Give back day: Volunteering opportunity at the Rockaways

My parents always taught me, since I was a little kid, to give back to the community, to help those who are in need and to do so especially in the holiday season. As probably every other parent, they taught me to have manners and values, to be respectful and try to do something to change the world, even if it’s little things (better if they were big), but at least to do something that has nothing to do with doing something for yourself.

Last time I was in Peru, I was part of an annual event my mother organizes, we call it Chocolatada Navidena. She visits neighborhoods that are pretty much forgotten or just excluded and brings toys and a kids show for all the children of the area to enjoy. I honestly, wish I could do that here in New York, but I don’t have the money (yet) so for now I decided to enroll in volunteering programs. Every year, I donate clothes when the winter comes and this year I enrolled in one of Food Bank’s volunteering programs.

Since my mother is here, she said we must do something for kids in the area. She set everything up for the three Chocolatadas Navidenas she put together before she left Peru, and she didn’t want to finish her year without doing anything in New York. So yesterday we went on the internet and found a volunteering opportunity in the Rockaways, one of the most affected areas by the hurricane Sandy. I’ve learned through other friends about their volunteering experience in the area and it was really sad, so I decided to sign us in.

Today, Thursday 19th, we woke up very early, had breakfast very fast and took the train and bus to the Rockaways. Even though we got lost and arrived a little bit later, we made it there. The meeting point was a school, just by the boardwalk in Beach 29st. The area seems to be getting better and I was happy to see all those little kids at their school following their normal itineraries; getting back to the normal activities can be  a good sign.

When we finally met the other volunteers, we were given our duties. The Food Bank brought boxes of groceries that were going to be allocated in bags and be distributed to the kids in the school, those kids whose families were severely affected and still handling the storm’s aftermath. Then, if there was still food available, those bags were going to be distributed to people who live around the school.

We packed the food in bags: cans of nonperishable food, box of cereal, tuna, juice, and sweets were put together in bags with the kids names. It was a surprise to see that some of those kids had down syndrome and slightly signs of autism. I love kids and I was happy to interact with one of them, he was very sweet and smart.

While I was helping on the organization, the innocent children from the school in Newtown, Connecticut came to my mind. To be honest, I wanted to come to a school in the Rockaways because I wanted to do something good for children. In my perspective, those little children who are dealing with rough times, in some sort of way represent those little angels that are now resting in peace. We, as adults, should have as a mission to make one kid smile everyday, it can be our nephew/niece, daughter/son, or just a kid in the street. Children don’t deserve to face evil, nonetheless to deal with rough times, simply because childhood should be just a pure, happy, joyful and peaceful stage in their lives.

To go back to my experience, we finished packing and we head to distribute the bags. Each bag had a kid’s name and they seemed thrilled to receive something, especially so close to Christmas. After doing this, we had to say goodbye, the other part of the team were going to go outside to distribute the other bags to members of the community. I wanted to be part as well, but there were too many volunteers (which is a great thing). People from all over Queens, Manhattan and even Jersey came to help, from all ages and different ethnicity  it was gratifying to see that people are willing to help others who are in need, to invest their time to make someone else happy.

On my way back home, I was talking to my mother, and we have decided to do it again, at least once more before the year ends and to promise myself to do stuff like this once a month as soon as 2013 starts. So please, if you know of any volunteering opportunities in New York, let me know!

Ps: We have 12 more days until the year is gone, so do don’t forget to do something positive for another person. It could be to offer your seat to an elderly or a pregnant woman, buy a sandwich to a homeless, give a coat to someone in the streets, or even better, go to a volunteering event. You will see that you will feel good with yourself and your heart will be happy! 🙂

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