By Repair the World fellow Rachel Wallace
I grew up in a vibrant Jewish community – one that surrounded me with joy, support, education, and the ability to grow. My community members inculcated in me the values of learning, knowledge, support, helping others both in and outside of my community, and tikkun olam (repairing the world). As I grew, my fellow community members acknowledged my success, my own hard work, and my perseverance, but also helped me acknowledge my privilege – that my success came in part because they were there to lay out a path for me to succeed.
As a result of my upbringing, community has always been a strong value of mine, and I have imbued my life with the values it has taught me. Therefore, I am grateful for the opportunity to work with Repair The World, an organization that believes in giving back, and supporting both nascent and thriving communities throughout Philadelphia the greater United States.
This month, I had the privilege of coordinating Repair The World’s Martin Luther King Day, overseeing my fellow Repair The World fellows in coordinating their own service projects and their recruitment of volunteers for this day. As a team of Repair The World Philadelphia fellows, we turned MLK Day, a day off, into a day on – a day in which Philadelphians could participate in a service project to give back to their communities.
I witnessed Philadelphians giving back to their own communities on Martin Luther King Day through the organization for which I work, West Philadelphia Alliance for Children (WePAC). In addition to coordinating the MLK Day projects in advance of MLK Day, on the day of, I participated in and helped WePAC’s Little Free Library construction. Little Free Libraries are mobile libraries that look like mini houses. They are containers out of which individuals can take books and place books in as they please. These libraries offer free books to the communities in which they are placed. The Little Free Library movement is one that has been spreading nationwide, and with the help of volunteers on MLK Day, WePAC will introduce this movement to Philly and place these libraries in spaces with no public or school libraries.
It was amazing to see over one hundred people come out to participate in this community-oriented project – constructing the mobile libraries, assembling them, and painting them. Volunteers’ creativity was incredible. They painted the libraries with all types of designs, ranging from Clifford The Big Red Dog to the Philadelphia Eagles to themes from the United States Constitution. These designs were more than decorative. They symbolized various segments of our community coming together. Volunteers’ energy was inspiring, and was truly infectious. They reported that they had a fun time and a meaningful day of service, and look forward to participating in other Repair The World service projects.
After many weeks of effort toward this day, it was a pleasure to watch WePAC’s MLK Day of service unfold. Its project and day itself embodied the values with which I was raised, such as community, giving back, and education. Its MLK Day brought out individuals from all over Philadelphia, allowing all of us to unite around a common cause – improving our own city of Philadelphia. Our ability to come together as a community that day enabled us to complete these Little Free Libraries that will stimulate community in other parts of Philly, allowing neighborhoods that would not otherwise have access to reading materials come together over books. Growing up in a community where books and knowledge were a vital piece of my upbringing, I am excited that WePAC can now give this gift to others.