Teaching Kids to Care

We all want our kids to be altruistic. It starts with us.

Sydney Marenburg, in character as “Silence Church” at Claude Moore Colonial Farm. Photo by Erick Gibson

Most weekends, Sydney Marenburg, 15, a sophomore at The Madeira School, lounges around her house in McLean’s Langley Oaks neighborhood in a sweatshirt and leggings. Unless it’s a weekend when, as one of more than a dozen junior interpreters at McLean’s Claude Moore Colonial Farm, she disappears into her alter ego, “Silence Church.” In this volunteer role, she wears a white cap, kerchief, petticoat, gown and apron, transporting herself back to the year 1771 and performing actual chores like churning butter, chasing chickens and weeding tobacco fields.

“Are you making lunch?” one visitor to the historic site asks her.

“I currently have an onion pie cooking for our midday meal,” she answers, at which point the visitor’s young son turns up his nose. “It’s good! It’s onions, potatoes and apples. I have sausages for the side.”

“Sausages? Where do you get those?” the visitor follows up.

“We make them, of course,” she says, still in character. “Here. From our pigs.”

Why has Marenburg been volunteering at Claude Moore since age 10?

“It’s fun! You have a sense of accomplishment beyond just what you’re doing at school,” she says. “You have interesting stories to tell your friends. You can do something now rather than wait.” Like bring history alive for people who want to know what farm life was like in colonial Virginia.

Haben Yohannes, who lives in the Arlington View neighborhood, also sees volunteering as fun. She has served as a volunteer camp counselor at the same Arlington County summer camp she first attended as a fourth-grader. She also donates time at her local library branch (Columbia Pike) and at the annual Arlington County Fair, as well as with area nonprofits like AFAC and the D.C. Central Kitchen.
In a way, volunteering is just her thing. “I play sports but don’t see myself as a full-on athlete,” says the 17-year-old. “Me and my family tend to help. At church, with my family or with my friends, I like to show gratitude and give back to the community.”

Categories: Parents & Kids