Archive for : Detroit

How Did You Turn the Tables on MLK Day?

Pardon us while we kvell for a minute here, but MLK Day weekend was completely awesome. All over the country, people spent the day showing up and pitching in – volunteering in their communities to celebrate the legacy and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Repair the World was no exception. Our Turn the Tables campaign inspired more than 120 hosts and 1,000 guests to sit down for a Shabbat dinner to discuss racial injustices and civil rights. Meanwhile, it gave 700 volunteers an opportunity to plug into meaningful service projects across our five partner communities (Detroit, New York City, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh) and beyond.

Added up, that’s a lot of great minds and even more capable hands, coming together to stand up for justice and strong communities. As participant Rebecca Haskell in Oakland, California commented, “Turn the Tables provided time and space for people to broach a subject that we otherwise wouldn’t and talk about our thoughts, questions, and concerns.” We can’t think of a better way to honor Dr. King’s life and work.

If you joined in one of Repair the World’s Turn the Tables events (or if you did something else amazing to celebrate MLK Day), we want to hear from you! Leave us a comment below, or tweet us @repairtheworld.

Repair Inspiration: Meet Detroit Fellow Michael Evers of the Bagley Book Brigade

Collaboration is a beautiful thing! Case in point: Recently Michael Evers, one of Repair the World’s Fellows reached out to the good folks at Chalkfly, a socially responsible school and office supply company in Detroit that works tirelessly to find ways to give back to the community, about finding pen pals for a reading program he was starting at a Bagley Elementary School. They were in!

For several months, Chalkfly crew members exchanged pen pal letters with students – getting to know one another through their notes, and inviting the students to visit their headquarters. They also attended a Bagley Book Brigade meeting to help students dream up ideas for a short film they will shoot and edit in the coming months.

All in all, that’s an inspirational story if we’ve ever heard one. Find out more about this great collaboration. Check out what Michael had to say about it on the video below, and learn more about Chalkfly at their website.

Repair the World’s Gratitude Month: Friends, Family, & Mentors

Here at Repair the World November is Gratitude Month – a month dedicated to giving thanks for everything we are grateful for. It is also the first month of the Repair the World Fellowship program.

We will be introducing you to our whole team of fellows – awesome people serving and working in cities across the country – soon. In the meantime, we reached out to them to ask: what are you grateful for? Their answers, which we will share throughout the month, might just inspire you.

Today’s Repair the World’s Fellows are grateful for: FRIENDS, FAMILY, & MENTORS

Read more

This Weekend, Do It For Detroit!

Do it for Detroit is not just a clever name – it’s an investment in the individuals and initiatives responding rigorously to the real resource needs in neighborhoods.

This micro-grant program funds grassroots initiatives in five key areas: Education, Environment, Health, Hunger and Art. The categories are deliberately broad and the application deliberately short, in hopes that we can cast a wide net rather than provide a particular prescription for what the city needs.

The first grant competition, in the area of Education, will take place this Saturday, February 9th at 7:00pm at the Woodbridge Community Youth Center at 1200 W. Canfield (right between the Lodge and Trumbull). The event is free and promises to make for an inspiring evening, as everyone in attendance will have a chance to vote for which of the three finalists should receive the $3000, $1000 and $500 awards.

I could wax poetic about all 37 micro-grant applications we received — about how each brings a socially entrepreneurial approach to building bright futures for young people, with potential even greater than the obstacles they are trying to solve for — but there is certainly no substitute for hearing them tell their stories Saturday. In the meantime, here’s a sneak peek at what they’ve got cooking:

