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Archive for : Boston

Seizing the Moment to Serve

Image shows a white woman with brown hair taking a selfie in front of wild bushes.In early 2020, Jasmin had just begun her service with the Peace Corps in Ecuador. Everything changed in March when the pandemic hit and she and her group were evacuated from the region. “It was disappointing and a bit shocking, I didn’t get a chance to serve abroad because we were evacuated at the end of our training,” recalls Jasmin. News of the pandemic was still surfacing and nobody could really know what the future would hold. Jasmin had initially joined the Peace Corps because of her belief in the power of service. She was hoping to build relationships as part of her service abroad and make a real difference in the region. 

It was a surprise to come home to Boston, after saying goodbye to friends and family, and after expecting to be away from home for two years. But when Jasmin got home, she knew she had to find ways to continue her commitment to service and begin to volunteer in her local community. 

In the summer of 2020, after being home and witnessing the ravaging effects the pandemic had across the country and particularly in Chelsea, Massachusetts, Jasmin felt a deep calling to support her neighbors. “I was shocked by how negatively Chelsea was affected by the pandemic,” said Jasmin. “Knowing that there was something I could do to support the community meant a lot to me. The community was already facing great challenges before the pandemic, and the inequities were just exacerbated by COVID-19. I began questioning why it took a global pandemic to see the issues that already existed.” That is when Jasmin signed up to be a part of the Service Corps with Repair the World Boston.

For Jasmin, growing up, she saw her Jewishness and service as two separate aspects of her life. “As I started serving when I became older and especially through the Service Corps, it became clear to me that tikkun olam, repairing the world, was a vital part of being Jewish. Serving is now part of both my personal and Jewish values. Caring for others is why service is so important to me now,” said Jasmin.  

Jasmin spends most of her time serving with the Food Pantry at St. Lukes in Chelsea, Massachusetts. She has been inspired by the meaningful collaborations created during her meetings with local food pantries, food banks, schools, and other organizations like Healthy Chelsea and The Greater Boston Food Bank who are fighting for food access equity in the greater Boston area. “It’s amazing to see a group of non-profits from all over Boston come together and share resources that will not only uplift the organizations but allow for greater access to food for the members of the Boston community,” said Jasmin.

Jasmin spends her Fridays stocking the shelves of the food pantry and is in constant awe of how quickly food and supplies leave the pantry, highlighting the immense needs of the families for whom the pantry is so valuable. 

“How I viewed service as a part of my life was reaffirmed in the moments after the pandemic. I knew I was following the right path,” said Jasmin. “Arriving back home last year was when I realized I could actually do service in my community, and that volunteering would become a core part of my life’s journey.” 

Jasmin Bach (she/her) graduated from the University of New Hampshire in May 2019 with a bachelor’s degree in Spanish and Anthropology. She is a returned Peace Corps Volunteer who was recently evacuated from Ecuador due to the pandemic. She has a passion to do good and is excited to do so close to home. During her service with Serve the Moment she served with The Neighborhood Developers to build community and support St. Luke’s Food Pantry to provide food for individuals experiencing food insecurity. Jasmin will be spending 10 months working with The Neighborhood Developers as an Americorps volunteer.

Investing in Community through Service

“Working with my service site, About Fresh, has been incredibly impactful. It’s been a powerful experience witnessing community members gain access to fresh food using food access programs like SNAP and knowing I play an important role in making that happen,” said Repair the World Boston Corps Member, Brianna when reflecting on her time of service.

“Parents are willing to stand in line for over an hour to ensure that their families are able to eat fresh fruits and vegetables.” For Brianna, it is more than a moment for her, it is a reflection on her past. Brianna grew up living on mostly canned goods and often did not have access to fresh produce unless provided through the kindness of strangers at local churches. “It was years before I was able to introduce fresh and healthy food to my daily nutrition because of my upbringing,” said Brianna. “I think all of the volunteers feel the impact of our work, but it’s different for me because I understand how big of a difference organizations like About Fresh make. Because of our presence in the community, these children will now have a more positive relationship with food.”

Brianna often reflects on the narrative that blames parents living in poverty for not giving their children the best food, when the issue truly lies within equitable access to proper nutrition. “The shift comes when we meet these families where they’re at, ensuring they have access to important resources.”

Curiosity and asking meaningful questions are values that have been central to Brianna’s relationship with Judaism. She spent four years converting to Judaism and during that time learned how important it was to never stop asking questions. “It was refreshing to dig deeper in a way I hadn’t before,” said Brianna. As a Corps Member, she’s been able to expand her curiosity in meaningful ways. “Our weekly cohort meeting is not only a time to reflect but to also challenge what we experience and to explore the reasons why we serve. Being a part of a program where we have the space to challenge others as well as ourselves makes the experience that much richer. This experience has become a ‘coming home’ moment in some ways. I’m surrounded by other people who also push themselves and don’t accept things for what they are.”

While serving with Repair the World Boston Brianna witnessed real relationships being built while serving others, creating a volunteering experience that was not fleeting or a temporary bandage to society’s issues. “It’s so much more powerful to think longer term when serving. I know that I can still sign up to volunteer with my local community beyond Serve the Moment and that is so important to me. Like donors who make recurring donations to organizations, I see volunteering as an investment in my community and it’s members. It’s the consistency of the support and building relationships beyond a singular service moment that makes a real difference.”

Brianna sees service and Judaism as intertwined, both offering ways to strengthen and uplift their communities. “What I love about Judaism is that the community finds ways to make others feel welcomed and not alone. Service is such a beautiful expression of that. For me, service has strengthened my connection to Judaism by allowing me to be a part of a group of people who truly care about their community. There is a distinct sense of belonging and love that makes a person feel like they really matter.”

Brianna Elise Goodlin (she/her) has worked as a consultant and her work has been driven by a passion for helping people navigate seemingly intractable problems and find solutions in unexpected places. This also animates her personal life, where she spends time doing work for various causes including combating food insecurity, alleviating poverty, and increasing access to education. As a Corps Member, Brianna served at Beantown Jewish Gardens helping expand their reach through marketing and engagement, and with AboutFresh, distributing fresh food to underserved communities in Boston.