Archive for : Healthcare

Shabbat Service: Join in the Long, Hard Fight to End AIDS

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), Dvarim, the Israelites gather on the steppes of Moab, waiting for Moses to deliver his final speech before they enter their new home in the Promised Land after 40 years of wandering in the desert. It’s a beautiful, awe-inspiring moment, until Moses begins to speak and rebukes the Israelites at length about their sins in the desert.

The “takeaway”: This week’s dvar tzedek author, Leah Kaplan Robins, admits that “this oration stuns me every year…Why does Moses reiterate these facts when what [the Israelites] probably need is an inspirational message about how far they’ve come? I have always assumed that Moses simply lost control, succumbing to his bitterness that the people will enter Canaan without him.”

But, she writes, the big picture tells another story. “I’m seeing Moses’s speech in a new light this week, as my AJWS colleagues—and 49 of our grantees from around the world—are attending the International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C. For the 25,000 activists, scientists, NGO workers and policy makers gathering on their proverbial mountain top, it must be tempting to stoke feelings of relief at how far they’ve come since the first terrifying cases of HIV emerged in 1979. But emphasizing this progress obscures the devastating big picture.”

In other words, like Moses or today’s leaders in the fight against AIDS, sometimes one can lead best when they don’t let people get complacent, but continue to remind them exactly why they’re fighting. In the case of the AIDS epidemic, the reason for fighting is the memory of the 30 million people who’ve died of the disease, and in honor of the 33 million more currently infected.

The “to-do” Lend your support to the cause: sign this Declaration to End AIDS petition, which was created by major AIDS organizations in Washington DC.

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.

Focusing On Women’s Health on World Population Day

Last fall, the world’s population hit a record 7 billion people. Today, approximately 8 months later, we’re up to 7,025,433,781 (and growing). At an abstract level, all those new babies being brought into the world is a beautiful thought. Be fruitful and multiply, right?

But the world’s quickly expanding population has its challenges too – putting a stress on ecological and community resources, and a strain on many families – and particularly women. That’s why today, World Population Day aims to raise awareness about population issues across the world.

The focus of this year’s celebration is family planing and reproductive health. According to the UN: “Reproductive health problems remain the leading cause of ill health and death for women of childbearing age worldwide. Some 222 million women who would like to avoid or delay pregnancy lack access to effective family planning. Nearly 800 women die every day in the process of giving life. About 1.8 billion young people are entering their reproductive years, often without the knowledge, skills and services they need to protect themselves.”

The UN has organized lots of initiatives to support women’s reproductive health in the coming years – like working with the Gates Foundation to increase women’s access to family planning. But you can get involved too by supporting like-minded organizations like Repair the World grantee-partner AJWS, the International Women’s Health Coaltion, Population Action International, and others, (Check out a great, user-generated round up of organizations here.)

Learn more about World Population Day at the video below:

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:

Monday Link Roundup

Happy Monday and day after Mother’s Day!

  • The Huffington Post shares five ways for people to help moms in need on Mothers Day and beyond.
  • Yahoo News shared an inspiring story about a Yugoslavian janitor at Columbia University who just completed his bachelor’s degree there.
  • Sustainablog says “no more excuses” for missing out on National Bike Month with a post on how to get your old clunker bike in fine working order.
  • eJewishPhilanthropy writes about philanthropy and service beyond the tzedakah box.
  • TheDoGooder website shares an inspiring video made by cancer patients who are redefining the word “strong.”
  • The Jewish Week pays homage to “Where the Wild Things Are” author Maurice Sendak – a man who taught children (and adults) everywhere that sometimes the key to changing the world for the better includes making a little mischief.

Cycle into High Gear with National Bike Month

With spring in the air and sunshine stretching into the late afternoon, now is the perfect time to get outside for a beautiful bike ride. Good thing May is National Bike Month – a month dedicated to celebrating transportation on two wheels.

Whether you’re a daily cyclist, a weekends-only biking warrior, or a two-wheeler newbie, National Bike Month offers the opportunity to hop on the saddle, enjoy the fresh air, and do something good for the environment (remember: bikes don’t pollute like cars) and your own health (hooray for free exercise!) while having a great time. Here are some ways to plug into National Bike Month and kick your May into high gear.

