Last month, the current class of Repair the World Fellows held their final closing circles and said so long – but not goodbye! We’ve been incredibly inspired by their work as change makers during their fellowship year, and are excited to keep up with them in the months and years to come.

Here’s Ariel Wexler who was one of Repair the World’s Food Justice Fellows in Pittsburgh. She took some time to share the impact she was able to have on others over the course of the year, and the impact the fellowship had on her. Read on, then find out more about becoming a Repair the World Fellow.

What drew you to being a part of the Fellowship?
At UC Santa Cruz where I went to college, I became extremely passionate about environmentalism. My main focus was on the complexities of the food system and practices of sustainable agriculture. Growing up in a strong Jewish community and being fascinated with the history of the Jewish people I decided to minor in Jewish Studies. I thought that the Repair the World fellowship would be the perfect combination of both my interests in food justice and the Jewish community.

Tell me more about the projects you worked on during the year?
My main partner organizations were Grow Pittsburgh and 412 Food Rescue. I also collaborated with the JCC teen education groups of JLINE and Teen Philanthropy. My main projects for Grow Pittsburgh included helping with map outreach to get community and home gardens on an electronic map. I also enjoyed supporting farmer Courtney in cooking and garden education at two local elementary schools in Pittsburgh. I had the great opportunity of designing an eight week service learning class called the “Intersectional of Poverty” through JCC JLINE. 15 high school students delved into the topics of employment, housing, food and education justice.

What are 1 or 2 lessons you learned, either professionally or personally, during your time as a Fellow?
One of most things I learned as a Repair Fellow is how to network. Moving to a new city and having to start from scratch would have been much more difficult without the skills Repair taught me to go outside of my comfort zone. I learned what type of events to attend in the city to meet other non-profit professionals and how to learn more about people’s interests.

Who is one person you met during the year that you will never forget?
I became involved with a youth mentoring program at the East Liberty Presbyterian Church called “Food for Thought”. I had the honor of being a mentor for a fourth grade boy who taught me that relationships take patience.

What will you be “taking with you” in terms of inspiration and ideas?
I’ll definitely take with me the idea that everyone can enrich their lives and communities by getting involved and volunteering. Forming relationships with several local organizations expanded my sense of community and connection to the city. I know that it did the same for the individuals I met throughout the year.

What are your plans or hopes for life after the fellowship?
I am going to be a volunteer coordinator in Guatemala for 6 months for an organization called Long Way Home. The organization has built a K-8 and vocational school using green building techniques. I will be coordinating the volunteers that come to help with construction.

Is doing service within a Jewish context important to you?
My Jewish identity has always been very important to me and so has my desire and passion for environmental and social justice. I think it’s valuable and enriching to learn about the Jewish context behind issues I believe in.