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Archive for : Healthcare

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!

Make a Fashion Statement: Donate Your Clothes

Let’s face it: fashion is everywhere. Last week was the Golden Globes…which means that now, we’re all checking out the best and worst-dressed of them all. And sure, it’s totally fun to get some new winter gear–pick out some great new kicks, hot new trends, find a good sale, or make a bold fashion statement. But we also know that some people aren’t worrying about being chic or making a statement. Thousands of people hardly have enough to keep themselves clothed at all – especially during the colder winter months.

This season, instead of focusing on what’s new, what’s chic, and what “must-haves” to buy, why not focus on what we think the hottest trend is this year: giving back.  Yes, Jewish texts remind us to “share bread with the hungry,” and “clothe the naked.” In other words, we should help provide comfort with those who are less fortunate. But it also just feels kind of good.

So why not start a new trend and get a get a jump on your spring cleaning? Take a look through your closet for those “gently used” items to donate, or launch a clothing drive at your school, synagogue or in your community. You will be all the rage.

A few great organizations that accept clothing donations, and use the proceeds to help those in need:

  • Teens for Jeans: ( FYI, we learned from DoSomething that one in three homeless people in the U.S. is under the age of 18). To help  out, has teamed up with Aéropostale to run their annual Teens for Jeans donation program . Start a donation program at your school to help others and potentially win some cool prizes.
  • Housing Works: This NYC-based organization takes donations of clothes, shoes, accessories and more and sells them at their 12 thrift shops across the city. The money raised helps to fund their work around HIV/AIDS advocacy and services.
  • Brown Elephant: The proceeds of donated items purchased in this Chicago-based network of thrift shops help fund under-insured or uninsured patients at a local health clinic.

Pretty amazing stuff.

We’re no  experts, but we think sometimes the boldest  statement you can make has absolutely nothing to do with what you’re wearing.

Know of another great clothing donation opportunity? Let us know about it below, or on twitter at @repairtheworld.

8 Nights of Service: Give Girls the Gift of Rights

Welcome to Repair the World’s 8 Nights of Service: awesome volunteer projects, donation opportunities and tikkun olam ideas to bring service to the center of your Hanukkah celebration!

While many kids in high school are anxious about their homework, friends or extra-curricular activities, in developing countries, young girls deal with much more. Last week, Gabriella Runnels, a high school student in Louisiana, released “It Only Takes A Girl,” a video that highlights some astounding (and often overlooked) issues that effect women and girls in developing countries – like a lack of education, HIV/AIDS, pregnancy – and marriage:

Hanukkah is about bringing light into the darkness – and we think Runnels’ video is a perfect example of shedding light on important issues to inspire change. Join Runnels and give the gift of standing up for the rights, health and empowerment of women and girls around the globe. Here are a few great organizations you can get involved with:

  • Girl Effect: Empowering girls and young women around the world to lift themselves, their families and communities out of poverty.
  • Girls Not Brides: A global partnership working to end the harmful traditional practice of child marriage.
  • Fistula Foundation: Working to restore health and dignity to women injured in childbirth, particularly in developing countries.
  • Rosh Hodesh: It’s a Girl Thing: Encouraging self-esteem, meaningful friendships, and positive Jewish identity for girls.

Let us know how you stand up for women’s rights and health by tweeting @repairtheworld and #8Nights

Monday Link Roundup

Happy Monday! As always, here for your reading pleasure is Repair the World’s weekly roundup of inspiring service and social action-related posts from around the web.

  • Tablet Magazine shared a profile about a Colorado-based couple who are producing organic, heritage breed kosher meat – making the world more sustainable and more delicious at the same time.
  • The Huffington Post published an essay by Joelle Novey about her own (as well as other religious leaders’) environmental activism around the controversial Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.
  • Rochester Patch shared the inspiring story of a teenage girl who wrote an uplifting and comforting book for kids, like herself, who have lost a parent.
  • GOOD reports that San Francisco is promoting safer nighttime bike riding by handing out 2,000 free bike lights to the city’s riders.
  • Have Fun Do Good ends things on an eco-friendly holiday note, sharing 25 different handmade gifts you can make using your digital photo collection.
  • CNN announced its heroine of the year, Robin Lim, an American woman who has helped thousands of poor Indonesian women have a healthy pregnancy and birth.
  • 2011 Nobel Prize winners announced!

What are you reading? Tweet us @repairtheworld and let us know!

Standing Up for Global Health On World AIDS Day

The first World AIDS Day – a day dedicated to raising awareness about HIV/AIDS, combating prejudice against people living with the virus, and raising funds to find a cure – was held in 1988. Back then AIDS was still pretty new in public consciousness.

Today, 23 years later, AIDS is a recognized global epidemic. An estimated 33 million people are living with HIV across the world – 1.2 of them live in the United States and the majority (22.5 million) live in Africa. While great advances have been made in diminishing taboos, educating people about HIV prevention, and finding treatments that help people living with the virus, there is still much work to be done a vast majority of people living with the virus lack access to the resources, medications, or health care that they need.

World AIDS Day kicks off AIDS Awareness Month during the month of December. December is also the month of Hanukkah – a holiday focused on miracles, perseverance, and creating light within the darkness. Help bring the light and hope of Hanukkah into AIDS Awareness Month by participating in one of the service opportunities below.

