Posts by admin
by admin | April 9, 2013 | 0 comments
What gets you psyched? Whether it’s an awesome sunset, delicious meal, a great friend or your adorable kitty, we know you love to hear that shutter close when you snap a pic on your phone. What if you could use some of the awesome pix you take to help make a difference (and win some Repair the World spring swag)?
In celebration of National Volunteer Month (which we think lasts all year!), we’re launching a photo sharing contest to help spread the word about the endless issues, organizations and opportunities that inspire us to serve.
That’s where YOU come in.
HOW IT WORKS: (pretty simple!)
- If you don’t already, like Repair the World on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @repairtheworld
- Send us a photo of anything that represents an issue you’re passionate about, volunteer with, or want to volunteer with. For example: Love volunteering on park cleanups? Send us a snapshot of your favorite spot. Did you recently donate to charity: water? Send a photo of a refreshing glass of water. Amped up about your volunteer gig as an after school tutor? Send a pic featuring your student’s favorite books. You get the idea…
- Post your photo to Repair the World’s Facebook wall or Twitter page by April 30 (We’ll repost them to our National Volunteer Month Pinterest Board)
- Always tag @repairtheworld & include #NationalVolunteerMonth
- Include a short caption with the photo; we’ll help promote the organizations you love
- Share your photo with your friends on Facebook or Twitter to increase your chances of winning
All participants will be entered to win a stylish Repair the World tote bag. The photo with the most likes or re-posts* at the end of the month will win an amazing Repair SWAG bag with lots of goodies (Trust us. They’re good goodies). This contest is open to anyone, and everyone who submits a photo will be entered to win.
Check out some great examples we’ve already compiled on our Pinterest board. Like some? Repin them! (And you can follow our pins for info on future service opportunities.)
Pretty simple, right? (and fun)
Spread the word, get shooting, and start doing some good!
*Likes and Shares must exceed 36 and 10, respectively.
*Photos submitted to this contest may be used in future Repair communications with credit to the photographer
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by admin | February 7, 2013 | 0 comments
Repair the World believes in the power of taking a break – an alternative break, that is! That’s why we’re committed to sharing the stories of alternative breaks that focus on service and volunteering. Check out how Ali Schumacher, a junior at the University of Maryland, spent her winter break serving in Croatia with University of Maryland Hillel and SOS International:
“Do my actions actually impact others?” This is a question I often ask myself when I volunteer or donate money, but do not see the direct impact of my service.
With this question in mind, I decided to attend an alternative break trip with the University of Maryland Hillel and SOS International, a Jewish organization that organizes educational travel experiences. I wanted a combination of Jewish learning and service as well as the opportunity to share a meaningful experience with students with similar interests, and this seemed like a great fit.
So, this past winter break, I and twelve other students traveled to Croatia to visit and help strengthen the small Jewish community there – a community that had been drastically impacted by the Holocaust, but is striving to maintain a Jewish lifestyle.
We visited the Lauder school (a Jewish school) in Zagreb, Croatia’s capitol, where we gave a presentation about Jewish life in America. The students wanted to hear more about our experiences in college and viewed us as Jewish role models. Afterward, their school let us know that the students wanted to Skype with our group once a month, to continuing building that relationship.
While there, we had the chance to attend a bris, the tenth bris in the community in recent years. The night before, I ended up staying late at the Lauder school with the Rabbi, his wife, and three other students on the trip to prepare food. We made challah for the bris itself and 60 mini challot to leave for the students and staff at the school. It felt amazing to be taking initiative and completing this extra act of kindness; we were doing something that the school would really appreciate.
We also spent time at the SOS Children’s Village in Lekenik, Croatia. There, we sang and danced with the children, did karaoke, taught them a few English words, and learned some Croatian words. We even all did the Gangham Style video dance together! Although we shared little language in common, we were still able to connect and have a great time together.
SOS International builds long-term relationships with the communities they strive to help. Keeping in touch with those in the community will reinforce our lasting impact. As a group, we are planning on pursuing different hands-on service opportunities this coming semester, rather than just donating money. The actual acts of kindness create the connection and leave an impact on both individuals involved. It is important to find the Jewish community, connect with them and make them proud to be Jewish. Human connection and human help are irreplaceable.
