On Saturday, May 14, 20111 over 60 volunteers descended upon Northeast High School for National Arab American Service Day. This day is a nation-wide initiative of ACCESS (Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services) and National Network of Arab American Communities (NNAAC).
For the past six years NNAAC has facilitated Arab American Service Day as part of the AmeriCorps National Program, and AmeriCorps members across the country organize this massive volunteer effort. Al-Bustan currently has two AmeriCorps members who helped organize and implement this year’s service day at Northeast High: Musa Hamideh and Miranda Bennett.
In partnership with the Philadelphia Arab American Community Development Corporation, the Network of Arab American Professionals-Philadelphia Chapter, Northeast High School administration, and Philadelphia SHARE, volunteers spent the day beautifying and replanting the vegetable garden in the NEHS Alumni Courtyard. Materials for the day were sourced from Philadelphia SHARE, an organization that provides discounted groceries to low income communities, as well as tackling a new initiative to act as a resource for the development of local urban gardens.
Drawing inspiration from the flora of the Levant (Blad Al-Sham in Arabic), volunteers from students in the ESOL program at NEHS helped plant tomatoes, eggplants, pumpkins, cucumbers, sweet peppers and a plethora of herbs such as thyme, oregano, mint, and parsley. Since a large contingency of the students who volunteered were of Chinese descent, activities were led in which students translated the name of each vegetable into Arabic, English, and Mandarin Chinese, creating labels to identify each vegetable.
All in all, the service day was a resounding success. We were able to pull over 20 garbage bags full of weeds, and plant a vegetable garden in a plot that had been unused for years. The vegetables planted will be harvested in the late summer, and the proceeds will go to local food cupboards and/or soup kitchens for the betterment of the surrounding community.
Without the hard work and dedication of so many, including Bill Shick of SHARE, Zeina El-Halabi and Wiam Mutan of the Arab American CDC, and Rob Caroselli and Chris Riley of Northeast High School, this amazing effort would not have been possible. Thanks so everyone!