Kickstart Education Projects: In Brooklyn and Beyond

Since it’s very first post, the blog Humans of New York – which offers snapshots of the weird, wonderful, and sometimes compellingly mundane people who live in New York City – has always been brilliant. But a couple of weeks ago, things took a turn for the even more brilliant. A photograph of a student who attends an underserved public school in Brooklyn talking about his school principal who inspired him, set in motion one of the most successful Indiegogo campaigns in history. People have already donated nearly $700,000 to support kids at the student’s school in Brooklyn – and every time you refresh the page, the amount seems to have gone up by tens of thousands of dollars!

There is still time to make a donation to the campaign. Meanwhile, there lots of other amazing education-focused projects that need your help. Make a difference in a student’s life by supporting one of the following amazing projects below:

English Classes for Nicaraguan Children. Language and literacy are the most powerful tools for advancing learning on all fronts. Support this campaign’s efforts to support English instruction for young students in Nicaragua.

Build a Library Help educators at an underserved school in Denver, Colorado build a warm, welcoming library for students.

Bring the Zoo to the Students A teacher from Staten Island, New York works with wheelchair bound students who are not mobile enough to go on class trips. So she is working to bring a class trip – this time, a trip to the zoo – to them! Help make it happen.

Find more education-based projects to support at the DonorsChoose.org and Indiegogo (search “education”).

On Martin Luther King Day, Jews Must Acknowledge Their Privilege

This Op-Ed by Maital Friedman first appeared in JTA on January 14th.

NEW YORK (JTA) — The events of the last few weeks have shaken me to the core. Beyond the devastation I felt over the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown, I was heartbroken to learn that the police officers involved would not stand trial. “Hands up! Don’t shoot!” and “I can’t breathe” have become harrowing reverberations of a broken justice system.
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Look Beyond the Nostalgia to Confront Current Race Issues

This Op-Ed by Rabbi Seth Goren first appeared in The Jewish Exponent on January 13th.

Of the many memorializations of the civil rights movement, among the most familiar to Jews is a photograph of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel marching in 1965 in Selma, Ala. In addition to its own innate power, it is referenced as evidence of our community’s support for black rights and the strength of African-American/Jewish relationships.
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A Day in The D with Peercorps!

A few of our Detroit fellows work very closely with Peercorps on a regular basis. Peercorps is an organization that pairs B’nai mitzvah aged students with high school aged mentors to participate in meaningful service work across six sites in the city of Detroit. Peercorps is family to Repair: Detroit and we love being a part of the logistical and programmatic planning on a regular basis. Part of the programming includes training sessions with the mentors around different themes. I reflected on our Elu V’Elu that took place last month based around the theme of communication. I was involved in the planning with one of the Peercorps coordinators and two of the second year mentors.

It was a jam packed Sunday, communication fun day for the Peercorps mentors! Ellery, Noah, and Aj led the way; Beginning with a snackluck. We gathered at the Repair the World workshop in Southwest Detroit, catching up with each other and noshing.

The program opened up with a team challenge activity: carpet squares! Can 14 teenagers fit on one carpet square? Only with excellent care and communication!

The game was followed by a gallery walk: mentors and staff wrote their thoughts under different questions and statements posted on the whiteboard. The statements varied from “I feel most heard when..” to “In our region of Metro Detroit, where do the biggest gaps in our communication exist?”

Next, the mentors paired off to discuss the gallery walk and the prompts. We came back together and shared our ideas:

Active listening is the root of good communication #respect #bagels #pineapplejews #pineapples

Being willing to listen to the other person is as important as being heard #communicationtakeswork

Clarity is key. @adamxphillips x @constantarnopol tweet collab #TheSequel #Zedd #art #UMF #CabbageControl #PersonalBrand

We transitioned into the next activity where we took personality tests, shared out what type of personality category the test chose for us, and discussed the importance of being able to work with different types of personalities.

We then took a bit of time to have short one on one conversations positioned in two lines facing each other with prompts about different communication experiences we’ve had in Peercorps. Discussion partners rotated every couple minutes to hear from different perspectives.

The final component of the program involved mapping our different identities (race, gender, socioeconomic status, religion)  on a graph spectrum ranging from what we feel is visible to invisible and comfortable to uncomfortable. This was followed up with a discussion of what the graph means to us in relation to the way we identify ourselves.

This past Sunday was the first of our elu v’elu programming – ongoing mentor learning throughout the year that’s led by Second Year Mentors. There were positive vibes throughout the workshop and an openness to talk about things that may otherwise be harder to talk about, creating fruitful and engaging communication within exercises exploring our communication. All that was discussed and explored can be used as a tool in understanding our communication skills, to ensure the highest quality of relationships within our Peercorps family, between mentors and mentees, Nora, Aj, Blair, the fellows, service partners, and all the folks we interact with!

 

Rachel Fine is a Repair the World Fellow in Detroit, MI Learn More >>

January Social Good Roundup!