Teaching and acting as role models for those younger than me was an incredible leadership opportunity. And being present for the bris meant so much to the family and community. I have realized the more I give, the more I get.
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by admin | January 24, 2013 | 0 comments
In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, Repair has sought to bring you stories from service superstars reflecting on their volunteerism. This week we are excited to feature a guest post by Avigail Hurvitz-Prinz, who volunteered at an evacuation shelter in the days immediately following the storm:
The aftermath of Hurricane Sandy is a bit hard to process, but I realized that some of my friends and family really didn’t understand what has been going on here so I’m going to do my best to share some of my thoughts and some of my ideas in order to give folks who aren’t right here (and even some of us who are) a bit of a chance to better understand what’s going on and even a bit more of a sense of how to help.
The actual Hurricane had only the smallest effect on me and mine — our internet went out, and the sound of the wind was terrifying but I went to sleep early and when I woke up in the morning and went outside it looked like we’d had a big storm, but the mat of (mostly green) leaves on the ground and a few downed branches on my block were the only signs that there’d been a storm. That first day after the storm became “hurrication,” particularly in my lovely neighborhood. With no transportation options open, and limited access to computer systems across the city, the day was devoted to walking around with friends, finding the spots that were open and drinking coffee in our regular cafes. The mood was joyous and celebratory, aware of how lucky we were. I ran into a bunch of my favorite neighbors and enjoyed the chance to sit with them and enjoy an extra day of vacation. It took me a couple days to begin to understand the desolation the storm had wrought. I still can’t really comprehend it.
On Thursday I got dressed to go to work, thinking that I was going to go to my placement. But, our computers were down and my supervisor couldn’t get into the office — so she suggested that I not come in. So, I ran back home and thanks to my roommate, got motivated to do some volunteering. I got some donations together of books and games and went to the evacuation center in my neighborhood. One of the best high schools in Brooklyn is in my neighborhood, Brooklyn Tech, and it has been turned into an evacuation shelter, particularly for nursing homes and adult home facilities in Coney Island and The Rockaways. For all of the challenges before these folks they have hot food, heat, hot water for showers, a safe place to sleep, and medical attention whenever they need it.
I went in to volunteer and waited for a while before a person asked me to join her in the gym. She explained quickly that she was a volunteer who was hoping to come back for another overnight shift, but that she’d already been dealing with a medical situation this morning. The folks in the gym where I spent most of my time were people who live in an adult home — most have pretty severe psychiatric diagnoses, are isolated and have very limited resources. In that room most of the people were ambulatory, but slow and often unsteady on their feet. The first thing I noticed when I went into the gym was the smell of a mass of humanity who haven’t been able to change clothes in days. The folks I met who’d been evacuated from the adult home reminded me of folks that I meet at my placement — people living on public assistance who are pretty slow moving – mentally and physically. Just like at my placement there’s a question about why that is — is it their negative symptoms of schizophrenia that I’m seeing? or is this a side effect of the meds they’re taking? or is this just boredom and not being engaged enough?
The gym was full of cots, I’d estimate about 175 in that one space. People are living their entire lives with no privacy, with no quiet, no pillow and one blanket. So my volunteer job that I appointed myself to do was to walk around slowly, making eye contact with the people who were awake. People would call me over occasionally to ask for water or coffee. Coffee was a bit of a challenge but, following the lead of the volunteer before me, i’d stealthily steal cups from the staff lounge. People requested 3, 4 even 6 sugars / sweeteners. It blew my mind a little bit, but the last thing I wanted to do was to be stingy with anything for these folks, given how few resources and pleasures they had. Which isn’t to say that I don’t have complicated feelings about this.
But back to the context. For whatever reason, those places on Coney Island weren’t evacuated until the water was literally coming into their buildings. Their staff of nurses had been with them since the evacuation and hadn’t been home to their families or on a real break since their arrival. They were exhausted and grumpy, and one of the first task I put myself on was trying to figure out how to help them. This ultimately meant finding snacks, juices and sugar for coffees for the nurses and trying to get them to smile.
