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Archive for : Child Abuse & Neglect

On Chanukah: 8 Nights, 8 Gifts That Give Back

Adam Sandler got it right with his famous Hanukkah song on SNL: “Chanukah is the festival of lights. Instead of one day of presents, we get eight craaazy nights!” Well, almost right. It’s true that there are 8 nights of Chanukah, but this year, instead of giving the same old presents, delight your friends and family with meaningful gifts that really give back. Here are some of our faves for 2014:

1. CSA Subscription
Give your loved one a season’s worth of delicious veggies and fruits by joining together with a couple of friends to sign them up for a CSA. Your friend will get lots of great food, and you’ll support the work of a local farmer.

2. Krochet Kids
Support this international non-profit that empowers people through the creation and sale of knit and crochet hats. Keep your loved one’s warm, and make a difference while you’re at it.

3. Donate in Their Honor.
Got a friend who feels passionately about an organization’s mission? Make their holiday by making a donation in their honor to support the org’s work.

4. Give a Goat
Heifer International empowers people to purchase livestock for families in developing rural countries. Make a difference in a community’s life by donating to “give a goat” in honor of your loved one.

5. Membership to Botanical Garden
Buy your loved one a year long membership to their local botanical garden. They’ll have fun wandering through the trees throughout the whole year. Meanwhile, you’ll support the gardens’ ecological and educational initiatives.

6. Punjammies
Get a pair of these beautiful, sari-inspired pajamas sewn by women in India who have been rescued or who escaped from a life of forced prostitution. Your purchase will have your loved one sleeping in style, and will support the work of an amazing organization.

7. VWU Certificate
You have heard of an IOU certificate. Do one better and make them an VWU (volunteer with you) certificate, good for one day (or more) of volunteering together at the organization or cause of their choice.

8. Beauty + Ethics
Have a friend who is obsessed with lotions or fancy soaps? Buy them something delicious (and certified cruelty free!) at The Body Shop (“beauty with heart”) and your purchase will help support campaigns against animal testing, that support children worldwide, foster environmental stewardship, and more.

Stamp Out Bullying on Unity Day, October 10

Do you know someone who has been bullied, or have you experienced bullying yourself? Chances are, the answer is yes. According to The Bully Project, a powerful documentary on the subject that came out in 2011, a staggering 13 million kids are likely to experience bullying in America this year. And reported that 160,000 students skip school every day – just to avoid being bullied.

Bully behavior ranges widely from physical intimidation or violence (pushing, shoving etc.), to verbal threats, rumor spreading, and put-downs about someone’s academic performance, weight, gender or sexual orientation – really anything that makes someone “different” than the perceived status quo.

Bullying happens in schools, after-school clubs, workplaces, and even at home. And with computers and smart phones becoming an increasingly important part of how we communicate, cyber-bulling (bullying via email, social media or texting) has added a whole new dimension to the problem. Whatever the specific form bullying takes, it tends to leave the victim feeling the same way: powerless and alone.

Fortunately, bullying – and particularly how to stop it – has gotten a lot of media attention lately. And today, people across the country are celebrating Unity Day – a day to unite against bullying and promote friendship, tolerance and self-esteem. Unity Day also offers the chance to get plugged into some organizations that are doing great work to fight bullying on the ground and help build kinder, more thoughtful schools and communities. Check them out:

  • BBYO: This Jewish Youth Leadership organization, which is committed to respect and inclusion of all teenagers, is the exclusive partner with the Bully Project in bringing the film and supportive curriculum and discussion guide to Jewish teen audiences across North America.
  • The Trevor Project: This organization works to prevent suicide (much of it related to bullying) within the LGBTQ community.
  • DoSomething: This organization’s Bully Text game lets people engage themselves and their friends in the issue of bullying, while potentially winning cool prizes.
  • Cartoon Network: This cable network naturally reaches a lot of kids – so how cool is it that they started an interactive anti-bullying website and resource hub?

