How Young Folks are Learning to Repair the World through Volunteer Engagement

Editor’s note: This post is about a program run by our friends at Repair the World. It’s a very cool example of how we can begin early to get the next generation involved in the important work of volunteer engagement. We hope you’re inspired by it, like we are!

Apply for the Repair the World FellowshipThe Repair the World Fellowship is a 10-month opportunity for young adults ages 21 to 26 who are committed to mobilizing the Jewish community toward meaningful volunteer projects. Fellows will recruit, train, and serve alongside volunteers to bring about real community change around a range of issues, including education, poverty, sustainability, and more. The Fellowship provides training, a living stipend, health insurance, housing, and other perks. Also, Repair the World is now accepting applications for the 2014-2015 Fellowship, so spread the word!

Want to hear about this innovative program from someone who actually experienced it? Here’s an interview with Repair the World Fellow Leah Silver:

1. What inspired you to apply as a Repair the World Fellow?

Interview with Leah Silver, Repair the World fellow in PhiladelphiaIn my freshman year of college, I felt largely disconnected from the community I had just entered on the campus of Dickinson College. It wasn’t until I became active in my campus Hillel and started volunteering through the Office of Community Service that I found my true niche and desired community. During my winter break, I participated in a service trip to northern Guatemala to help build a school in an impoverished area. Aside from the incredible work we were doing, the people that participated with me made the opportunity the life-changing experience that it was.

I spent the remainder of my undergraduate career creating service opportunities for other students to spend their breaks helping communities in need, both domestically and abroad. This experience helped me understand what I truly valued and needed in my life–Judaism and community service.

As a senior, I received an email from my Hillel Director about the Repair the World Fellowship. I saw it as an incredible opportunity to fuse my love of Judaism and tikkun olam together in one program. Today, I am so grateful to be a founding member of the Repair the World Fellowship…the launchepreneurs!

2. Can you share a great moment from your work that exemplifies the change you’re looking to make?

One of the organizations I am working with is the Germantown Boys and Girls Club of Philadelphia. I’ve been working closely with 6 and 7 year old girls to prepare myself to develop programming that helps young girls build self-esteem, learn conflict resolution and build community. These girls are incredibly sweet and resilient individuals.

During my second week, a little girl came up to me and handed me a brightly colored bracelet. She said, “Thank you Miss Leah for helping me with my math homework. I learned something new today and want you to have this bracelet!” Even though this was a tiny gesture, it meant more to me than I think that little girl will ever know. To hear that what I am doing is in fact making a difference in someone’s life is so important and meaningful to me. I keep that green bracelet on my nightstand to remind myself why I am doing this and why I’m here.

3. What has been the greatest challenge in this position?

The greatest challenge so far has been coming into a community that isn’t my own with the purpose of empowering its members to create positive change. At first, I struggled with the concept of “who am I to come into Philadelphia, a community that I am unfamiliar with, to address the many challenges the city is currently facing? How can I relate to community members as an outsider?”

As time passes, I am starting to feel part of this community and I recognize that these challenges affect not only the city of Philadelphia, but the well-being of the world, and I am a part of that world.

As a young Jewish leader in the field of service, the power to create positive change and social equality starts with the people who are passionate about those issues and who are interested in making a difference. I am surrounded by a class of my peers, my fellow Fellows, who are just that – people who care about making a difference and about doing something meaningful with their lives.

4. How has Repair supported your personal and professional growth?

Repair the World is helping me to foster my leadership skills and, at the same time, to appreciate the leadership styles and skills of others. We’re all movers and shakers. And we each have different skills and abilities that are making this an environment in which we can all be successful. My fellow Fellows are teaching me an incredible amount about myself and I am so grateful to have them by my side throughout this experience.

In speaking with fellows placed in our other cities (Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Detroit), it is clear that the Repair the World Fellowship is in fact fostering the next generation of leaders in the Jewish nonprofit world. I’ve learned so much so far, and I can’t wait to see what the rest of the year has in store for my fellow Fellows and me!

Hailing from Durham, NC, Leah Silver is a recent graduate of Dickinson College with a B.A. in American Studies. Throughout her time at Dickinson, Leah was very active in Jewish Life as well as worked closely with the Office of Community Service on campus to organize and lead service trip opportunities for students. In her junior year, Leah spent a semester abroad in Hyderabad, India focusing on poverty studies and volunteering at an orphanage for children affected by HIV/AIDS. She loves to travel, be outdoors, cook, meet new people and do service!

Love Leah’s story? Want to get involved? The Repair the World Fellowship is now accepting applications! Check it out, share with family, friends, colleagues and volunteers, and apply today.

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