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Archive for : Education Inequality

Change a Life: Become a Tutor

August is “Back to School” month at Repair the World. Check back all month long for posts about inspiring education organizations, amazing educators, and ways to get your education on – whether you’re a student or not!

Hey college grads: remember how awesome it was to be a student? Okay, sure, there were overwhelming syllabuses, stressful tests, and an endless stream of papers to write. But still, college was great. When else in life do you get to dedicate four whole years to learning and expanding your horizons?

Truth is, once you get to the other side of graduation, finding time for meaningful learning and idea sharing can be difficult. But it’s not impossible! There is a way to recapture the magic of school: become a volunteer tutor! Through tutoring, you have the opportunity to share in someone else’s education journey, and help them along the way. Meanwhile, you will almost definitely learn yourself – as the saying goes, “students are the greatest teachers.”

So get back on the education wagon (minus the tests and papers), and become a tutor this fall! Here are some opportunities to get you started:

  • Reading Partners This literacy organization trains community volunteers to provide one-on-one reading tutoring to students in under-resourced schools across the country. They currently run programs in seven states and the District of Columbia – find out if there’s a program near you.
  • 826 Founded by author Dave Eggers, this amazing program empowers volunteer tutors to help students with writing skills at 8 different centers around the country. And they do it in just about the funnest way possible.
  • Math Nerds Good at math? Become an official math nerd, and join the ranks of other talented mathematicians who donate their time to help people with math-related quandries.
  • Volunteer Match Just type your location and the words “tutor” or “tutoring” into Volunteer Match’s service database to find a tutoring opportunity near you.

Repair Interview: Jamie Etkind on Her Time at the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village

Since 2006, Repair the World grantee-partner Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village has provided a community and high school in Rwanda for the young people who were orphaned during and after the 1994 Rwandan genocide. It has also served as an amazing place for service learning.

This past May University of Pennsylvania junior, Jamie Etkind, attended a Hillel-led trip for Jewish, Christian, and Muslim students to ASYV for a 10-day service learning program. The students spent time with Agahozo-Shalom’s villagers, worked in their gardens, school and community, and gained a deeper understanding of the lasting impact the genocide has had on the country. Etkind took the time to tell Repair the World about her once-in-a-lifetime service experience.

What is your background with service and volunteering?
I was raised in a reform Jewish household, participated in mitzvah days when I was younger, and had a service project around my bat mitzvah where I raised money for the Koby Mandell Foundation. In high school I was also the co-founder and president of an organization that raised money for and got students involved as volunteers in hospice work. But I had never been on a service trip, and never really given much explicit thought to how deeply related Judaism and service are.

How did you find out about Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village?
Two of my friends had participated before and came back with rave reviews. They both said, “you have to do this!” I had learned about the Rwandan genocide in high school, but before the trip I never knew what happened there after the genocide. Leading up to the trip, I was incredibly excited. I did a lot of independent research including watching a bunch of documentaries about what the country is like today. I also read the powerful and fact-filled book, We Wish to Inform You that Tomorrow We Will be Killed With Our Families. In the semester leading up to our trip, our group also read a lot of survivor testimonials and did outreach events, so by the time I left I felt pretty well versed – but I still didn’t have any first hand experience.

What did you do during the trip?
A lot of the trip was focused on forming personal relationships with the students in the village. Every morning we would do a service project, like helping in the garden or kitchen. After the students’ school day, we met up with them and went to their after school clubs and took tours of the village. On Saturday, since the students weren’t in school, we got to work side by side with them in the garden.

Can you share a story or two of the impact the trip had?
One of my favorite interactions was with a student named Pacy, who I first met during a meal. One night when we were walking from dinner – it was pitch black outside in the village, but she knew her way – she told me her life story. She opened up about her family’s history and her ambitions and said, “I’d love to be like Oprah someday.” I said, “Oh, so you can be on television?” And she said, “No, so I can help other girls in positions like me.” That was really powerful – these kids have such a sense of service ingrained in them. It’s part of their daily life – they can’t wait to go to university and come back and be the generation that helps make their country great.