How will you celebrate Unity Day? Let us know by commenting below or tweeting us at @repairtheworld.

Shabbat Service: War is Not Healthy For Children…

Shabbat Service is a weekly bit of Torah-inspired do-gooding, brought to you by Repair the World and our grantee-partner American Jewish World Service (AJWS). Read on to see how these ancient stories can apply today. Seem far fetched? Check it out:

The story: In this week’s parsha (Torah portion), Matot-Masei, the tribes of Reuven and Gad ask Moses if – instead of settling in Canaan with the rest of the Israelites – they can settle east of the Jordan River, where the pasture is perfect for raising their livestock. Moses doesn’t buy it, thinking they’re using farming as an excuse to avoid the battle necessary to conquer Canaan. “Your brothers are going to go to war,” he says, “and you are going to sit here?” Reuven and Gad relent, agreeing to fight in the war if they can then settle where they wish.

The takeaway: This week’s dvar tzedek author, Sigal Samuel, writes that Moses’ perhaps misread Reuven and Gad. “Although the men initially couch their request in terms of livestock, the issue of their children’s safety creeps into their speech. They explain that, while they’re off at war, “our children will dwell in the fortified cities.”

Reuven and Gad knew from experience the devastating effects war can have on children. Their stance was like a biblical take on the famous anti-Vietnam War poster in the 1960s that said, “War is not healthy for children or other living things.” Unfortunately, as Samuel writes, “we too have seen society’s most vulnerable members bear the brunt of war’s tragic consequences. According to UNICEF’s 1996 report, over the preceding decade 2 million children were killed in armed conflict, while 6 million were seriously injured or permanently disabled. This does not include the many children who became refugees, orphans or victims of rape, sexual slavery, disease or malnutrition as the result of war.” Perhaps Reuven and Gad had it right all along…

The “to-do”: Support organizations – like AJWS grantees AJEDI-Ka/Project Enfants Soldats and Friends of Orphans that are doing the vital work of rehabilitating children affected by war, throughout the world.

Read the full Torah commentary, on which this excerpt is based, over at AJWS’ website. And for more great texts, commentary and Jewish learning resources on social justice, check out the On 1 Foot database.

Repair Interview: Robert Beiser Talks Teen Feed and JConnect in Seattle

Seattle, in a word, rules. That’s partly because the city is home to Teen Feed, a groundbreaking organization that engages volunteers in offering meals, support and services to homeless youth and teens. It’s also because of JConnect Seattle and Hillel UW, two organizations (and Repair the World partners) that engage college-aged and young adult Jews in all kinds of amazing, Jewishly-rooted service work – including volunteering with Teen Feed!

Robert Beiser, who is the Campus/JConnect Repair the World Director at Hillel UW, took the time to speak to us about how Teen Feed serves Seattle’s homeless and street-connected youth, why JConnect decided to host a weekly Teen Feed site, and what it’s like being Seattle’s largest default kosher education organization.

Tell me a bit more about Teen Feed.
It’s an incredible program that’s been around for 25 years. They work with volunteers to serve meals to homeless and street-connected youth – the meal serves as a platform for case workers and long term volunteer workers to create and build relationships with them. Over time, they have become an incredible resource for teens in Seattle and a model for other organizations nationally.

How many teens usually show up for meals?
On any given night there’s usually 30-70 youth who come in for a meal. While they’re eating, advocates go and sit with them. It’s a great way for youth to connect with services that they can’t access so easily through the government. For example, if a 15-year old needs some kind of service and they talk to someone in government they’ll likely be told, “you’re under 18, we’re going to place you in foster care.” They might also be deterred from going to social services in the first place – somewhere where they’ll be in an office with adults they don’t know. They could feel embarrassed and uncomfortable and decide it’s not worth it, when really they need services.

