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 Jobs, 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 >>

Get Out Your Credit Card; It’s the Holiday Season

As we adjust to the cold winter months and welcome the warmth of holiday celebrations, I find myself entertaining a familiar question: Why does the holiday season encourage such extreme consumerism?

This is only a small portion of the annual internal dialogue that takes place around this time of year. As a Jew who doesn’t “religiously” celebrate Hanukkah, I have been largely desensitized from the advertisements, sales, and general celebratory hype of the season. At the same time, I appreciate the stories of each holiday, value its traditions, and admire the serenity and strong sense of togetherness that each bring. And let’s be honest, who doesn’t love holiday music, cookie exchanges, and the ABC Family 25 Days of Christmas movie marathon?

It’s also around this time of year that I anticipate hearing about the most recent Black Friday death-by-trampling incident, the most absurd double-digit number of hours that someone waited outside of a Best Buy, and just how many companies will release slightly updated versions of their products to entice more consumers.

Why has it become this way? Why have we let it become this way?

Perhaps we have figured out that it is more convenient to make someone happy by offering material gifts instead of devoting our time, heart, and entire self to another person, even for a short time. It seems that this has become an easy way out and has unfortunately developed into America’s favorite holiday shortcut.

Repair the World: Pittsburgh recently screened the Morgan Spurlock produced documentary, What Would Jesus Buy. The film follows a group of activists as they travel around the country in the form of a satirical church choir from the “Church of Stop Shopping.” Activist Bill Talen, better known as “Reverend Billy,” seeks to expose the corruption that is consumerism and corporate culture, especially surrounding the festive months.

While the film is unorthodox and outlandish, there lies a profound and meaningful proposition within it: Let’s regain control of our holiday season by restoring the values that make it truly special. Allow your presence to be a present to your friends and family and, most importantly, try to give more of yourself and less of your money.

Becca Sufrin is a Repair the World Fellow in Pittsburgh, PA. Learn More >>

Spotlight On: Divine Chocolate’s Sustainable Gelt

Chocolate gelt is a fun part of any Hanukkah celebration. Who doesn’t love unwrapping a glinting gold or silver foil wrapper to find a piece of chocolate inside? In recent years, a handful of chocolatiers have started turning out artisanal versions of gelt – “gelt for grownups,” as they call it, which focus on using high quality ingredients.

But we are particularly enamored with the coins made by Divine Chocolate. Available in both milk and dark chocolate, they are creamy and sweet – just about as tasty as gelt can get. But even more excitingly, they are made from fair trade sugar, cocoa, and vanilla. That means, the farmers who grow the ingredients get paid fairly for their labor. (It is also kosher certified by the OU.)

Recently, Divine started partnering with Fair Trade Judaica and T’ruah to make their gelt available to a wider audience. 10% of all sales will go directly to these organizations’ work to end child slavery in the cocoa fields.

Delicious gelt without the guilt that also does serious good for the world? Sounds like the formula for a happy Hanukkah to us.

Find out more about Divine Chocolate’s Hanukkah gelt on their website.