BBYO Summer Blog
A Note From Jessica Baar
Posted on 07/19/2011 @ 10:59 AM
On Sunday, after a fun afternoon of going to The Natural History Museum, I returned to GW to listen to a guest speaker, Steven Culbertson. Steve is currently the CEO of Youth Service America or YSA. Steve's speech to us is hard to describe, but if I had to, I would use the words: amazing, inspiring, and motivational. He talked to us about how each one of us can make an IMPACT on the world, all while being teenagers. He taught us that we are not the leaders of tomorrow, but of TODAY. I was inspired to create a huge fundraiser idea to bring back to my BBG and AZA Chapter.
Transitioning into Monday, we went to the Holocaust Museuem. Coming from someone who has been before, it was totally memorable.
Afterwards, my service site (Metro TeenAIDS) got to go back to the center to spend some time with local teens from the area. We planned a program that was a huge hit. I can't wait to go back!
DC is great and we all can't wait to lobby on Thursday. That's all for now- until next time!
Jessica Baar, Allentown, PA
Service Through the Eyes of Shoshana Weiner
Posted on 07/18/2011 @ 11:00 PM
Have you ever met a teen that wishes there was more time to spend volunteering over the summer? That there is no better way to spend two weeks of summer working with homeless children at Bright Beginnings? Welcome to Impact D.C., a summer program for teens wanting to make a change- a difference- in the world. For the past five days, friendships formed and D.C.’s shopping economy has received a boost, but we have been given the opportunity to witness ourselves making a difference in the community and educate ourselves on issues in our lives.
My favorite days are spent volunteering at Bright Beginnings, a school for homeless children. The best way to start a day is to have a three year old in a T-Rex t-shirt run up to you offering hugs while relaying a vivid story in incomprehensible babble. The day only gets better as we are assigned to classrooms to interact with the children. In the classrooms we are introduced as teachers to the children, which include the title of Mister or Misses. The unfortunate few are left to complete organizational tasks around the building. We rotate through the classrooms and organizing; we sure speak up when it is our turn to be with the kids. The most unfortunate person is on recess duty and chases the kids around in the sweltering D.C. heat. Regardless of our duties, we always have fun.
Bright Beginnings is open to children ages zero to five. About 130 children are enrolled, but that is nothing compared to the 160 children on the waiting list. To accommodate the extensive waiting list, Bright Beginnings is opening another school. The children are homeless and attend school year round. They receive two meals a day, and plenty of love and attention from us volunteers! Going into the school, none of us knew what to expect. We were nervous that preconceived notations would interfere with our ability to work with the children. Although the children have little to nothing and rough at-home lives, they are happy as ever. They love the water hose, snack time, and stories. Hugs are popular and piggy-back rides are in high demand. The kids love visits from friends and the teachers are always appreciative of the extra help. My favorite part is reading stories to my two year olds before nap time. The kids rush for the best seat in the house- my lap. With toddlers on both knees and cuddled under my arms, we read The Magic School Bus. Keeping in mind that these are two year older, the book lasts three pages before someone is running off to the trucks or picking out the next story.
After a short (5) hours, I stumble out of my classroom with somewhat sleeping children, knowing it will be a long time before I am ready to have kids of my own. Although exhausted by lunch time, the entire Bright Beginnings group wishes there was more time to be with the kids. It is the best feeling in the world to know I am making a difference in the childrens’ lives.
When we are not volunteering, we are participating in programs involving the issues of homelessness and guest speakers, such as Steve Colbertson from the YSA. Of course, we are hitting up the sites of D.C. Saturday chofesh was spent at the Smithsonians, Spy Museum, Newsuem, and eating ice cream to cool off. Shabbat in D.C. was appropriately ended at the Lincoln Memorial with a beautiful Havdallah service, all participant planned. Other Impact highlights include Harry Potter, lobbying, and most definitely the great people here! We are currently working on lobbying. Yesterday we were grouped based on home state. Each represented state has an appointment with a senator of representative during which we will present issues we feel strongly about. This is an amazing opportunity to let our voices be heard because we CAN make a difference. With only one week left and one day to play with my kids, I don’t want this experience to end. There really is no better way to spend my summer than helping other kids enjoy theirs.