Teen Feed says, we’ll give you a hot meal and there will be people there who think you’re valuable and who believe in you and your future. Through the meals they develop relationships before they’re ever asked anything, like if they want more stable housing, or to go back to school, get a job, or get help with substance abuse. It’s been a really successful program. There are lots of cases where former guests now have jobs and families, and are even on the board of Teen Feed.

How have Jconnect and Hillel UW been involved with Teen Feed?
Teen Feed is held in a different church or community center each night of the week – Hillel hosts it on Sundays, and Jconnect members volunteer to cook and serve. We’d volunteered for a while, but wanted to take the opportunity to provide a real service to our community. We wanted to integrate the program into JConnect and make it a hallmark of what we do. So we talked to Teen Feed about being a host site. These days, for the first time in 25 years, Teen Feed can offer meals 7 days a week, and every night of the year. We also regularly send groups to help make food on days like Christmas and Easter Sunday, because our volunteers will be free.

What do Jconnect participants do when volunteering at Teen Feed?
We have an average of 10-12 volunteers a week, and we’ve had about 90 different volunteers over the course of the year. The meal team volunteers provide the food, and then both cook and serve it on a buffet line. We use real dishes and have a compost for all the stuff people don’t eat. We’ve actually helped other Teen Feed hosts set up composting at their sites too. Our team works out of the Hillel kitchen, which is strictly kosher. So in a way, we’re also the largest kosher education organization around by necessity!

What type of impact have you seen from JConnect’s work with Teen Feed?
While we’re volunteering, we occasionally get into really deep conversations about the role of Jewish communities in doing service and social justice work, and about individual versus collective responsibility. 9 times out of 10, I’m not the person leading the discussion – this type of work really gets people talking and gives them a chance to grow.

Another thing that is really remarkable to me is the Teen Feed staff. They’re mostly young people in their 20s, and they go week in and week out and hear some of the most heartbreaking stories from people who look just like them. They take that on with so much dignity and compassion, and keep the focus constantly on what they can do to best serve and be the best organization they can. Teen Feed is constantly improving itself to become smarter and more compassionate in its work, and to respond to feedback, trends and changes. It’s an honor to be involved.

Learn more about Teen Feed’s work here, about JConnect here, and about Hillel UW’s work here.

Repair Interview: Julie Nusbaum of World Altering Medicine

Imagine going to the hospital with a serious illness and finding out that the basic machines and medicines needed to treat you simply weren’t there. It’s hard to imagine, but in parts of the developing world, particularly in Africa, that scenario happens all the time.

It’s also why Dan Dewey and Kevin Bergman, two friends and fellow doctors, founded World Altering Medicine – an organization dedicated to providing medical care to needy patients, particularly children and families, in the developing world. Founded in 2006, WAM has already made incredible strides in changing the medical landscape in the communities where they work – and they are just getting started.

Julie Nusbaum, who is WAM’s Marketing Director (and Kevin’s sister) took a few minutes to speak with Repair the World about the dire medical conditions in Malawi and other parts of the developing world, what inspired her to get involved with WAM, and how kids and teens can make a significant impact on their work.

What was the inspiration behind World Altering Medicine?
The organization was founded by two ER doctors who did their residencies together, Dr. Dan Dewey and my brother Dr. Kevin Bergman. Throughout medical school Kevin did volunteer work in Africa and Dan had served with the Peace Corps. They could not believe what they saw in hospitals in Africa, and particularly Malawi.

In Malawi the child mortality rate is very high, and a lot of that has to do with the lack of oxygen concentrators in emergency rooms. A large percentage of the illnesses in Africa have respiratory components and if kids can’t breathe, they can’t get treated. Without oxygen machines, doctors literally had to choose which patients to treat based on who they thought had the greatest chance of survival. That’s why one of the first projects WAM did was take a small amount of seed money to buy 22 oxygen machines for hospitals – that’s our Breath of Life program.

Find out more at the video below:

What other services and programs does WAM provide?
Read more