Archive for : Healthcare

Repair Interview: Annie Harkavy on Volunteering with Young Hospital Patients in Israel

For more than 40 years, the WUJS Israel program has empowered post-college age men and women to live, experience, and volunteer in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv. Participants grow personally and professionally, while making a difference in their jobs and communities.

Over those past four decades, more than 8,000 graduates have participated in WUJS. Current WUJS participant, Annie Harkavy, took the time to talk with Repair the World about her volunteer work with children at the Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv, and how service really runs in her family.

Can you tell me more about your background with service?
I grew up in Memphis, Tennessee and our JCC was a big part of our life. My parents were also really involved with the Jewish Federation. I first got involved with volunteering and group philanthropy around my bat mitzvah. Then in college at Indiana University I was in a Jewish sorority that did a lot of work with Sharsheret, and also involved in community service in a local hospital. We would go hang out with the kids at the hospital, and throughout the year we’d hold events and invite the kids to come to campus.

How did you find the WUJS program?
My aunt actually did it 30 years ago, so that’s how I first learned about it! My mom lives in Israel now and wanted me to come do something here after college. I knew I wanted to do hands-on work and get experience and stay in the field of medicine, which I studied in college. I also knew I wanted to work with kids. This program seemed to have all of those components.

What do you do there?
I work in the children’s emergency room, and basically do anything they tell me to do! I work on the patient charts, assist when nurses are drawing blood and spend time with the kids, comforting them when they’re sad. They laugh at my Hebrew and try to teach me.

How did you get so passionate about working with children?
I have always loved helping kids. Growing up I was a camp counselor and baby sat. With kids, and especially working in a hospital, every day is different and you really feel like you’re making a tangible difference. It’s hard work, but really satisfying.

Tell me more about the experience at WUJS – what’s it like?
It brings together a group of post college-age students to come and experience living in Israel. We live together an apartment complex in South Tel Aviv, and all work in different places. We have a travel day every week, and there are many different lectures, events, and leadership trainings that we’re able to take advantage of. Even though I am not getting paid for my work this year at the hospital, I don’t think about it that way. This is my chance to make a difference. I’m hoping to stick with volunteering here once a week, even when this year is over.

Honor World AIDS Day on Dec 1

Back in 1988 when The World Health Organization (WHO) first established World AIDS Day (which we’ll honor on Dec 1), the virus was still fairly new and largely misunderstood. Today, through medical advances and research, we know a lot more about how the virus works, how it is transmitted, and how people with HIV or AIDS can manage their health and lives.

And yet HIV and AIDS continue to be a global epidemic – particularly because there is still no cure. In the United States, more than 1 million people currently live with HIV, and someone is infected with HIV every 9.5 minutes. Globally the situation is even more dire: across the world more than 33 million people live with HIV and AIDS, and 97% of those people live in low and middle-income countries, particularly sub-Saharan Africa. And according to the WHO, most people who have HIV or at high-risk for it do not have access to prevention, care, or treatment.

Considering these stats it’s clear that, 24 years after it was founded, World AIDS Day remains vital. This year’s theme is “Working Together for an AIDS-Free Generation,” and true to the name, fighting AIDS globally will require many people working together across the world. Here are some ways you can honor the day and make a difference locally and globally:

  • Plan a World AIDS Day event: Check out these resources and tips for planning an AIDS awareness event in your neighborhood. Check out other events and updates on the official #WAD2012 Twitter feed.
  • AFAID: Donate to support the work of this organization, which “provides youth with the tools, knowledge and resources to protect themselves against HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections, and alleviates poverty” in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Firelight Foundation: Support this foundation’s work, which has a mission to “improve the wellbeing of children made vulnerable by HIV, AIDS and poverty in sub-Saharan Africa.”
  • AIDS Quilt: Started in 1987, the ever-growing AIDS Quilt is now more than 48,000 panels big (that’s 8,000 blocks long!). Make a panel for the quilt, or host a section of it at your campus or in your community. Find out how here.
  • Project Chicken Soup: Volunteer with or donate to support this Los Angeles-based organization, which delivers free, nutritious, kosher meals to local residents living with HIV/AIDS, cancer and other serious illnesses.
  • Housing Works: Donate to, volunteer with, (or shop at!) this New York City-based organization/thrift store, which works to “end the dual crises of homelessness and AIDS through relentless advocacy, the provision of lifesaving services, and entrepreneurial businesses that sustain our efforts.”
  • God’s Love We Deliver: Volunteer with or donate to this organization, which prepares and delivers nutritious, high-quality meals, and offers nutrition education and counseling to people living with HIV/AIDS and other serious illnesses.
  • AIDS Walk: Help to “change the course of the epidemic.” Sign up to walk and raise money for AIDS research in 2013.

For more information, check out this article that Rachel Farbiarz wrote for AJWS called “The Jewish Response to HIV/AIDS.” Then let us know how you’re observing World AIDS Day by tweeting us at @repairtheworld, or leaving a comment below.