What surprised you most on the trip?
I wasn’t expecting to have so much introspection about my Judaism. As I mentioned, I grew up reform but I’ve been a part of the Maimonides Leaders Fellowship at Penn, and have found a lot of meaning in that. On the trip, there were Jews across the denominations, as well as Christian, Catholic, Mormon, and Muslim students. We would talk a lot about religion, and people would ask me very innocent questions like “Why do you work on Saturday, but the other Jews aren’t?” or “Why are you not keeping kosher but the other Jews do?” I had never been asked those questions by anyone and it led me to the realization that if I don’t do these things, I need a reason why. I’m at a point in my life where it’s not enough to simply say, “I do it because I was raised that way.” So my eyes were opened by these other students.

Did the trip also change your thoughts or perspective about Judaism and service?
Yes, I had really never put the two together before even though I’d experienced them together. I never really thought about service being such a strong pillar of Judaism, but that was something we really explored on the trip and it got me thinking. I had always associated tzedakah as simply giving money, but now I know it’s also about service and so much more.

Learn more about Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village’s work here.

6 Ways to Support Education for All on Shavuot

The Jewish holiday of Shavuot starts this weekend. As far as holidays go, it’s pretty big one: the anniversary of the day the Jewish people received the Torah on Mount Sinai and also one of the Jewish calendar’s three pilgrimage festivals, which celebrates the beginning of the wheat harvest in Israel.

One of the ways people celebrate Shavuot is to stay up all night studying – a practice that dates back at least 400 years. Friends gather together and fortify themselves with big cups of coffee, lots of cheese blintzes (it’s also a custom to eat dairy foods on Shavuot) and a stack of Jewish texts – both ancient ones, like the Book of Ruth, and also modern ones. (For some great Shavuot learning opportunities, check out AJWS’ Jewish social justice text database, On 1 Foot.)

For those of us who pull all-nighters for school (or who remember doing that), staying up all night studying may not seem like a lot of fun. But when you think about it, the opportunity to devote a night to education, and having the resources to do it, is not a privilege shared by everyone. That’s why Shavuot, with its focus on learning, is the perfect holiday to think about education for all. How can we make Shavuot our inspiration to promote access to education, literacy and strong classrooms for students throughout the country and world?

Here are a few places to start. Check out the six organizations below, all of which are working to make education more accessible, then click through their sites to find out how you can support their work and make a difference:

  • Global Education Fund: An organization that works to improve the lives of children living in poverty through education.
  • 826 National: An organization that promotes creative and expository writing skills in elementary and high school students in fun and creative ways. (Read Repair the World’s interview with 826 volunteer, Michelle Snyder.)
  • Machshava Tova: An Israeli organization working to close the digital and educational gaps within Israel’s students. (Check out Repair the World’s feature story on Machshava Tova.)
  • Raising a Reader: A national organization that promotes childhood literacy by helping families establish reading routines at home.
  • Class Wish: An organization that empowers parents, teachers and communities to make a difference in kids’ classrooms, by providing them with the school supplies they need to thrive.
  • Edible Schoolyard: Founded by famous foodie, Alice Waters, this organization promotes an “edible education” by building hands-on, sustainable food curriculums for schools.

How will you stand up for education this Shavuot? Let us know by tweeting @repairtheworld.

Repair Interview: Tatiana Grossman of Spread the Words

When Tatiana Grossman, a book-obsessed high schooler in California, found out that thousands of young children across Africa don’t have ready access to books, and that 35 million kids in sub-Saharan Africa don’t have access to education, she decided to do something about it.

Tatiana’s inspiration led to Spread the Words, a project she started to help improve early childhood literacy in Africa by creating physical libraries, by encouraging kids to write their own books, and by developing digital teaching materials for classrooms. Pretty cool stuff for someone who simultaneously has to deal with homework, extracurricular activities and college applications!

Tatiana took some time out of her busy schedule to tell Repair the World about how Spread the Words works, the super-lightweight digital educational projector she’s developing, and her lifelong commitment to tzedakah and tikkun olam.
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