Over the 10 or so hours that I volunteered over two days I had some of the following interactions:
- A evacuee I’ll call Phil (age 64) serenaded me multiple times (some songs he wrote and a rendition of New York, New York and Maria), shared his diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder, told me about missing his wife who’s been dead for a few years and also about the abuse he suffered in childhood. I took him “shopping” in the clothing donations and helped him find clean socks, underwear and some warm clothes. He drinks his coffee with 4 sugars and spends most of his social security checks buying cigarettes and coffee for friends. He was warm and visibly excited to see me each time I came to visit.
- Another evacuee named Margie was separated from her group and had difficulty walking through the building to find them. She sent me out looking — and I was happy to help but spent about an hour trying to track them down (unsuccessfully). After about another hour of work I managed to confirm that they were still there and even talk to one of the shelter staff about her situation and change her misspelled name in the center’s database. She seems to have a tough life and was probably recently homeless and living in a long-term shelter. We exchanged little notes written on scraps of paper. An except from the one she wrote to me …yes, these are trying times but your sincerity really lifted my spirits…
- This one’s gonna be in Jewish code — I’ll translate with more details for you in another email if you want. In talking to some of the residents from the adult home it seemed like the orthodox Jews weren’t eating the non-kosher food they were being served — which means days of subsisting on fruit and carrots and yogurt. I did some asking around and got a little bit of kosher food delivered to them thanks to a local Chabad rabbi and his networks. I did not manage to get a particular evacuee a chumash, though thanks to friends of mine we did get him bsamim for havdallah. So when I saw him preparing to do the ritual I asked him if I could join — and he said yes. So this old, browbeaten, isolated and ill ultra-Orthodox guy made havdallah for me. Using the spices and the grape juice I had managed to get for him. He had no idea what to make of me in my jeans, but I felt like I really had done a real chesed for him. I can’t think of another context where we’d have any interaction as positive as that one, but after havdallah I wished him a shavuah tov and started to walk away when he called me back to say “a gut voch.”
I’ve never done crisis work before — and I feel blessed to have been a little bit prepared for it by Social Work School. I feel a lot of security in the choice that I made to do this program — and that those skills of helping people connect with resources have never been more useful.
I have been having real feelings — guilt, anger, frustration, pride, joy, and then back around to guilt, anger, frustration, pride, joy and on and on. It has been incredibly important to me in the last few days to try to hold contradictions in mind …eilu v’eilu…
I am incredibly lucky and blessed. My friends, my family are safe and sound and healthy. We were, at worst, inconvenienced. And, many of my people are at their best right now. I’m inspired by my two closest tribes — the Jewish community and my friends in Brooklyn. I’m inspired by their efforts. I also observe that the people who are best mobilized are plugging into community organizations that are expert organizers (like synagogues, churches and Occupy).
It hardly conveys how much hard work they’ve done, but I know that they have:
- bought and distributed cold weather clothes,
- biked supplies to distant locations that are difficult to reach due to gas shortages,
- worked overnight volunteer shifts at evacuation shelters,
- planned benefit concerts,
- baked treats for volunteers,
- delivered supplies to homebound seniors,
- and just generally behaved with true menchlichkeit.
That said, there is so much need. It is hard to comprehend from our safe homes. It is also totally mind-blowing to think about how physically close the destruction is. But most of the people I know have resources and can do much to share them. Not just today, but in the long aftermath of the storm.
Some people feel confused about how to give, or guilty that they aren’t able to give enough. I want to put myself out there as a resource to help you talk through some of your ideas and work towards finding you ways to plug in. I imagine there could be some small way of contributing to the relief efforts in a way that makes sense for you. It could be as simple as donating a bit of time or money to Occupy Sandy, or following the posts on Congregation Beth Elohim’s facebook page for up to date information about needs they’ve identified or donating blood in NYC or nationally. Nechama is coordinating cleanup efforts in the NJ Jewish community. If you just have a bit of cash you can buy supplies on this Amazon registry that will be shuttled out to places that need them.
Even though the storm hit the East Coast almost three months ago, so many people continue to suffer. The sites listed above remain great resources to find ways to participate in the relief effort, and new ways to help as needs continue to develop every day. I’m thrilled that so many people have been able to chip in as individuals — but this truly is a national disaster, and deserves a national response. So, don’t forget to continue to help to preserve our country’s commitment to real people, who depend on each other for support in good times and in hard times.
