Monday, January 26, 2009

Our Day of Community Service: On Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

Volunteering in Room 206

By Lilly

On Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in January, The Sprouts of Hope decided to participate in a community service project arranged by the Roots & Shoots group at Northeastern University in Boston. (Sadly, Eliza, Mia and Kaya couldn't join me, Jane, Risa and Maya in this activity.) We were inspired to do this, in part, by a video message Michelle Obama recorded to urge people to get involved in their community by helping others on this special day. You can listen to her message by clicking on this link:

This national holiday was happening on the day before she became First Lady and she asked people around the country to do something for the community in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr., just like she and her husband were planning to do in their new city of Washington, D.C.. So The several members of the Sprouts of Hope, along with other Roots & Shoots members, volunteered at the Mission Hill School in Boston.

When we got to the Mission Hill School, we found out that there were many jobs to be done: making posters encouraging the kids to conserve water, cleaning out classrooms, organizing the library. We chose to clean a combined fourth and fifth grade classroom, and when we first entered the classroom, Room 206, there was a list of things to do.

1. Clean out the work bins
2. Wash down the tables
3. Clean library bins

As it turned out, there were around 30 work bins! So there was a lot of work for us to do.

When the Sprouts had finished the three items on the checklist, we didn't really see very much of a difference. Sure, the room was cleaner, but unless somebody told you we’d been cleaning, if you happened to walk into the room, you might not have noticed the difference. So we kept on cleaning.

I vacuumed the two rugs where we imagined kids sat and read and talked. And we took pillows outside and shook them as a way of cleaning them in the fresh air.

We also organized the really messy coatroom, where it looked like everything that did not have another home ended up being tossed. And we washed some of the windows and the whiteboard, and we swept the hardwood floors with a broom and cleaned things out from underneath tables.

When our work was done, even we were shocked at how different the classroom looked. We wished we could be there to see the teacher’s and students’ reaction when they walked in the next morning.
Want to see us cleaning the classroom? Click on this YouTube link and you can watch.

Just as we were preparing to leave, a man walked into the classroom, and then walked back out. Then, with a confused expression, he walked back in. It turns out that this man is the teacher in Room 206. He introduced himself as Nakia, and told us when he first walked in, he thought it was the wrong classroom... that’s how different it looked! It was a really special moment, and seeing his reaction and meeting him made all of our effort worth all our time we’d devoted to doing such a good job.
All of us hope that someday soon we can return to the Mission Hill School and help out again.

Other Projects at Mission Hill School

It was also a lot of fun to meet other Roots & Shoots kids who were there that day. All of us had a chance to eat lunch together and we went around in a circle and each of talked about what we liked about being involved with community service. Everyone talked about how much fun they were having and how good it felt to be helping other people.

We also had a chance to see some of the other projects -- like the ones where kids were making signs about conserving water to be put in the restrooms throughout the school. Some other kids were writing short messages about ways kids can easily -- in 5 minutes -- make a real difference in saving the planet's resources and energy.
You can see some examples of the pictures and signs they were making in the photographs, below, and listen to a video (click on the link that follows) of the Northeastern students who organized the day talking about some of the cool projects that happened at the school.

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