How a Winter Day Brought me Closer to my Community

Haley (they/them) at Cherry Hill Urban Community Garden

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.”