Sending love from Brooklyn,
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by admin | January 3, 2013 | 0 comments
We all know that New Year’s is a time that calls for self-reflection. Whether you’re planning a New Year’s resolution or simply rethinking your path in life, it’s always reassuring to hear what others are doing and learn how they got there.
That’s why we recently asked Rebecca Slatin to share her professional background and experiences as a REALITY Check Fellow. Rebecca joined Teach For America in 2008 and spent two years teaching High School Special Education. She now teaches elementary special education in Washington, DC and serves as a Seminar Instructor for DC Teaching Fellows.
Forging New Paths
Growing up Jewish was very important to me. Although my parents and I are not religious, Judaism was important to us because it shaped the choices we made as a family. Tikkun Olam, or “mending the world,” was what being Jewish meant to me. We were (and still are) activists, we believe deeply in human rights. As a member of the global community, I believe it is my job to ensure that each generation is better off than the one that came before it.
It is fitting that I became a teacher, but it was not my original plan. In fact, as I began my senior year at Smith College, I wasn’t sure what to do at all. My gut told me that the only way to really impact the world was to become an educator. At the time, I believed that education was the only way communities could bring themselves out of poverty. But I had never taught anyone anything, so how could I possibly serve others if I had no training?
With my passion in mind, I discovered Teach For America (TFA), a national non-profit dedicated to ending educational inequity by connecting dedicated young adults to the powers of education. Teach For America’s goal to create leaders who are passionate about ending a very real problem in American society struck me as an exciting challenge. Subconsciously, I think it also aligned with my values.
For my two year TFA commitment I was placed at a public high school in Washington D.C. I taught special education; five subjects, hundreds of students. I threw myself into my work. It was all I talked about. I did not sleep, I did not exercise, and I took no time for myself. By the end of my first year, I felt completely overwhelmed by the realities of our public education system. I felt alone, drowning in an insurmountable problem. I desperately needed to connect my work with something larger than myself. I hadn’t considered what it was that I needed in order to be my most powerful self. I need self-reflection. I needed support. I needed community.
Reflecting and Repairing
At the beginning of my second year of teaching, a friend recommended that I apply to go with fellow Teach For America teachers to Israel on a trip called REALITY Israel, which brings young adults to Israel to learn more about the country and its connection to Judaism. The program focuses almost exclusively on how Jewish values connect with education and tikkun olam.
In Israel, we were asked many times to quietly sit and reflect on our work. We read Jewish texts and tried to identify with our ancestry. I was introduced to a community of Teach For America teachers and Alumni who were also struggling to connect their work with their value system. Before this program, I had never consciously connected my work as a teacher with the Jewish idea of mending the world through service. Even more importantly, I had never acknowledged that the thing I loved most about teaching was the community I created in the classroom.
To truly impact change one must find support within oneself and love from others, peers, coaches and mentors. By working without stopping, without seeing what I was doing, I was cutting myself off from enjoying the change I was making in my student’s lives. In Israel, I learned that if I took time to ground myself in my belief system and stopped squelched my fear that what I want to give to the world is not what others expect of me, my power was limitless.
Valuing the Connections
Returning to Washington D.C., I wanted to continue to reflect and connect my work in education with my Jewish roots. I applied and was accepted into REALITY Check, a fellowship created for REALITY Israel Alumni to build impassioned leaders who work to serve others. REALITY Check has transformed my thinking about who I can be as a leader, helping me connect my passion for community development to my profession as a teacher. I have truly learned to value the connections between people.
I was once told that true leadership is unseen and that a true leader helps others shine. I believe that to truly impact education, we need leaders who care about creating the best environment to keep teachers happy, fulfilled, and allow them to be proud of what they do. As a REALITY Check fellow I have begun a dialogue with teachers, learning what they value and want the most, not only for their students, but also for themselves. REALITY Check has helped me find my passion—ensuring that teachers love what they do and want to do it as best they can.
As you begin to think about your place in the world, I encourage you to think about how your professional passions connect with your Jewish identity. Ask yourself, “How am I making the world a better place?” Don’t be afraid to identify talents and interests that are unique since we are all able to contribute something special to the world. In the beginning of the New Year, find a mentor, coach or peer, who you know will encourage you to grow and serve the world. Align your passions to your value system and you will find fulfillment in the choices you make.