  • Learn more about the impact of HIV/AIDS by checking out the World AIDS Day website (based in the UK), (based in the US), or this report, put out by AJWS.
  • Plan an event in your area this month to help raise awareness or funds (or both) for HIV/AIDS research and education. (Find resources here.)
  • Donate to Housing Works an HIV/AIDS advocacy, awareness and education organization.
  • Donate to American Jewish World Service, which works with  partners across Africa and other countries to find on-the-ground solutions to the HIV/AIDS crisis. Check out more of their work in the video below.

How is your community planning to commemorate World AIDS Day and AIDS Awareness Month? Let us know in the comments below!

Support Men’s Health – and Killer Moustaches – with Movember (Deadline Today!)

‘Stache, soup strainer, nose neighbor – whatever you like to call them, moustaches are the height of men’s facial fashion. And during the month of November, they’re also a call to raise awareness about men’s health.

The stats are astonishing: 1 in 6 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime, and 1 in 2 will be diagnosed with some kind of cancer. Still, men’s health tends to be overlooked in the media. That’s where Movember came in.

The month-long campaign invites men or “Mo Bros” to grow a moustache throughout the month of November, while raising awareness and money to support men’s health, and specifically prostate cancer research. Think of Movember as a fundraising marathon, except instead of lots of sweat, training and electrolyte-guzzling, participants end up with a sweet, stylin’ ‘stache. (There are lots of opportunities for women, or “Mo Sisters” to get involved too – with or without the ‘stache.)

Funds raised during Movember support super-worthy causes like the Prostate Cancer Foundation and Lance Armstrong’s LIVESTRONG Foundation, as well as Movember’s own education campaigns. (Find out more about where Movember’s money goes by watching the video below.)

Today is the last day in November, which means it’s also the last day to donate towards participants’ moustache growing campaigns during Movember. Check out the fuzzy madness on Facebook, and scope out this funny Top 5 Jewish moustache-wearers list here. Then make a donation to support men’s health and cancer research here.

On Thanksgiving, Share Your Gratitude By Giving Back

Polish your gravy boats and slip into your eating pants, people – Thanksgiving is almost here. It’s the holiday devoted to lots: of traffic, of eating, of time with family, and of being grateful for everything we have. (hmmm … didn’t we just do this in October?)

Thanksgiving is also dedicated to those without lots.  Every year, millions of people across the country take time out of their holiday festivities to give back through volunteering. And we can think of no better way to celebrate a day of gratefulness than by helping others. After the annual touch-football game is over, why not take advantage of the holiday spirit by participating in one of the service opportunities below.

Too busy prepping the turkey (or tofurkey), whipping the mashed potatoes or just gobbling it up? Fret not. People need help all year round! So prep away, and bring the Thanksgiving spirit into the rest of the year!

  • Bake or Buy Pie. Across the country, expert and novel bakers-alike are banding together to bake pies to raise money for charity – like this Pie in the Sky event in Massachusetts or these pie events across the country. As if pumpkin and pecan pie could get any sweeter!
  • Race. Sign up for a Thanksgiving Day run that helps raise awareness or money (or both) for a good cause, like the Run for Food race in California.
  • Deliver meals to older and housebound residents with Meals on Wheels. Your visit will bring them much more than food.
  • Visit residents at a local senior center for VA hospital. Many of these organizations throw Thanksgiving dinners or parties for their residents, like this one in New York City, and need extra help and extra friendly faces.
  • Serve (literally) by volunteering at a local soup kitchen, which provides free, hot meals on Thanksgiving (and the rest of the year) to people in need.
  • Donate. If you don’t have time to volunteer in-person on Thanksgiving, donating to a favorite charity is a great way to give back.

What did we miss? What did you do? Feel free to share other local and national volunteer opportunities in the comments below.

Work for Social and Environmental Justice with Tevel b’Tzedek

Israelis have a thing for Nepal. Each year, thousands of young Israelis strap on their backpacks and travel the world, with many ending up in Kathmandu. It’s no surprise then, that the state’s capital city regularly hosts one of the world’s largest annual seders, often feeding more than 1,500 travelers. (That is a LOT a lot of matzah!)

Now, Repair the World grantee-partner Tevel b’Tzedek (The Earth- In Justice) offers another way to have a meaningful Jewish experience in Nepal. This February, Israelis and Jews from around the world can join Tevel b’Tzedek on a 4-month adventure promoting environmental justice and human rights and working to ease poverty in Nepal.

The Israel-based nonprofit launched in 2007 with the mission to “create a community of Israeli and Diaspora Jews engaging in the urgent issues of global poverty, marginalization and environmental devastation from a place of deep commitment to the Jewish people and its ethical and spiritual traditions.” Since then, more than 250 people have participated in the volunteer fellowship in Nepal and Haiti (where they also run service programs.)

The Nepal program combines both Jewish study and volunteering including:

  • Working with local communities on youth education, agriculture, women’s empowerment, and health
  • Learning about social and environmental justice, Judaism, economics, globalization and the history and culture of Nepal.
  • Studying Nepali language.
  • Volunteering both in Kathmandu and outside in more rural areas.

Check out the Tevel b’Tzedek experience in participants’ own words by watching the video below and checking out their personal blogs. Then, apply for the 4-month program here.