  • Commute by bike to school, to work, or wherever! Let your bike bell ring proudly on May 9th for the official Bike to School day. And check out Google Maps’ bicycling directions option to find a safe and easy riding route.
  • Join Hazon for a bike ride. This Jewish sustainability organization runs short, medium, and long-distance bike rides in New York, California, Israel, Colorado and – starting this year – across the whole country! Aside from being super-fun, the rides raise money for Jewish and environmental causes. Find out how you can join a Hazon ride here.
  • Hook into a Bike Month event in your area. Search by zip code to find an official bike event near you.
  • Donate your used bike to Bikes for the World, Recycle-A-Bicycle or another charitable organization, and help make biking an accessible option for everyone.
  • Learn the Rules of the Road. When you’re on a bike, knowledge equals power – and safety! Always wear a helmet and check out the other basic rules of the road to make sure you’re geared up for a fun ride from start to finish.
  • Donate to or volunteer with Transportation Alternatives, Bike NYC, Bike Portland, or another great organization working to make city biking – and other types of eco-friendly urban transportation – more accessible to all.

Need more inspiration? Check out the cute video on finding love through biking below. Then, let us know how you plan to celebrate National Bike Month by tweeting @repairtheworld or leaving a comment below.

Alternative Break Interview: Yehudit Goldberg on AJWS in Nicaragua

This past year, thousands of high school and college students spent their winter and spring breaks volunteering to help other people. Yehudit Goldberg, a 21-year old student at Stern College in New York City, was one of them. She volunteered in Nicaragua with Repair the World grantee-partners American Jewish World Service and The Center for the Jewish Future.

Now that she’s back, Yehudit is back to the busy school grind. But she took the time out of her hectic schedule to speak to Repair the World about her desire to reconnect with the issues she cares about, what it’s like to help build a school, and how to keep the passion for service alive once a trip is over.

What is your background with service?
Growing up I went to a modern orthodox day school in University Heights, Ohio (near Cleveland) that did a lot of volunteer work within the Jewish community. We worked with children with special needs and did events around the holidays. We also had a yearly event called Make a Difference Day where they sent students to 20 different locations around the city for various service projects. My school also partnered with the Jewish Federation of Cleveland on their Public Education Initiative where we’d tutor children in the inner city on reading.
Read more

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

J-Serve Interview: Lexie Sittsamer

This is the second in a series of interviews featuring a handful of the nearly 10,000 awesome teens who are involved with J-Serve – the International Day of Jewish Youth Service coming up on April 22. Below, Lexie Sittsamer, an 18-year old high school senior in Detroit, Michigan shares her story. And check out the first J-Serve interview here.

How did you first get involved with service?
I’ve always been very active in my synagogue and community. In 6th grade I began volunteering on a weekly basis with an organization called Friendship Circle, which works with kids and teens who have special needs. I did their program called Torah Circle, where kids participate in different Jewish activities and are paired one on one with a mentor. And in 10th grade I started volunteering with their [email protected] program, where volunteers work with the children in their own homes.

I’ve always been really passionate about helping others, so when I found out about J-Serve I thought it sounded really cool. It stuck out to me that, no matter what synagogue you belong to – or don’t – everyone comes together for a few hours to help strangers.

It sounds like you connect your Jewish tradition with your service?
I have always been a big believer in tikkun olam and giving back. Service was part of our curriculum in Hebrew school, and around our bar and bat mitzvah year – there were special opportunities, like working with the food pantry, to get involved throughout the year. Our Assistant Youth Director even created a program called Teen Volunteer Corps to get us doing different activities to help the community.

How are you involved with J-Serve?
I’m on the international committee for my second year. I’m also on our local committee, but on the international front I’m connected to the Midwest hub. If organizations, synagogues or other groups interested in J-Serve have a question or need help with ideas, they can come to us. We communicate with them and have regular support calls that people call into from all over.

What project is your local J-Serve group doing this year?
We are a little different in Michigan, because we run multiple J-Serve events throughout the year. Last year we held two, and this year we are planning to hold four. For our first J-Serve project on 9/11, we teamed up with a project called Acts of Kindness (or A-OK) Detroit to do interfaith volunteering. In December we teamed up with the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit for a mitzvah day on Christmas. The projects included working in soup kitchens, visiting with seniors and visiting homes for people who are fighting cancer.

Then this past February we worked with three different organizations, one called Gleaners, which is a food bank, one called Greening of Detroit, which works to beautify the city, and and one called Detroit Rescue Mission, a shelter that helps disadvantaged men, women and children. The options were diverse, so each person could participate in a way that felt right for them.

What are your goals and hopes for J-Serve’s big day of service in April this year?
My goal is to help the people who participate really get something out of the experience. I want people to be inspired to do service – not because their parents are making them, but because they gain from the experience of coming together as a Jewish community to serve.

Read more about J-Serve’s mission and impact on Repair the World here. Then find out how you can get involved with J-Serve on April 22 and beyond here!