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Archive for : Featured

Monday Link Roundup

Happy (hot!) Monday. Here’s one way to cool down while getting inspired: find an icy cold spot (a corner in the library works pretty well) and check out your weekly round up of service-related posts from around the web.

  • Hands-On Blog rallies volunteers to help victims of the ongoing Colorado wildfires. Find out how you can make a difference!
  • Mashable explains how social media (like the Hands-On blog, and others) is serving as a force of good in the Colorado recovery.
  • Idealist wonders if supporting entrepreneurial kids might just help solve the world’s problems.
  • Sustainablog reminds readers of the real costs (environmental and social) behind drinking bottled water.
  • GOOD shares Wales’ inspiring story of how its doubled its recycling rates in just a few short years.
  • Pro-Bono Junkie reports that the Billion + Change program just received it’s 200th company pledge to fund the increase of pro bono service in corporate America.

Repair Interview: Talia Niederman on Year Course and Women’s Rights in Israel

Young Judea’s Year Course program brings talented and committed high school graduates to Israel for a year of learning, volunteering and discovery. Talia Niederman, an 18-year old from New Jersey and a lifelong participant in Young Judea, recently got back from her gap year in Israel. Needless to say, she had a life-changing experience.

Although she’s super busy this summer working as a counselor for Young Judea’s Camp Tel Yehuda, Niederman took some time to tell Repair the World about her background with service, why she felt compelled to join Year Course, and how she and her fellow YC’ers created a program to help women in need.

What is your background with service and volunteering – is it something you’ve always been passionate about?
Yes, I’ve always thought it was important to incorporate some form of social action into my life. In high school I was very involved with Young Judaea and did a lot of volunteering and service through the movement.

How did you hear about Year Course and what inspired you to participate?
Well I’ve been involved with Young Judaea since I was 10. I think it was around 9th grade that I told my parents I was going on Year Course. They weren’t originally too crazy about the idea. Throughout my time in Young Judea I was always hearing about all the amazing things YCers were doing. Back in the States we would try and parallel them in whatever ways we could. I remember the first event I ever planned was making sock dolls for the Darfuri refugees (a group the Year Course two ahead of me worked with heavily). Hearing all the things I did about my predecessor, I would be crazy not to have gone on Year Course.

What types of programs did you work on while you were in Israel?
I volunteered in a four places over the course of the year. In our Jerusalem section I worked at an after school program for Ethiopian Jews. In Bat Yam I worked at a battered women’s shelter and the Tel Aviv Rape Crisis Center, and in Arad I volunteered at a foster home. Each of these was roughly three months.

What experience had the most personal impact for you?
The most impactful thing for me was Garin Kol L’Nashim. Six (which eventually turned to seven) of us created this Garin to combat various women’s issues in Israel. It was from the Garin that we got the inspiration to work at the Tel Aviv Rape Crisis Center and the battered women’s shelter. We also collected 400 toiletry items for a shelter for sex trafficked women, created two education kits for people in America, made t-shirts from which we donated the profit to the battered women’s shelter, and continuously kept a blog.

The Garin not only helped us to help the broader community, but it gave us a forum to discuss various women’s issues with each other. By the end of the year it was me and three others. The four of us really built a wonderful and proactive community together, for which I am extremely proud and grateful.

Find out more about Young Judea’s Year Course program and how you can get involved, here.

Celebrate Helen Keller’s Birthday By Standing Up for Others

Helen Keller was born June 27, 1880. That’s a seriously long time ago – and yet, the activist and humanitarian who overcame the adversity of being both blind and deaf still stands as one of America’s most beloved heroes.

Two years after Keller was born, she fell ill and ended up blind, deaf, and mute. But instead of giving up on life, Keller worked with a teacher, Anne Sullivan, and eventually went on to graduate from college in 1904 – helping pave the way for other women graduates. After college, she lectured all over the country and devoted her life to help others living with disabilities. She was a leader in the women’s suffrage movement, and a pacifist. In 1915, she co-founded Helen Keller International, an organization to fight against the causes of blindness and malnutrition. A few years later in 1920, she helped to found the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

Keller spent her life standing up for others, and not allowing disabilities define her. In honor of her birthday, take a minute to find out more and support the organizations she founded and believed in:

  • ACLU Support or get involved with the civil liberties organization that Keller herself helped to co-found.
  • American Foundation for the Blind Lend your support or your volunteering hand (find out how here) to the country’s leading foundation supporting vision impaired citizens. FYI: Keller worked here for nearly 40 years.
  • Helen Keller International Keller’s organization is still going strong, fighting blindness, malnutrition and poverty throughout the world. Find out how you can get involved here.
  • Guide Dogs for the Blind Spend time with adorable dogs while helping to train them to assist vision impaired people. Find out how here.

Find out more about Keller’s amazing life and work here. Then check out the inspiring video from Biography below:

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.

World Food Prize Goes to Israeli Water and Farming Innovator

Ed’s note: Somehow we missed last week’s inspiring article on The Jew & The Carrot blog about an 81-year old Israeli-American innovator who just won the World Food Prize for pioneering drip-irrigation and other water-saving farming techniques. But now that the story is on our radar screen, we want to share it with you! Here’s an excerpt:

“If there is such a thing as rock star status in the world of soil physics, then Daniel Hillel has attained it,” Eric Herschthal wrote in a 2010 article titled “The Man Who Made The Deserts Bloom” in The Jewish Week.

Now, two years later, Hillel, an 81-year-old American-born Israeli scientist has won this year’s World Food Prize for his water-saving agricultural methods used first in Israel, and then around the world. These methods, known as micro-irrigation and drip-irrigation have increased crop production on arid lands in 30 countries.

It was a fortuitous encounter with Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, that set Hillel on his remarkable path. According to Herschthal’s article, Ben-Gurion met Hillel when he and his wife Paula came to visit Sde Boker, a kibbutz in the Negevwith the mission of settling the desert that Hillel had helped establish in 1952.

Ben-Gurion, by then in his 60’s, became a member of the kibbutz and pitched in with the work. Hillel, then in his 20’s was assigned to supervise Ben-Gurion. “It’s funny but true — I was Ben-Gurion’s boss,” the scientist said. The prime minister, impressed with Hillel’s revolutionary irrigation methods, sent him on his first trip — to Burma in 1956 — to teach this technology to developing countries. Many such trips to countries all over the globe ensued.

Kenneth M. Quinn, President of the World Food Prize Foundation, said he was most impressed by the ability Hillel has to bring different peoples and countries together and to promote peace through his work. He has participated in missions to teach and promote water-use efficiency across the Middle East, Africa, Asia and South America under the auspices of organizations such as the World Bank, UN Food and Agriculture Organization and U.S. Agency for International Development.

“His nomination for the World Food Prize included seconding letters from Arab scientists and experts living and working in Egypt, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates. He is a remarkable example of what one person can achieve by taking a leap and crossing cultural borders for the sake of the greater good,” wrote Quinn.

Read the rest of Hillel’s story on The Jew & The Carrot blog.