Rebecca Slatin is originally from Cambridge, Massachusetts. She attended Smith College and majored in American Studies, studied abroad in Chile and spent a semester researching folk music for Smithsonian Folkways Records. Rebecca joined Teach For America upon graduation from Smith College in 2008. She spent two years teaching High School Special Education and now teaches elementary special education in Washington, DC. Rebecca also serves as a Seminar Instructor for DC Teaching Fellows. In her free time she is an avid Yogi and world traveler. She has visited Iran, Chile, South Africa, and Peru, to name a few!
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by admin | December 21, 2012 | 0 comments
by Devon Rubenstein and Emily Phillips
If you told us when we were still students at the University of Michigan that we would graduate to organizing monthly service days for Michigan State, we would have said, “Thanks but no thanks, AmeriCorps!” Of course, we are only kidding, but the rivalry did have a funny way of initially affecting our enthusiasm for the partnership. And yet the true colors of volunteering have overcome school colors to create Destination Detroit.
Destination Detroit is a partnership of Repair the World and MSU Hillel, which brings diverse student groups together through service and shared experiences in Detroit. On monthly Fridays throughout the year, groups of about 40 students come from East Lansing to Detroit for a fun-filled day of volunteering, sightseeing and, of course, food. The participating groups include:
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- Arab Cultural Society
- Asian Pacific American Student Organization
- Black Student Alliance
- Camp Kesem
- Culturas de las Razas Unidas
- The Greek Community
- Jewish Student Union
- Student Housing Cooperative (Co-Op)
For our most recent Destination Detroit, we partnered with Davison, a Detroit elementary and middle school known for its dedicated teachers and creative curriculum. For a testament to Davison’s commitment to education, look no further than Judy Robinson, who recently retired after teaching kindergarten at Davison for 39 years, still volunteers there, and was integral to bringing Destination Detroit to her school.
Davison has attracted a large population of Detroit and Hamtramck’s recent immigrants from Bangladesh. (More on Hamtramck below.) and attracts a large population of Bengali students. The diversity of both the Davison and MSU students enriched everyone’s experience, but the day’s theme — Science Rules! — showed us we had more in common than we thought.
Room One: Ecosystem Art!
How could college volunteers and elementary school students who’d never met before create individual works of science-themed art that would then be combined to beautify the school? Enthusiastically, it turns out. Each grade tackled an ecosystem — ocean, desert, and forest — with students and volunteers decorating their own sheets using found objects like pine needles, cotton balls, paper bags, and shiny fragments from old CDs (ones we feverishly broke prior with gloves and bolt cutters). While each kid’s picture was great on its own, the truly spectacular part of the project was seeing hundreds of these pictures collaged together and mounted in the hallway.
Room Two: Science Experiments!
Pennies don’t command much respect as currency these days, but they are are great for experiments. 1. Inertia: resting pennies on an index card on a cup and trying to get pennies to drop directly into a cup while only moving the index card. (It’s harder than it sounds.) 2. Chemical Reactions: testing to see whether dish soap or hot sauce (Sriracha, in case you’re curious) would clean the tarnish off pennies. If you’re anything like our friends a Davison, you’ll be amazed by which worked.
Room Three: Food Chain!
Classes created their own ecological rock-paper-scissors with predator, prey and producer — replete with pantomime. For example, lion eats antelope, which eats grass, which survives lion. Elementary and college students faced off repeatedly, transitioning accordingly (i.e. in Lion vs. Antelope, Lion stayed Lion and Antelope became Lion) and learning about ecological balance and interdependence in the most chaotic way imaginable.
Destination Detroit blends service and Detroit experiences in a way that always manages to excite, engage and exhaust everyone. After many hugs and high fives at Davison, the MSU students ventured into the cold for a tour of the amazing work by Powerhouse Productions, including the Ride It Sculpture Park, Sound House and Power House. Then, out of the cold — and, for that matter, out of Detroit — to Hamtramck, a city surrounded by the City. At the Polish Art Center, we learned from residents (experts and authors) about the rich immigrant history that preceded the current wave of Bengalis and Yemenis who now fill many of Hamtramck’s homes and storefronts. And the trip would not have been complete without pierogi, stuffed cabbage and more from Polonia.