  • MotorCity Urban Summer Enrichment (MUSE). Detroit has the lowest high school graduation rate of any major city in the United States, and consequently, a small percentage of its young people go on to graduate from a four-year college or university. This monumental issue was the premise behind the founding of MotorCity Urban Summer Enrichment, an academic summer enrichment program, in the summer of 2009.
    • MUSE, a 501(c)3 nonprofit, was founded in Detroit, Michigan, by undergraduates at Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania, and Denison University. One of the three co-founders was a former Detroit Public School student and knew first-hand of the great need to provide Detroit youth with academic enrichment and access to educational opportunities in order to both mitigate summer learning losses and strengthen the students’ social networks.
  • Detroit Food Academy Training. Michigan’s youth unemployment rate is the highest in the nation. This devastates the professional development of the 70,000 high school-aged youth in Detroit and separates youth from community engagement.
    • Detroit Food Academy Training is a collaboration between local high school students, food-based business, and neighborhood markets to promote food justice and build the local food economy in Detroit. The training offers a 20-week, 120-hour certificate program powered by three threads: Kitchen, Conversation, and Community. Students graduate with a polished food product, a certificate in food entrepreneurship, a network of potential employers, and acceptance into the program’s summer Entrepreneurship Camp.
  • $cholarship Detroit. Detroit schools lack the resources to steward their students successfully through the college-application and financial-aid process, jeopardizing the opportunity for capable, motivated students to access quality, affordable higher education. $cholarship Detroit aims to provide students with the educational and financial tools to succeed at the university level in four aspects:
    • Creating and presenting academically competitive students.
    • Guiding students through the scholarship application process in a meaningful and aggressive manner.
    • Provide students with the knowledge to navigate the financial-aid process to ensure that they are receiving the proper public support that they are entitled to.
    • Continue to support and motivate participants to be active in their community post high school graduation through service initiatives with Scholarship Detroit and other community organizations.

We look forward to seeing some of you on Saturday. Have any questions? Feel free to reach out to Ben Falik, Repair the World’s Manager of Detroit Service Initiatives, at [email protected].

Funding for the Di4D comes from the 2012 Pitch Ford DEtroit softball tournament.

More info: http://www.doitfordetroit.com/

The DI4D micro-grant competitions are managed by two Jewish community organizations:
CommunityNEXT: http://www.communitynxt.com/
Repair The World: https://www.werepair.org/

DI4D micro-grants are available to individuals, groups and organizations for programs in Detroit, Highland Park or Hamtramck that engage the general community in a meaningful way through volunteer service. Forthcoming events will be dedicated to hunger, the arts, health/nutrition and the environment.

Destination Detroit

by Devon Rubenstein and Emily Phillips

If you told us when we were still students at the University of Michigan that we would graduate to organizing monthly service days for Michigan State, we would have said, “Thanks but no thanks, AmeriCorps!” Of course, we are only kidding, but the rivalry did have a funny way of initially affecting our enthusiasm for the partnership. And yet the true colors of volunteering have overcome school colors to create Destination Detroit. 
Destination Detroit is a partnership of Repair the World and MSU Hillel, which brings diverse student groups together through service and shared experiences in Detroit. On monthly Fridays throughout the year, groups of about 40 students come from East Lansing to Detroit for a fun-filled day of volunteering, sightseeing and, of course, food. The participating groups include:
  • Arab Cultural Society
  • Asian Pacific American Student Organization
  • Black Student Alliance
  • Camp Kesem
  • Culturas de las Razas Unidas
  • The Greek Community
  • Jewish Student Union
  • Student Housing Cooperative (Co-Op)

For our most recent Destination Detroit, we partnered with Davison, a Detroit elementary and middle school known for its dedicated teachers and creative curriculum. For a testament to Davison’s commitment to education, look no further than Judy Robinson, who recently retired after teaching kindergarten at Davison for 39 years, still volunteers there, and was integral to bringing Destination Detroit to her school.

Davison has attracted a large population of Detroit and Hamtramck’s recent immigrants from Bangladesh. (More on Hamtramck below.) and attracts a large population of Bengali students. The diversity of both the Davison and MSU students enriched everyone’s experience, but the day’s theme — Science Rules! — showed us we had more in common than we thought.

Room One: Ecosystem Art!
How could college volunteers and elementary school students who’d never met before create individual works of science-themed art that would then be combined to beautify the school? Enthusiastically, it turns out. Each grade tackled an ecosystem — ocean, desert, and forest — with students and volunteers decorating their own sheets using found objects like pine needles, cotton balls, paper bags, and shiny fragments from old CDs (ones we feverishly broke prior with gloves and bolt cutters). While each kid’s picture was great on its own, the truly spectacular part of the project was seeing hundreds of these pictures collaged together and mounted in the hallway.