November, Movember

Ah, November – a time for family feasts, autumn leaves, giving thanks…and growing mustaches.

Started in 2003, Movember (a mash-up of “Moustache” and “November”) is changing the face of men’s health – pun intended! Each November, over one million men around the world begin the month clean-shaven, and spend the next 30 days cultivating their mustaches, all with the goal of getting their supporters to pledge money for men’s health.  By committing to growing a mo’ for the 30 days of Movember, these men become walking billboards, raising awareness and funds for prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and other prevalent men’s health issues.  Last year was a staggering success, with participants raising over $42,000,000!

The movement’s greatest success is the awareness and education it spreads. By diffusing awareness through a quirky, fun facial adornment, Movember is able to break down stigmas and social barriers that often surround men’s health issues. The discussions sparked by these furry accessories prevent illness and encourage healthy living – and ultimately, save lives.

Movember occurs every year, around the world, and it’s not just your friends and colleagues getting involved. Many high-profile celebrities and athletes have supported the Movember Foundation, including Joe Jonas, Justin Bieber and Foster the People’s Mark Foster, creating great press fodder and increasing knowledge about a creative and worthwhile initiative.

Do you know someone growing out their stache for a good cause this Fall? Tweet us a pic and we’ll send you a Repair the World tee! @repairtheworld

Breast Cancer Awareness Month: “Have The Talk” With Sharsheret

Did you know that Ashkenazi Jewish men and women are at a 10x greater risk than the general population of carrying the gene mutation that can lead to breast cancer? We didn’t either. But with October being National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, now is the perfect time to educate yourself – and help spread the word – about the realities of breast cancer and other related cancers.

There are lots of great national organizations dedicated to educating people about breast cancer. In the Jewish community, Sharsheret is leading the way. Particularly with their Have the Talk campaign, which encourages people to talk to family members to find out their own family cancer history, and empower others to do so as well. This month, get involved:

    • Pledge to Have the Talk.: Sign up here to pledge to find out your family’s cancer history by or before November 28, 2012.
    • Encourage friends to do the same. Every person you convince to learn their own family history is another person who is empowered to take control of their own heath.

Host a Have the Talk Day on campus. College students can host a special Have the Talk day on their campuses. Choose a date, set up a table with info from Sharsheret, decorate the table in pink (and bake some cupcakes to entice passers by!), then encourage other students to take the pledge themselves.

Find out more ways to get involved with Sharsheret’s work and spread the awareness about breast cancer here. And learn how to protect yourself and your loved ones with an Early Detection Plan here.

Repair Interview: Brian Hertz on X-Out Drunk Driving Day

Brian Hertz is what you might call an “accidental service leader.” Before his sophomore year of high school, the Los Angeles native had never been particularly into volunteering or service work. But a class on Judaism and civics inspired him to co-found X-Out Drunk Driving Day, an initiative that encourages students to draw an “X” on the back of their hands as a pledge to “not drive under the influence,” and prevent others from doing so as well.

Hertz has already received some shout outs for his work. He was recently featured in a Jewish Journal article on “shining stars” from the class of 2012. Hertz, who will attend UCLA this fall, took some time out of his summer to talk to Repair the World about X-Out Drunk Driving Day’s impact on his community and beyond.

Tell me about your service journey!
My interest in community service work started recently. As a high school sophomore I took a class at Los Angeles Hebrew High School called Jewish Civics Initiative, which looked at tikkun olam and advocacy through a Jewish lens and included a leadership seminar in Washington DC. This class helped me begin to see and understand some of the conflicts in the world and inspired me to be more active in fixing problems that I personally observe. Since then, I have tried to do exactly that.

What inspired you to start X-Out Drunk Driving Day?
In my Jewish Civics Initiative class, we were asked to bounce around ideas of a community service project our class could become involved in. Some of my classmates wanted to raise money for the American Cancer Society, while a few of us wanted to do something else. A student from another school in our community had recently been killed in a car crash due to careless driving. Though no alcohol was involved in that particular incident, it inspired us to do something to fight reckless driving. Drunk driving felt like a huge issue to us, and so X-Out Drunk Driving Day was born.

What impact have you seen from the program since it started? Any specific stories of people who were touched by it?
The program has been successful in its first three years. On Facebook, we had nearly 4,000 people click to attend an X-Out event. We know that more people tend to x-out their own hands when they see others doing it too. I’ve personally worked to prevent people from driving under the influence, and believe that taking the X-out pledge has given other people that same voice in their head that encourages them to do their best to stop others from making bad decisions.

Do you connect your community service work and your interest in helping your community with your Jewish identity?
I definitely do! I have always felt a strong connection to my Judaism and love the sense of community that it provides. It truly inspires me to help others.

Do you think you’ll take X-Out Drunk Driving Day with you to college? Or another initiative?
I definitely hope to take the program to college because I think it can have an even bigger and broader impact there. As for another initiative, I will definitely be involved with a lot in college, so who knows? Maybe I’ll have another cool idea in the future!

Find out more about X-Out Drunk Driving Day here.