Poly’s Annual Givinig-Back

Afghanistan crisis brings Poly together through community service

There is a bounty of new activities and opportunities with school permanently back in person, including community service.

Service events started even before students arrived on campus. In August, due to the pressing crisis in Afghanistan, parents, faculty, and students worked together to create a project that would directly help refugees in Philadelphia.

Elijah Sivin, director of service-learning, said that a “parent had contacts at the Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia… and those contacts were aware of planes that were landing with Afghan refugees and were aware of how few necessities [they] had when they landed.”

Socks specifically were chosen as the focus of the drive because they are the most requested item at homeless shelters. An often overlooked donation, socks are necessary, but they can only be accepted brand-new.

“It’s a product easy to shop for… unlike other garments, it’s one size fits all, it’s also important for comfort and even health,” Sivin said.

Once the parents and Sivin decided on the drive logistics and Student Service Board (SSB) members, seniors Claudia LeDuc and Emily Melcer volunteered to collect the donations. The two-day drive started on September 7.

“It was us wandering around with an IKEA bag because everything was short-notice. We stood outside on the 7th Avenue entrance for a while because people were coming in for sports practice, but when there weren’t any people, we went around and harassed the teachers,” LeDuc said.

John Rearick, an English teacher, brought socks to school on the first day of the drive. 

“I was happy to donate, and it helped that my wife… immediately jumped into action and bought socks from a local store. Many of us have good intentions, but people who actually make things happen, like my wife and Mr. Sivin, move compassion from the theoretical to the practical. And no one wants to wear theoretical socks,” he said.

The drive was successful, with several hundred socks collected in two days. Other community service events are also being planned this year that will address issues around hunger and the environment.

On Saturday, October 30, and several following dates, students will be able to work with One Love Community Fridge to provide food for New Yorkers in need (similar to the previous Friendly Fridge Zooms hosted last school year). The Lower School will also host its annual Prospect Park cleanup on November 7.

When it comes to service at Poly, Sivin hopes it can be a way for students to tackle real-world problems: “We need places like classrooms and we need a real understanding of the issues we’re working on. But I think when you just understand the world but you can’t do anything about it, it can make you feel out of balance… This can be a place where you can take your own ideas, or even your own feelings, and do something about them.”