A Note from Nate Strauss
Posted on 07/17/2011 @ 10:56 PM
Greetings from Impact: D.C.! Nate Strauss here from Farmington Hills, Michigan on the Impact blog. Yesterday was our very first Shabbat as a D.C. Family. The overall process of Shabbat was incredibly interactive and eye opening to me. From our Friday night meditation service and Shabbat friendly song session to our Limmud discussion groups and Havdallah at the Lincoln Memorial, Shabbat was truly awesome. Friday night opened my eyes to the amount of fun one could have on Shabbat. 80 people singing popular Jewish songs was the kickoff to our experience. Right after, we divided into teams for a National Treasure inspired scavenger hunt around a section of the George Washington Campus. Wakeup Saturday morning was a lot later than normal, meaning more sleep for all of us! We were all given the chads to choose a Synagogue from 5 different options. I chose the traditional Conservative temple and loved it. The whole Impact group that was there even got our own Aliyah in the Torah service! It was awesome to have such an honor. Chofesh (break) was extra long, so i checked out the Smithsonian Natural History Museum and the Library of Congress. After that, I took the metro back to GW and prepared for Havdallah. The Lincoln Memorial was the perfect setting for our service. We got to watch the sun set over the Washington Monument and got to explore the memorial. To end the night, we broke up into our Service Site groups for Circle/Reflection time. The Metro Teen Aids team went to the World War II memorial, a perfect way to end the day.
I will never forget the first Shabbat we had as a group. I think it truly brought us all closer and helped us meet everyone that we hadn't quite talked to yet. I am absolutely loving Impact and Shabbat was no exception!
Nate Strauss, Farmington Hills, MI
A Note From Jacob Schnitzer
Posted on 07/14/2011 @ 03:00 PM
This morning each group went to their service sites for the first time. At my site, Restaurant Opportunities Center, we learned about labor issues concerning those involved with the restaurant industry. The organization aims to fight the prejudice, sub-par pay, and poor work conditions that often exist behind closed doors in restaurants around the country. Though not a union, R.O.C. helps restaurant workers to stand up for their legal rights and to advocate for law that better protects their innate human rights.
After just one day, we are all very excited to have the opportunity to help out this organization. Ten days and counting to make a difference in D.C.!!!
Jacob Schnitzer Plano, TX
Hello From One of The Teen Coordinators
Posted on 07/14/2011 @ 08:40 AM
To quickly introduce myself, my name is Max Shafron and I am a rising freshman at Tulane University and I live in Atlanta, Georgia.
Happy first full day! As the day comes to a close and as the teens tiredly venture back to their respective dorm rooms, I can only sit here and reflect on my already incredible experience at Impact: DC 2011, starting on day one. Participants woke up this morning excited to begin working at their various community service sites with various non-profit organizations in metropolitan Washington DC area. My group worked with a non-profit organization called "A Wider Circle," which collects donations of gently used furniture, electronics, appliances, and toys, gathering and sorting the various items into groups, allowing them to be redistributed to people suffering from poverty, free of charge. My k'vutza (site group) and I had a wonderful first day of service learning about how the organization functions, grouping and testing the items to make sure they are in great enough shape to be donated, and visiting with shoppers.
Later in the day, each k'vutza came together for an incredible and highly inspiration program called "Street Torah." Groups went to McPherson Square to engage in conversation with homeless people living around Washington DC. Initially, my mind could not settle on the fact that we were about to engage ourselves in physical conversation with people that live in poverty and on the streets of our nation's capitol. But once the "Impacters"and I began conversing with them, our experiences vastly changed. I learned about both the physical and mental struggles that one homeless man has endured in his life, and I can honestly say that I absorbed his advice, charisma, and positive attitude and it allowed me to establish a new view towards homelessness and poverty.
After this activity, our main group reconvened in the George Washington University Hillel to participate in a program led by our teen coordinators and staff regarding Judaic pluralism and Shabbat life on Impact DC. Our community established general rules that we will abide by on Shabbat to create a community that respects all levels of Shabbat observation.
As the physical week comes to an end, our program is just beginning. I can't wait to experience everything else over the next two weeks!
Max Shafron, Atlanta, Georgia