By: Jesse Aguilar
Many of our members volunteer to help those less fortunate, believing that any amount of time we can give is enough to make a significant difference in someone else's life. In November, I participated in a volunteer service for the group "Habitat for Humanity". True to its name, Habitat for Humanity is a non-profit group that seeks to build and repair environments all over the city for those in need. On that day, the group planned to renovate and revitalize a community center for seniors. Besides me, several other members from YouthBridge-NY showed up to contribute, all wearing thick jackets and gloves to brave the unyielding cold. After briefly introducing ourselves to the other volunteers and Habitat for Humanity members, we set off to work in our designated areas, each person doing a small part of the big project. I, along with three other volunteers, was assigned to paint the walls for the goal of illuminating the atmosphere. We were to cover every inch of the hallway walls, which was approximately 400 square feet. It was long and hard work, not at all as easy as I had first suspected. Although I was weary and aching from using muscles I had never used before, I felt a sense of achievement whenever I looked over the work I had done. For once, I was doing something physical, and I was doing it for someone else. I could imagine the happy faces of the elderly who would return to that embellished hallway, which encouraged me to continue on. After several hours, the painstaking job was complete. My friends and I evaluated our hard work, our sweaty faces lit up with smiles.
Two weeks later, another opportunity to give my all for the community arrived. It was an opportunity known as 92Y Teensgiving, an annual event in which over 700 high school teenagers and 100 adult volunteers participate in community service projects all over NYC. Our team's assigned job was to completely renovate a park, and to replace the gravel and wood there. It was a lot harder than it sounded, as the raging winds and sub-zero temperature buffeted our shaking bodies while we struggled to move wood without sliding down the hill. But the hardship made me realize many things, how important our actions were for the good of the people who would soon use the park. There was no doubt that I would be sore later on and be forced to throw out my wood-covered t-shirt, but the satisfaction I felt was worth it. I was doing something good for others, and I wasn't alone. I had friends, comrades in arms, who had just as much conviction as I did. I left that park with sore arms and with wood chips in my shoes, but I also knew that I had friends by my side who were also volunteering their time for someone else's good. It was a moment I would never forget, that achievement and pride I felt.