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Service Through the Eyes of Shoshana Weiner

Posted on 07/18/2011 @ 11:00 PM

Have you ever met a teen that wishes there was more time to spend volunteering over the summer? That there is no better way to spend two weeks of summer working with homeless children at Bright Beginnings? Welcome to Impact D.C., a summer program for teens wanting to make a change- a difference- in the world. For the past five days, friendships formed and D.C.’s shopping economy has received a boost, but we have been given the opportunity to witness ourselves making a difference in the community and educate ourselves on issues in our lives.

My favorite days are spent volunteering at Bright Beginnings, a school for homeless children. The best way to start a day is to have a three year old in a T-Rex t-shirt run up to you offering hugs while relaying a vivid story in incomprehensible babble. The day only gets better as we are assigned to classrooms to interact with the children. In the classrooms we are introduced as teachers to the children, which include the title of Mister or Misses. The unfortunate few are left to complete organizational tasks around the building. We rotate through the classrooms and organizing; we sure speak up when it is our turn to be with the kids. The most unfortunate person is on recess duty and chases the kids around in the sweltering D.C. heat. Regardless of our duties, we always have fun.

Bright Beginnings is open to children ages zero to five. About 130 children are enrolled, but that is nothing compared to the 160 children on the waiting list. To accommodate the extensive waiting list, Bright Beginnings is opening another school. The children are homeless and attend school year round. They receive two meals a day, and plenty of love and attention from us volunteers! Going into the school, none of us knew what to expect. We were nervous that preconceived notations would interfere with our ability to work with the children. Although the children have little to nothing and rough at-home lives, they are happy as ever. They love the water hose, snack time, and stories. Hugs are popular and piggy-back rides are in high demand. The kids love visits from friends and the teachers are always appreciative of the extra help. My favorite part is reading stories to my two year olds before nap time. The kids rush for the best seat in the house- my lap. With toddlers on both knees and cuddled under my arms, we read The Magic School Bus. Keeping in mind that these are two year older, the book lasts three pages before someone is running off to the trucks or picking out the next story.

After a short (5) hours, I stumble out of my classroom with somewhat sleeping children, knowing it will be a long time before I am ready to have kids of my own. Although exhausted by lunch time, the entire Bright Beginnings group wishes there was more time to be with the kids. It is the best feeling in the world to know I am making a difference in the childrens’ lives.

When we are not volunteering, we are participating in programs involving the issues of homelessness and guest speakers, such as Steve Colbertson from the YSA. Of course, we are hitting up the sites of D.C. Saturday chofesh was spent at the Smithsonians, Spy Museum, Newsuem, and eating ice cream to cool off. Shabbat in D.C. was appropriately ended at the Lincoln Memorial with a beautiful Havdallah service, all participant planned. Other Impact highlights include Harry Potter, lobbying, and most definitely the great people here! We are currently working on lobbying. Yesterday we were grouped based on home state. Each represented state has an appointment with a senator of representative during which we will present issues we feel strongly about. This is an amazing opportunity to let our voices be heard because we CAN make a difference. With only one week left and one day to play with my kids, I don’t want this experience to end. There really is no better way to spend my summer than helping other kids enjoy theirs.

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