Archive for the ‘school’ Category

Operation Feed the Children:  The Sequel

For those of you that have followed my blog(and have an excellent memory), you may recall my post about a particular day in South Africa.  On that day I approached the building project manager, Deen and asked him what I could do to help the children.  He looked at me and said “If you really want to help them and make them happy, you must get them food”.  I listened to his advice, bought and prepared lunch for all the children at the building site.

The pure joy and happiness in the children’s faces while they were eating lunch is something that still resonates with me today.  For that reason, a few weeks ago I decided to make a donation to Deen to buy the children food.  The volunteers at the site prepared the food in a similar fashion and the results were the same.  The results are best explained by an excerpt from the Projects Abroad blog below:

“Less than a year ago I had been most fortunate to be associated with a remarkable volunteer Jonathan Verpent who again donated funds for food which would be distributed to the kids at the crèche on the building site. This had been the highlight of two weeks spent at the adventures of the building project. Receiving heart-warming smiles from the children in those three days spent giving out food and drinks was the most incredible feeling that reminded me of the true happenings in the heart of the building project.”

I wish I could have been there to deliver the food in person, but the the pictures below will have to do.  Special thanks to Deen and his son Vash for putting this together and executing my idea.

Volunteers preparing lunch

Volunteers preparing lunch

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Happy Children!

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On August 17th I embarked on the journey of a lifetime to Cape Town, South Africa for two weeks.  I thought the trip would have been all about building a community center.  To be honest, the actual community center was secondary.  It was a ray of hope and provided a sense of community for the locals.  It was about being a positive influence on the young children, who have experienced more hardship in their short lives than most do in their lifetimes.  It was about helping out the stray dogs, and “adopting” them on the site as if they were our own.  Although my time there was short, I know I had a positive influence on the children, dogs, volunteers, and the building site in general.

My time in South Africa was nothing short of life changing.  The bonds I made with the other volunteers, my house family, Deen, and the children are everlasting.  I will never forget the times I had and will ensure I let the moments I shared have a positive influence on my life and others around me.

I could have not asked for a more amazing end to my journey to 30 Deeds over the past year.  However, in reality, it is not the end of the journey….It is  just the beginning of a lifetime dedicated to giving.

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Deen and I

I woke up today with mixed emotions.  I was excited to work hard yet sad because it was my last day.  I did not know how I was going to say goodbye to the volunteers and children I formed a close bond with over the last few weeks.  None the less, I ate my breakfast and headed out the door for the final day.

When I arrived on site, the volunteers and I quickly got to work.  We mixed cement and started “prettying” up certain areas as we had done in previous days.  Unfortunately, after about 45 minutes, it started to rain..and then rain..and then rain some more.  If you have read my previous posts, you may realize that this is a very common occurrence during the month of August in Cape Town.  Undeterred, I ran inside to spend time with the children.  They were watching a movie and I joined them to try and get a few more smiles out of them before leaving.

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Deen telling his infamous stories

Before leaving the site, Deen gathered all the volunteers to speak about myself and Jomo, who was also leaving that day.  Deen started off with stories and fatherly advice for both of us, before allowing each volunteer to say something to each of us.  It is a tradition for Deen that all volunteers have the pleasure of experiencing before leaving.  I also got to say a few words and thanked everyone for accepting me as if I were family.  I headed back home for my final dinner with my amazing house family before starting my long journey home tomorrow morning.

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Happy Children enjoying lunch

A few days ago while working, I had the idea that I wanted to do something more for the kids at the building site.  I approached Deen with a few ideas: get  kids a ball, crayons and paper..something to help them socialize and stimulate their mind.  Deen looked at me and said “If you really want to help them and make them happy, you must get them food”.  I trusted Deen’s word and decided to buy food for all the children

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Food Supplies

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Lots of Sandwiches!

Fast forward to today, I woke up early and headed to the grocery store with Deen.  I bought makings for about 50 sandwiches, a pack of 50 crackers, and  pack of 50  cookies.  We drove back to the job site and worked all morning: mixing cement and laying more of the foundation.   Mid morning, a few volunteers and I started made all the sandwiches. We brought them over to the kids along with a pack of crackers and pack of cookies for each.  After giving them the food, I have never seen them so quiet and content.   As always, Deen was right and the kids were happy!  The leftovers were given to the men and women who work at the daycare center to eat and distribute to others in the area.  Operation “Feed the Children” was a success!