Room Two: Science Experiments!
Pennies don’t command much respect as currency these days, but they are are great for experiments. 1. Inertia: resting pennies on an index card on a cup and trying to get pennies to drop directly into a cup while only moving the index card. (It’s harder than it sounds.) 2. Chemical Reactions: testing to see whether dish soap or hot sauce (Sriracha, in case you’re curious) would clean the tarnish off pennies. If you’re anything like our friends a Davison, you’ll be amazed by which worked.

Room Three: Food Chain!
Classes created their own ecological rock-paper-scissors with predator, prey and producer — replete with pantomime. For example, lion eats antelope, which eats grass, which survives lion. Elementary and college students faced off repeatedly, transitioning accordingly (i.e. in Lion vs. Antelope, Lion stayed Lion and Antelope became Lion) and learning about ecological balance and interdependence in the most chaotic way imaginable.

Destination Detroit blends service and Detroit experiences in a way that always manages to excite, engage and exhaust everyone. After many hugs and high fives at Davison, the MSU students ventured into the cold for a tour of the amazing work by Powerhouse Productions, including the Ride It Sculpture Park, Sound House and Power House. Then, out of the cold — and, for that matter, out of Detroit — to Hamtramck, a city surrounded by the City. At the Polish Art Center, we learned from residents (experts and authors) about the rich immigrant history that preceded the current wave of Bengalis and Yemenis who now fill many of Hamtramck’s homes and storefronts. And the trip would not have been complete without pierogi, stuffed cabbage and more from Polonia.

A Thread in Detroit’s Jewish Fabric

It was always my hope to move to Detroit after graduate school. A frequent visitor from Ann Arbor, I have long been an advocate for strengthening the city’s already dynamic Jewish community.

A vibrant Judaism exists in Detroit. Though I cannot speak for an entire community, I would like to believe that most young Jews who live in the city have made a conscious decision to do so. This community wishes to impact the present. Many play an active role in their neighborhood and community, shaping a variety of institutions and networks. Through these venues, they are able to cultivate spiritual, cultural, educational and social opportunities for like-minded peers.

After I graduated from the Jewish Communal Leadership Program at the University of Michigan in May, I was looking to bridge my passion for a mindful Judaism with my thirst to live in tune with the rhythm that makes Detroit so unique. The Repair the World Moishe House in Woodbridge, aptly nicknamed the “Mitzvah House,” has allowed me to do just that. Here, I can engage with a form of Judaism that is energetic, introspective, and inviting of new experiences and ideas.

Co-founding a new Repair the World Moishe House dedicated to service enables my housemates and me to contribute to the depth of the Jewish community in Downtown Detroit and focus on direct service programming that helps address local needs.

Establishing our house’s communal identity has been an exciting challenge. We quickly learned that Detroit’s Jewish community is incredibly interconnected. Professional, personal and spiritual communities connect and grow through a myriad of Jewish and secular experiences.

In only a few short weeks, our house gained a reputation for its work engaging a diverse cross-section of young Detroiters. We now see many new faces at each of our events while also noticing the formation of a regular crowd. It is a strong start, and we are hoping to build on this momentum.

What comes next is difficult. It is our mandate to ensure that our programming adds value to both the Jewish and general Detroit communities. So we are working hard, meeting with members of these communities to discover what valuable roles we can play and what the Mitzvah House can bring to the table.

In October, we helped host a field day with a fifth-grade class of “change makers” from Plymouth Educational Center. We provided healthy food and facilitated an enjoyable afternoon for the kids and their families.

Engaging with Jewish culture, we hosted a shakshuka-making workshop at our house run by the Israeli nonprofit, Puzzle Israel. This led to a riveting conversation about innovative Israel travel programming. Through this and other similar programming, we have actualized our home as a hub not only for service, but also as a welcoming environment for Jewish experiences and dialogue to take place.

It is clear that there is a niche for us here in Detroit, yet we understand the importance of building strong collaborative relationships with existing programs. We must work together to generate creative outlets that provide opportunities for our peers to express and enact their desire to do social good.

Repair the World Moishe House must make a real difference by providing meaningful Jewish experiences around service, education and social justice for young adults in Metro Detroit. And it will.

Reach out to us at any time ([email protected]). Even better, come down to the house. We want to hear what our community is looking for, and we look forward to providing it in an accessible, fun and innovative way.

Josh Kanter lives in the Repair the World Moishe House in the Woodbridge neighborhood of Detroit. He works in the NEXTGen Department at the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit.