array(1) { [0]=> int(22) }

Archive for : Volunteers

Deepening a Commitment to Service

When Spencer first learned about Repair the World, he was new to Detroit and was looking for opportunities to live out his Jewish values through volunteering. Repair the World’s mission of pursuing a just world resonated deeply with him and he began to volunteer and stay connected with the work happening in Detroit. “It’s important to me that Jews living in Detroit understand the history of the Jewish community here and where the gaps in resources across communities are present. I believe there is a responsibility for Jews to invest time and funds and to use their passions to serve and uplift others,” said Spencer.

Through  Repair the World, Spencer began volunteering with Keep Growing Detroit, an urban gardening and farming organization whose mission is to promote a food sovereign city where the majority of fruits and vegetables consumed by Detroiters are grown by residents of the city. “What volunteers contribute to the urban farm is so vital in ensuring that the food systems in Detroit continue to thrive. It means a lot to me to be part of that ecosystem.” 

For Spencer, volunteering was a way for him to make a difference in Detroit and  he wanted to deepen his service experience and make a more significant impact. One year after he began volunteering with Repair the World Detroit, Spencer became a member of Repair the World Detroit’s Advisory Council. “The work that Repair is doing is so meaningful and impactful. Differences are being made every day. My role as an advisory council member is to serve as both a thought partner and to help make connections between volunteers and the nonprofit organizations that Repair the World partners with here in Detroit. It means so much to me to be able to do that.”

Through Repair the World Spencer also volunteers as a mentor to young children at Brilliant Detroit, which focuses on child development and literacy and ensuring the success of Detroit’s youngest members while supporting their families. “The connection I’ve made with Brilliant Detroit would not have been possible without Repair the World. I have been able to connect direct service with education and have learned about the underlying structural issues that are exasperating the needs of families all over Detroit.”

Volunteering with Repair the World Detroit over the last few years shifted the role service plays in Spencer’s life. “Volunteering plays an even bigger role in my Judaism now and that is because of my connection to Repair the World. Service is integral to our communities being fulfilled and the lives of individuals being fulfilled. There is a sense of belonging and a recognition that I am part of something bigger than myself.”

 

How a winter day brought me closer to my community

 

On an extremely cold day in 2019 in Baltimore, Haley (they/them) decided to join a Mitzvah Day organized by Repair the World Baltimore. “It was the perfect opportunity for me to volunteer and engage with others in my community,” said Haley. “Thinking back to that first day I volunteered with Repair, it is a testament to the Repair fellows and staff who created a powerful service experience that in turn cultivated a volunteer community of people, including myself, who want to come back and serve multiple times.” 

Soon after Mitzvah Day, Haley began regularly volunteering at Cherry Hill Urban Community Garden, an urban garden dedicated to increasing accessibility to fresh and healthy food to members of the Baltimore City community, where they built a connection with those who run the farming there. “Since I started volunteering at the garden, I have become involved with neighborhood advocacy, land sovereignty, and food accessibility all while working closely with the farm coordinators. I did not expect to make those connections — discover new passions and for my life to be impacted in such a meaningful way.” 

As a passionate leader in the field of public health and community development, Haley has always been an advocate of social justice in Baltimore and of elevating the voices of the LGBTQIA+ community.  Haley deepened their service by becoming the co-chair of the Repair the World Baltimore Advisory Council. “The Advisory Council is now in its second year and through my time on the board, service has become a gateway to advocacy which before volunteering with Repair the World, I did not realize was possible. To be able to take my service a step further and diversify my impact by learning about new ways to make a difference through concepts like mutual aid and neighborhood advocacy is so meaningful to me.”

As Haley’s service grew so did the strengthening of their connection to Jewish values and the Jewish community. “As someone who was not particularly religiously observant and felt disconnected from the larger Jewish community in Baltimore while struggling to feel included, Repair the World has been a way for me to find my place within a community I didn’t always feel connected to.”

Joining the Advisory Council has not stopped Haley from volunteering at Cherry Hill Urban Community Garden where they have learned about key intersectionalities in service. Haley recalls a day where a group of University of Maryland dental students volunteered at the garden. “What I learned from on that day was that access to healthy and fresh food in communities where there is little to zero access was a key way to increasing the dental health of community members who also lack access to dental healthcare,” 

Haley shared as they reflected on that service experience, “I always remember that moment as one where my eyes were open to what the volunteer landscape truly looks like, one where people of all disciplines and expertise connect and share experiences to strengthen communities and the work collectively.” 

Community Learning and Relationship Building

Joshua (he/him) found his place in service after discovering Repair the World Atlanta’s “farm crew,” a group of dedicated volunteers who have committed their time to work at a farm or garden in the Atlanta area. “I enjoy being hands-on and witnessing the work I’m doing make a difference in people’s lives,” he says. In addition to “farm crew,” Joshua tries to attend in-person volunteer events at least every other week or more.

In Atlanta, Repair has mobilized volunteers to create change across different communities—and this large-scale effort motivates Joshua to continue serving. “There was a community garden that we volunteered at recently and a neighbor drove by and asked how he could access space to build a garden. We were able to provide him this vital food access resource, increasing his ability to have fresh fruits and vegetables,” Joshua adds. “It’s powerful for me knowing that the things you do and the projects you work on are actually making a meaningful impact on the local community.”

The community connections developed through service inspire Joshua to serve more, both through Repair the World and other opportunities. Reflecting on service experience, Joshua says, “A fulfilling service opportunity definitely makes me want to volunteer more. The first time I ever volunteered in Atlanta, before Repair the World had a local presence, was at the local Jewish Family and Career Services’ mitzvah day. And I still volunteer there every year. Just a few weeks ago the Jewish Family and Career Services’ hosted mitzvah day again, and Repair led a service project for it. I had the opportunity to elevate my service experience by volunteering at the site for mitzvah day and taking part in the service opportunity Repair was leading” 

Through his ongoing service work, Joshua has learned a lot about community, relationship building, and how to address local needs, while leaning on the Jewish value of strengthening each other (Hitchazkut)to shape how he approaches volunteering. But what continues to surprise him the most is “how service takes different forms. Whether it’s organizing like text banking, whether you’re hands-on in local communities, or you’re learning about how you can talk to your elected officials and advocate for people, and your community —there are so many ways to serve and to make a difference.”  

Working Toward Food Access For All

As a Repair the World volunteer with a at the Sheridan Avenue Orchard, Rebecca wanted to work with her hands, and make a difference in her community.

“One of the things that I found impactful was the transformative quality of the work we were doing,” says Rebecca. “There was just something particularly satisfying about being able to work with your hands to transform this piece of land and do something that’s not only producing food, but also serving as a vital food access resource for so many in the community. Within hours of serving – you can tell you made a difference.”

Rebecca’s inspiration deepened as she began to learn how her Jewish values connected to her service work. Over time, she understood the powerful connection between Judaism, service, and caring for the earth. “I love the idea of Jewish values connecting to environmental values. Through my work with Repair, I was able to reconnect with some of those Jewish values that I had grown up with but had not had as much of a connection two as an adult. And now, at this stage of life, I can lean on these values and bring my passion for environmental and social justice to my volunteer experience as well.”

Rebecca found it especially meaningful to experience fresh food getting into the hands of community members while serving at the community garden. “It was really amazing to go through this entire process from start to finish, growing fresh produce, picking them, and ensuring that community members had access to this food.” 

Throughout the months of COVID-19 lockdowns, Rebecca realized she wanted more interaction and engagement with her community. “We were home for a year witnessing communities being ravaged by the effects of the pandemic, and I wanted to find ways of combating that. I found Repair at that time, but I know that my call to serve goes way beyond any specific moment.” 

Her work with Repair inspired Rebecca to seek additional service opportunities, recognizing that all service is rewarding and impactful. “I can make a difference in my community, even if I only have a few extra hours a week to dedicate my time to serving others, and that’s something real and meaningful to me.” 

A Perspective on Social Justice Changed through Service

The following is a reflection written by Jack, a Repair the World New York Teen Service Corps Member.

What is social justice? On paper, it means to enact justice in terms of the distribution of wealth, opportunities, and privileges within a society. In reality, social justice is significantly more complex than that.

The growing popularity of social media has affected our lives drastically, but in my opinion, it has affected our perception of social justice the most. Due to social media, the term “social justice” has been politicized, and the true message behind social justice: to serve one’s community, has been clouded. Before my involvement with Repair the World, my perception of social justice and how it relates to service was not the most positive, since 99% of my knowledge came from social media. 

Over the last few months as a Teen Service Corps Member in New York, my views have significantly changed. Participating in activities like volunteering at Bushwick City Farm and phone banking with Hunger Free America, I have realized that service requires personal sacrifice. Clicking a few buttons on my phone to post an infographic was certainly not as fulfilling as turning compost for two hours by myself at the farm, knowing I was helping others in my community. For one of the first times in my life I felt that I was truly helping others by doing service.

A phrase I’m sure many people here are familiar with is: “It is not your responsibility to finish the work [of perfecting the world], but you are not free to desist from it either.”

Finishing the work requires direct action, volunteering, together as a community. That is the lesson I’ve learned from my time with Repair the World. 

 

Growth on Uncertain Ground

Reflecting on my semester with the community of Repair the World Teen Service Corps, I chose to create a zine! This mini-zine, titled Growth on Uncertain Ground, focuses on how service and learning create community, even in times of distance or conflict. Throughout this semester, my perspective has evolved and expanded. I wanted to express that feeling and viewpoint through this zine. I am excited to take what I have learned and use it to continue serving my community. 

— Eliza Baron-Singer

              

             

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am Great Because I Serve – Remembering Martin Luther King Jr. Day

This post originally appeared in Venture Traveller on January 18th, 2021.

Being that we are still in a pandemic, I was not sure where to serve so I called a friend who is socially active. She led me to a website, werepair.com, an organization that mobilizes Jews and their communities to service.  Repair the World Communities, engages young adults in social change around education and food justice in neighborhoods in Atlanta, Baltimore, Brooklyn, Chicago, Detroit, Harlem, Miami, and Pittsburgh. In most communities, a City Director supports a cohort of fellows (ages 21-26) who make a year-long service commitment to Repair the World.

This year, I volunteered for two service projects with Repair the World – one in Brownsville, Brooklyn and the other in Harlem. The Brownsville Community Justice Center’s mission is to reduce crime and incarceration by investing in local youth and improving the physical landscape of the neighborhood. BCJC’s work is vital to change the following statistics listed on their website: In New York State there are 85 juvenile facilities holding 1,182 people, and 65 of them are private. In New York City, 34% of those currently held in jail pre-trail on violent felony charges are youth between the ages of 16 and 24. And black people make up about 40% of the incarcerated population and about 13% of the general population.

Being that we are still living in a pandemic, I signed up for an outdoor project, ‘To paint a wall and beautify a corner.’ So, with purple paint in hand we walked over to a vacant lot and painted its graffiti stained wall. At the end of my shift, that corner of Brooklyn did look much brighter and hopefully the lot will at some point will be cleared of its garbage and become a space where youth can gather safely.

My Harlem service project was to benefit Harlem Grown, an organization that works to educate students on urban farming, sustainability and nutrition. The non-profit works to renovate abandoned lots in Harlem, transform them into thriving urban farms, and educates the community about the benefits of eating local and healthy food. Central Harlem is a food desert where there is one supermarket for every 11 bodegas and the website claims that 30% of Central Harlem residents live more than a 10-minute walk from fresh fruits and vegetables. As volunteers we gathered at an urban farm on 134 St., that grows vegetables and houses chickens that produce eggs. But our job was not gardening but cleaning the neighborhood. Equipped with squeeze handle grabbers and garbage bags, we walked over to 131st St., and picked up all the trash on the street. At the end of my shift, I had filled two large blue garbage bags with street trash and felt good about beautifying one street in Harlem.

Ramaa Reddy is a writer, photographer, food and travel specialist, and all round travel enthusiast. She is a graduate of the Columbia School of Journalism. Her multimedia and print pieces have appeared in Huffington Post, NPR, WHYY, PRI’ The World, BBC, Women’s eNews and Lena Dunham’s Podcast.

Service in Philly: A Chance to Engage and Reflect

This editorial appeared in The Jewish Exponent on January 11, 2019.

By Abe Baker-Butler

Earlier this fall, turkey, stuffing, family and gratitude filled our homes and hearts. As we sat around the table, we caught up with relatives, perhaps navigated fraught discussions of politics and likely thought about the blessings for which we are thankful.

That time of year — after Thanksgiving and as Chanukah and Christmas are celebrated — makes me reflect on how our community can be a better, more generous, forgiving and welcoming place. Such thoughts were jump-started earlier in December when I traveled to Philadelphia on a service trip with J-Teen Leadership, a teen service organization in Westchester, N.Y., to collaborate with Repair the World Philadelphia, a local organization that works with partners to reduce inequality in the city.

