period. Room to Grow needs volunteers to help sort the items. That’s where I come in.
Through sorting the boxes and boxes and boxes of donations, I recalled many childhood memories, including many books I read and toys that I played with 10 years ago. I feel like this method of volunteering affected me the most. My heart goes out to all the young children who have to resort to going to Room to Grow. It is an amazing organization with an incredible mission.
In conclusion, whether helping a teacher, an older person or making a difference in the lives of infants I have learned that I am extremely lucky to be in the position to help others rather than be the one who needs the help. I now have realized that I should always be doing my best to better the world, no matter what the cause.