In addition to our monthly Newsletter, we are also bringing you a monthly round-up of our favorite programs from our partners and from across the web. The opportunities below are separated by long term (6+ months), short term (6 months or less) and ongoing service, social good, and travel opportunities.

Be sure to check back monthly for updates and new finds!

 

Commit…To Service!     (Long-Term Programs)

You Want To Go To There.      (Short-Term and Travel Opportunities)

Be Social. Do Good.    (Social Good Events and Campaigns)

Cleanse Your Volunteer Diet: 5 Ways to Serve Better in 2015

January is already half over, so chances are, the resolution you made so earnestly at the end of 2014 – to get healthy, eat right, maybe go on a juice cleanse? – have already fallen by the wayside. But there’s one New Year’s resolution you can use. This month, pledge to go on a “cleanse” for the sake of your volunteer diet. Check out the tips below and serve better all year long.

Know who you are serving for.
Before you spend an hour, a day, a month, or a lifetime committing yourself to service, ask yourself, “who am I serving for?” In some cases, it might be to make yourself feel good. Maybe it is in honor of someone you love, or it stems from a deep drive to help others. Perhaps it is a combination of all of these factors. Whatever your reason, knowing the core of what drives you to serve will keep you motivated and ultimately help you serve better.

Try a bunch of different volunteer opportunities.
The more types of volunteer opportunities you try, the more likely you are to find one that uses your talents well and feels satisfying. So branch out and try lots of different service opportunities to see what fits you best.

Get to know an organization.
If you find an organization who’s mission you feel passionate about, get to know them well. Attend their programs, volunteer whenever possible, and get friendly with the staff and other volunteers. The deeper you know an organization, the more likely you are to be able to help in meaningful ways.

Find a service buddy.
There’s nothing like finding a service buddy to keep you committed to your service regimen. Make a goal together for how many days you will serve in the coming month, and hold each other accountable. You’ll have more fun and serve more!

Keep at it!
The more you do anything, the better you get – and that’s definitely true for volunteering. Practice makes perfect, after all!

Building Projects Build Neighborhood Connections

Upon moving into Highlandtown, the fellows began to explore different parts of our new neighborhood. We met store owners, leaders of important local organizations, and some across-the-street neighbors. With every person I met came a deeper feeling of belonging and connection to where we live and work. Still I wondered, as I walked past row home after row home on my way to our workshop, who lives behind these doors?

A few months ago, the Repair the World: Baltimore fellows got word of a tree box build happening just two streets over from our Highlandtown home. The greening committee of our community association had been awarded a grant to fund the building of wooden tree boxes for the newly-planted street trees on Highland Ave. I was eager to meet more neighbors, so I bundled up bright and early and headed out to build.

My work with Baltimore Orchard Project, an organization that plants and harvests fruit and nut trees in Baltimore city, has grown my interest in trees and taught me a lot about the benefits of trees in the urban environment. I went into this tree box build knowing that trees not only serve as beautification and a little extra shade, but also provide stormwater management, increased resident satisfaction, increased home value, and much more. I even knew that street tree boxes and fences reduce street trash dumping and litter and increase the tree’s life expectancy. This project was a win-win for the trees and the neighborhood!

Little did I know, it was a win-win-win…win!

Upon arriving, I was greeted by a handful of friendly residents wanting to know all about me and how I ended up living in Highlandtown. Naturally, I wanted to know the same about them. These conversations became sharing of life stories. I learned about my neighbors’ decisions to move into our non-gentrified area, the jobs that brought them to Baltimore city, and the spouses with which they have started this next chapter of homeownership.

Before we knew it, we were tackling more than just the issues of concrete where wooden posts are supposed to be and drills running out of battery – we were tackling the problems of our neighborhood not only through action but through conversation.

By the end of the day, we had built five beautiful tree boxes and new relationships. Repair the World was suddenly open to many possibilities for future partnership with the community association, with a local church, and with people who truly care about their community.

tree2 tree1

This neighborhood gathering was a pooling of resources that resulted in many benefits for the neighborhood, the baby trees, the community association, and me! I left feeling quite accomplished and very much connected. I now imagine the homes I walk by every day filled with people I know, not strangers I may never meet. Instead of assuming fellow pedestrians are strangers, I look up to search their faces for familiarity.

Now every time I ride or walk down Highland Ave., I am sure to point out to any and every person with me that I had a hand in making those beautiful tree boxes. My pride and sense of ownership in those moments reminds me of how people can really change neighborhoods, one building project or conversation at a time. This project showed me how building something with another person creates a certain bond that is upheld within that structure itself. It stands as a physical reminder of all we can do together, which is why I jumped at the chance to help build a fence at the Highlandtown Elementary/Middle School this month, too!

And the connections continue…

fence1

Lauren Fine is a Repair the World Fellow in Baltimore, MD. Learn more >>