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Archive for : Special Needs

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: Abby Richmond Talks About JChoice and Writing Books

Like many 11-year olds, Abby Richmond spends her days attending school (she’s a sixth grader at The Rashi School near Boston), playing soccer and piano, and hanging out with her friends. But in her spare time, Abby does something particularly cool – she writes books and donates the book sale profits to organizations she cares about.

So far, Abby has written and self-published two books (check them out here) and raised nearly $3,000. Meanwhile, she’s also involved with a ton of other service and social justice activities, including being an active member of JChoice – a philanthropy networking site for teens. (And the organization that put us in touch with Abby.)

It’s hard to imagine that Abby has much free time on her hands – but she still managed to speak with Repair the World about her lifelong commitment to volunteering and tzedakah, what her books are all about, and how she connects service with her Jewish identity. We’re glad she did – read on…

Has service and volunteering always been an interest for you?
I have always loved participating in service activities. For my birthdays, I invite my guests to bring a check instead of a present and give the money raised to an organization. For my eighth birthday, I donated to the World Wildlife Fund, and I have also donated the money to an organization called Dogs for the Deaf that trains dogs to assist people with hearing disabilities. My school is also very involved with social justice activities. Around Purim we do something where we are given a certain amount of money and get to donate to the organization of our choice as a class. We then write about the organization and have classes dedicated to learning more about their work.

How did you first learn about JChoice?
My grandmother knows the person who runs the organization, so that’s how I first got involved. I set up an account with them, and my school is also involved with them. When someone has a bar or bat mitzvah, Jchoice sends them a gift card and the student can choose an organization to donate the money to. I really love that JChoice involves so many kids, and that kids can set up an account and get involved with organizations they like.

You’ve written some books and donated the profits to tzedakah – can you tell me more about that?
I’ve always loved to write, and when I was in 4th grade I was looking for something more original than just donating money for my birthday. So I wrote my first book, Very Berry. It’s about a 4th grade girl who has a dog that’s getting picked on – the girl is getting picked on to. The book is all about her adventures – it’s a chapter book with about 100 pages. My parents and I self published the book and decided to donate the $1,800 we raised through book sales to Reading is Fundamental. I love books and think that all kids should have access to them even if they don’t have a lot of money, so it seemed like an obvious choice.

You have another book as well, right?
This past November I finished up a second book called Starring Eliza. My family took a trip to California and I really love nature and hiking, so I decided to write about it. The book’s main character grew up in California and loves the Redwoods. So far I’ve raised about $1,200 for the Nature Conservancy. Right now I have a third book that I’m working on, but I’m not very far into it yet.

Do you connect your Jewish heritage with your love of service?
We learn a lot about Judaism and what it says about repairing the world at my school – social justice work is a big part of the curriculum, and in student government we have a social justice committee. So you could say that school has helped me think about these ideas. My school has supported the book projects too. We’re allowed to set up tables in my school’s lobby and sell to friends and the school community. We also have a book fair two times a year where they’ll let me sell my books.

How has JChoice supported your book projects?
I made a video two years ago with JChoice where they talk about how my book came to be and how to donate to Reading is Fundamental. So that has really helped to spread the word.

Find out more about Abby’s books on her website. And check out JChoice’s teen tzedakah network here.