Update to Parents
It has been an amazing week from the hours of service that we preformed in the morning recreating the Northwest Boys and Girls Club with paint, new benches, murals, tables to the special afternoons we spent with the children of the Kendall Boys and Girls club in the afternoon. Each and every student on this trip made such a difference and added immeasurable amounts to our community. We ended the week with a beautiful Shabbat with some much needed and deserved relaxation and reflection on all that we had accomplished.
As our students return home we asked them all to make some sort of commitment to continuing some of the work or incorporating the lessons of the week into their lives and their insights into how they wanted to do this were beautiful and moving.
I (Rabbi Shalom) look forward to many more adventures with our students as we continue to build our own community, our connection to our heritage, and work together to make the world a better place for all of humanity.
We will be up loading pictures to our web site within the next week and hope you will check back to see the actual work that we all did.
Until then blessings and L'chaim
Rabbi Shalom Kantor
Our Last Day
Yesterday was our last day working with the kids at the Boys and Girls Club in Coral Gables, and honestly even though we are going to the beach today, I would rather go back to the Boys and Girls Club and work with the kids I’ve interacted with. No one wanted to leave, and everyone I talked to agreed they wanted to come back. Probably the hardest part was saying goodbye to the kids that I didn’t have time to help that day that I helped in the past few days, since I was with other kids that I had been helping; as I was leaving, a kid I worked with the day before named Sebastian looked at me and asked me if I could help, and I had to say I was leaving. This was like a recurring theme for me; each day before we left, groups of kids would come up to me and ask for help with all their work, and when each day I had to leave knowing that there were dozens of kids that I could easily help with just a few more minutes, I would pretty much wait until the last minute to go outside to the debriefing.
A few things I really liked: the smiles on my kids’ faces when they figured something out on their own or when I taught them tricks to make homework go faster, when Caroline told me she wanted to run an animal shelter and work at the Vet’s office when she grows up, when Daniel (a kid) beat Daniel (an adult) in pool, and when I saw much of the completed work we’ve done. Some of my kids live lives of relative privilege, however not all of them do, and in both cases, I feel I can make a difference in their futures by sharing insight and experience from my life, as well as helping them understand the relevance of their homework. But for now, it’s 86 degrees outside, and I have no choice but go to the beach; I suppose I could stand to hang out in Miami beach for a few hours!
Day 3: Reading with kids
Today was our third day of service and our second day working with the children at the Kline Boys and Girl’s club. While I was excited to continue my service work, I couldn’t help feeling very uneasy walking into the club. On Tuesday I’d been paired with a seven year old named Gabriel. My first impression of him was that he is a sweet faced young blonde with a bit of a trouble-making streak in him. However, as the afternoon progressed, I realized that of all the children I’d interacted with, this child closest fit the definition of “at risk youth.” He spoke of fights and other things that are highly inappropriate for a seven year old. His way of showing off to his friends was by insulting them. It was pretty clear that his ideas of fun will warp towards drugs and fighting as he gets older. Today I learned that he is a year behind in school because, as he nonchalantly told me, “I get bad grades”. Additionally, he “loves violence.”
Most troubling was the way he sensed that adults do not have a lot of confidence in his abilities. I think he has just as much potential as any other child there.
I left today feeling even more mixed then I had the day before. When reading with Gabriel, I found myself getting frustrated with his lack of enthusiasm to the point where I couldn’t help but wish that I could just read the story to him. This thought, and deciding to work against that thought, reminded me why I am here, on this trip, in the first place. Other adults have not been giving Gabriel a chance, and probably would have given up and read him the rest of the story in order to get it over with. But I know what it’s like to have the academic adults looking down on you; it’s an awful feeling. I believe in Gabriel’s potential, and I also believe he does not believe in his own potential, and I refuse to be yet another adult letting him give up on himself.
Reflections looking back
Over the past few days I have had the opportunity to spend time with a young boy at the Boys and Girls Club of Miami. A typical visit has consisted of reading with him, playing games, and generally trying to learn more about his origin. Even though I shared three afternoons with him, it still was not enough to reach out to him in a way I had hoped.