I have been in sales for the past 8 years, so making phone calls is something that comes natural to me.  You may be asking..”Why is that important and what does it have to do with a deed?”  Great question!  I signed up to help make phone calls for an organization called Fresh Air Funds.  The amazing organization sends children from low income neighborhoods in NYC on free vacations/camps throughout the country. For some children, this is the first opportunity they have to leave the city.IMG957016

I arrived at the Fresh Air Fund’s office in NYC after a day of work.  There were 6 other volunteers that joined the program that night.  I was given a list of about 60 names, a script, and a bit of coaching from the team leader.  Soon after, I sat down and started calling!  It was my job to call the parents of children to remind them about the date, time, and place they needed to drop their children off for a sleep away camp.  I spent about 2 hours on the phone, going through the list and providing important details to the parents.

This particular deed may not have been the most hands on or involved deed, but it was still quite important.  The organization stays afloat because of volunteers and donations.  It does not receive any government funding.  If you would like to donate so you can help provide a great experience for a child, you can do so at the link below (I did!).

Donate Here!

When I started this journey, I had two main goals: Complete 30 deeds and motivate as many people as I can to give back.  After an administrator viewed an article about 30 deeds, she contacted me to ask if I would speak to 6th graders at an event at Linwood Middle School (same school I went to as a kid).  To be honest, I was hesitant at first.  I mean, how in the world was I going to relate to 6th graders??  After giving it some thought, and realizing I could potentially impact over 400 children in a positive way, it turned out to be a no brainer.

The table at Linwood Middle School

The table at Linwood Middle School

The event was held in the library of Linwood Middle School.  There were about 6-7 tables set up around the library(trade show style) with other speakers.  There was a woman teaching sign language, a dog that was specially trained to help children with autism, Anthony Starego- a high schooler with autism that kicked the winning field goal and was featured on sportscenter(I remembered the story and was excited to meet him!) among others.  Each group of children spent 5 minutes or so at each table to listen and hopefully learn.

For most of the groups, I asked 2 main questions to the children.  The first question I asked was “What do you think it means to volunteer”? A lot of the responses were similar yet impressive.  Responses included: “to give back”, “to help”, “to work without getting paid”, “to do something kind”, “to do something that helps others in need”, etc.  The second question I typically asked was “Who here has volunteered and what have you done”?  I was pleasantly surprised and impressed that about 75% of the children had volunteered.  Some responses included: a student helping an older woman bag and carry her groceries, shoveling snow and doing yard work for elderly neighbors, a student selling candy around the neighborhood to raise money for Lupus research(his mom has Lupus), a few  children had volunteered for buddy ball(a program to help children with disabilities engage in various sports- I volunteered for this program growing up),  a number of children raised money for the “Pennies for Puppies” program among many others.

Good Deed Card

Good Deed Card

After asking a few questions and engaging the students, I told them a little bit about my story and gave them a small assignment.  They were all given cards (pictured to the right) and had to complete just one good deed before the end of the school year.  I am hopeful that I inspired at least a few of the children to give back now, and in the future!

anti-cupcakeI signed up for the project through Jersey Cares called Cupcake Creations.  It is an after school program at the Jubilee Center in Hoboken, NJ that allows children to bake and decorate cupcakes.  The Jubilee Center provides safe, fun activities for children ages 5-12.

I arrived at the Jubilee center and was greeted by about 10 happy children who were inquisitive and engaging.  I am not sure if they were happy because I was volunteering, or happy because I brought funfetti cupcake mix and icing :-).   The kids did most of the baking and the volunteers primarily supervised the process.  They cracked the eggs, took turns stirring, and pouring the mix into the cupcake tray.  While the cupcakes were in the oven, I played basketball and various board games with the children to keep them busy.  When the cupcakes came out of the oven, they started the decoration  process.  Half of the decorations wound up on the table/floor but the kids didn’t seem to mind.  However, one little girl was very meticulous about her decorations and it was no surprise to find out that she was emulating her favorite show, Cupcake Wars.  She was actually quite talented and I enjoyed watching her decorations come together.  All in all, I had a great time with the program and the kids really enjoyed it as well.