Our first stop was Cradles to Crayons, where we sorted jackets for children in need. There, an employee told us the following story: Two sisters in elementary school were star students. But as winter began, their attendance and grades faltered. When teachers inquired, it turned out the two sisters had to walk to school each morning but had only one winter jacket to share between them. Each night, the sisters would discuss who had more important commitments at school the following day to decide which one of them would get to wear the winter jacket — and therefore be the one who attended school.

This story is heartbreaking: How could a jacket make the difference between truancy and academic success? In just one hour, we were able to pack more than 1,000 donated jackets. That’s 1,000 children for whom a lack of proper outerwear will no longer be an obstacle that prevents them from succeeding in school.

The next day, we took a tour with MuralArts, a nonprofit that employs ex-felons to create art on buildings. The murals were beautiful, but what was most stunning was this: although the rate of ex-felon recidivism in the U.S. is about 80 percent, for ex-felons who joined MuralArts, the rate was only 20 percent.

We also worked with the Jewish Relief Agency, alongside many religious, interfaith and school groups, to pack and deliver more than 2,600 pounds of food. I worked with a Philadelphia high schooler to deliver food boxes and had the opportunity to get to know someone with a different background and bond through our shared service in pursuit of a mutual goal.

On the third day of our trip, we volunteered at a community garden. At first, the place appeared to be an abandoned lot. Only after weeding and cleaning with the garden’s stewards was I able to understand its significance as a memorial to the victims of a gas pipe explosion in the 1980s and a community gathering place.

As my experiences in Philly illustrated, helping those in need doesn’t only help to better the lives of others, but it can also be an educational, social, and all-around rewarding experience. And we don’t have to look far to see similar socioeconomic problems — they exist around the corner in many communities, including my own. Throughout Westchester, obstacles to success including food insecurity, drug addiction, child poverty and unemployment afflict many residents.

The opportunity to serve alongside marginalized communities and those in need is a powerful one. As much as community service work physically improves communities, the relationships built through this work are just as, if not more, meaningful. I had the chance to serve, and by doing so I was able to better understand the perspectives of those different from me, who hailed from various communities, in ways that would never have occurred otherwise.

I had an amazing experience serving in Philadelphia — and now I want to do even more.

Abe Baker-Butler is a high school junior who lives with his family in Rye Brook, N.Y. A version of this article was originally published in the Westmore News.

Reflections on #ActNowHouston

This article originally appeared in The Jewish News on June 14, 2018.

By Max Feber

I got involved with Repair the World through the PeerCorps program when I was only a sophomore in high school. Since then, I’ve volunteered dozens of times with RTW and have worked hard to help bridge the gap between the city and the suburbs. The work was always very hard. Whether we were building an ice rink, farming at one of the urban gardens or painting a mural, we always left feeling tired and rewarded. Tired after a long day’s work, I would go home, eat dinner and crawl right into bed.

Read More

Farming as a Community

By day, Horace Bradley works as a customer service agent at Target. But in his spare time over the last two years, he has volunteered regularly with Philly Farm Crew – urban farm/garden volunteer workdays which we run in partnership with the Jewish Farm School. During Farm Crew days, volunteers get their hands dirty in the soil, doing work on vacant lot gardens and urban farms around Philadelphia.

Farming is labor-intensive work that requires persistence and commitment throughout the growing season. Without volunteers like Bradley, the work of planting and harvesting vegetables, weeding the gardens, building a greenhouse, and constructing a Cobb oven (all things done during Philly Farm Crew days) simply wouldn’t happen.

“Farming is a great way to commune with nature and with others,” Bradley said.

In addition to the Farm Crew, Bradley has been involved with Repair the World in a variety of other ways – baking loaves of bread with Challah for Hunger, sorting books at a public school library, and packing food for people in need.

He also joined one of Repair the World’s alternative break programs in Detroit. “It was my first time volunteering so far away from home,” he said. During the trip, he and the other volunteers boarded up abandoned homes.

“Repair the world has changed aspects of my life,” Bradley said. “I think about food differently thanks to Philly Farm Crew, and I’m more outgoing now. But the most rewarding aspect is just being there, helping others.”