Today, however, I read a book to him that related very well to this entire trip as a whole. The story was about an impoverished fisherman who had saved a fish, who had in turn granted him a wish. The fisherman asked the fish to provide him with a bigger house. Ultimately, the wish was granted, but the fisherman was not pleased, as he asked the fish to keep improving his lifestyle. A few wishes later, the fisherman had a large enough house and plenty of food for him and others, but could not become satisfied. Eventually, the fish became so insulted that he took everything away from the fisherman, even the worn down hut he had originally lived in. The fisherman realized that after all of that, he just wanted his old lifestyle back.
Basically, this story reminds me of our society today. Many privileged people take what they have for granted and get carried away with materialism. The societal norm, unfortunately, is to always one-up the people around them, whether it’s driving the fanciest car on the block or being the best dressed out of a group of friends. It bothers me that people tend to lose sight of community and selfishly think only about themselves. This book is a great example of someone who wants more without even needing more.
On this trip, I have realized that everything I have is a privilege that I should feel lucky for, while many of these kids at the Club do not have the same opportunities that I had growing up. Instead of being selfish and always asking for luxury items, we should focus more on the necessities. The fact of the matter is, there are underprivileged people in the world, and I bet the homeless out on the street do not appreciate those individuals driving around Mercedes Benz’ while being left coughing in the dust. Even though I feel that I didn’t really impact the boy I had mentored, I feel that I learned so much more than I thought I would through this experience. With privilege comes choices, and it is up to us to decide the right choices.
Day 2: Building our souls and making a difference
March 22, 2011 – Miami ASB
Today was one of those days that was good for the soul; the kind that just fills you up. We started the morning with some old fashioned manual labor. I really liked what we were doing (stretching canvases) because I had learned how to do that in the painting class I took back in Binghamton, so I felt like I was able to share some of my first hand experience with the rest of the group. I enjoyed the second half of the day even more. We went to another Boys and Girls Club to actually work with kids. I helped a 12 year old boy named Adrian with his homework. At first when one of the teachers assigned me to help him he said, “I don’t know why she thinks I need help. I can do my homework on my own and I don’t need anyone else”. In response to this apparently difficult attitude I said, “I know you can do it but why don’t you explain your homework to me”. In this way I was able to bring him to realize maybe I could help him out a little bit. It felt nice to see him let me in this small way. Adrian seems like one of those kids who are a bit of challenge but only need a little extra time with things for them to come around. He seemed surprised that a bunch of college students from New York would come to spend any amount of time with them. He even said to me, “I wouldn’t do that”. I just tried my best to share some things about myself with him as I was helping him with his spelling and math homework. Maybe I did have some impact on his day as he asked if we were coming back tomorrow and quietly said perhaps he would see me then. I wonder about the impact we will have long term on these kids but I take comfort in the fact that they also will have an impact on us which we will always have. I’m excited for another day like today and I hope I get to work Adrian again in the afternoon so we can continue learning from each other.
Day 1: Welcome to Miami
Tonight, we listened to a Faces of Homelessness Panel. We listened to several speakers who had experienced poverty and homelessness and how they were able to recover from these experiences. One of these speakers discussed how she had run away from home as a youth and had never been motivated to succeed in life. She said that if “one person had told her to go to college, she probably would never have gone to jail.” I realized that sometimes all it takes it the words of one person to make a difference in someone’s life. I think that it is this fact that makes my experience here meaningful.
Day 1: Welcome to Miami
Monday, March 21, 2011:
The experiences I had today really opened up my eyes. The day before I left on this trip my mom and I dropped hundreds of dollars on shoes. Then, on the way to the airport, I complained to my parents how some people don’t even have $5 on them when we are at school. I never dealt with poverty before this. Today I met with senior citizens who might only be eating one meal a day, a meal that they aren’t even providing for themselves. It’s just a weird experience. I can’t wait to see what situations I will be thrust into next.
Day 1: Welcome to Miami
Monday, March 21, 2011:
Our 72 person group walked into a JCS meal for the elderly and began to mingle with the 60+ year olds who were there. Some of them were poor, this being their only meal of the day, but some were not; they were just there for the company. I walked up to a table with three men who were probably in their 70s or 80s. “Do you speak Hebrew?” one of them asked, in hebrew. “A little,” I answered, also in hebrew. He was of medium build with blonde hair and a mustache. He then proceeded to tell a bunch of risqué jokes involving Israeli soldiers and American girls, along with some serious advice about volunteering in Israel. He was funny and charismatic, making my experience at JCS fun and memorable. I got up to serve the food and by the time I was done, the man had left.