Friday morning began as usual. Our team started to gather at the Chamounix basement one by one. Some of us were in the game room reading the blog, studying, or continue their daydreaming, while others were preparing
breakfast. Our chef of the day was Chef La-Tina and Chef Amelia who are the experts in making delicious pancakes. Assisting them we also had our fruit and pancake mix expert, Heidi-Cakes. Thanks to them we managed to enjoy the delicious strawberry and banana pancakes and got on the van on time.
We then visited the Hare Khrisna Temple, a Hindu Temple in Philadelphia, where we met Sraddha. She led us throughout a Hindu ceremony. Several elements played a role during the ceremony for example, she explained that blowing a shell is used to purify the atmosphere using sound (at the beginning and the end of the ceremony) and water is used to purify the surroundings. We discussed more about Hinduism after the ceremony while eating lunch.
Our day continued with doing service with HIAS (Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society). Our main focus of the day was on refugee. The difference between a refugee and a person seeking asylum depends on where the person asked the status from. A refugee status is asked from a second or third country while an asylum seeker is asks from the United States. Listening to Sarah explanation about previous refugees cases that she handled, it took a long time for a refugee to get his/her case accepted. The fastest case that she ever handled was nine months. After the refugee is accepted, each refugee in the family will receive $900 per month. Most of this money is then spent on house rent and daily living expenses. HIAS plays a role in helping the refugee to get a place to live in and to afford daily living (i.e. get a job). After we received some information regarding HIAS and refugees, we then headed to help deliver donations to refugees. Our team, joined with Erica and HIAS service coordinator, then left to the storage. We were divided into two teams. My team worked on gathering some clothes, toys, and baby supplies for three babies (one who had been just born 3 days prior to our service). We then left to deliver the baby supplies.
We arrived at the first house where John, one year old, lives. Brandon and Tayseer then delivered the donations to John’s dad. They then spent some time sharing stories with him. Observing them from the car, I could see how thankful the family was. Little John then appeared from the apartment window and waved at us. All of us were glad to get to see him even though it was only for a little while. We then left to the next house where a one year old boy and the new born baby live. There are two floors at the house. The first floor of the apartment is where the new born girl lives while the second floor was where the one year old baby lives. Amelia, Heidi, Tina, Erica, and I went out the van to deliver the donation. Erica, Tina, and I went into the apartment on the second floor while Heidi and Amelia went to the first floor. We assembled the baby cart for him. He looked at the bag that we gave him and took out the ball toy. The mother could not communicate with us because she is a relatively new refugee in the United States and speaks very little English. I can see how excited the boy was when he got the ball. All that I can say in my heart at the time was “I am hoping the best for them. Hopefully all of them will have a great future. “
Our day then continued with dinner at Pat’s King of Steak to eat Philly original cheese steak. Following that we went back to the hostel. Some of us continued their night with playing Quelf (a board game with so many unique cards that contain interesting punishments) while others decided to rest for the next day.
We woke up early Saturday morning to go visit Rodeph Shalom to learn more about Judaism. We started the morning with a Torah study which is followed with a service. There are several things that I noticed during the service. The service was led by a girl. Most of the songs during the service were sung in Hebrew. Unlike many other books, the books are read from back to front instead of from front to back. This is similar to the way that al-Qur’an is read. When reading the Torah scroll, one has to use a Yad as a pointer to prevent anyone from touching the Torah for it is considered sacred. After the service, we joined Rabi Eli for a discussion session. We learned that there are two types of Judaism, Orthodox and Progressive. Orthodox Judaism follows the Torah and Tallmud (Oral laws that are finally written down) strictly while progressive are those that doesn’t.
With this, our information session about religions has finished. We spent rest of the afternoon at the Amish Market. We visited the underground train museum which turned out it doesn’t accept guest with no reservation on the weekends. We visited the please touch museum store and spent some time outside while waiting for 4.30pm to go back to the hostel.
We started our reflection with Erica and Nicole at 5pm. Everyone gathered at the Chamounix living room for the first session of our reflection. We were divided into 5 teams. Each of us has to present their teammate ‘AHA’ moments through a tissue paper collage. We then shared it with each other. After the reflection, we took time to say thank you to Nicole and Erica. We then cooked calzone for dinner which was AWESOME. Our long night then continued with the final reflection. We figured out our “stalker” of the week. We spent three hours reflecting on each other progress over the week. The night then ended with Brandon and Bassil-ly buddies radio program.
Without realizing it, the morning had crept upon us. Everyone worked together to put away the food in the refrigerator and pantry and were getting ready to get into the van. It seems that this week went by too quickly. Everyone was just starting to get closer with each other. The experiences that we have gone through this past week might be a new beginning or it might just be an end to the past to open the new door of the future. This was such an exciting and awesome experience!