Community Service: Jesse Robbins (2019)

The following essay on community service was written by Jesse Robbins, a middle schooler, enrolled in City Congregation’s Bar/Bat Mitzvah program. Students spend a year and a half researching their heritage, values and beliefs, and write on a Jewish subject of their choice, their major project; they also perform 13 hours of community service, and write about it. An example of this component can be seen below. The process improves both the student’s writing and critical thinking skills, as well as their self confidence and overall maturity.

When I learned about the community service requirement for my Bar Mitzvah I got to thinking about the community service I have done up until now. I noticed that the values from my values paper–family, kindness/giving, community, and hard work/determination–are woven into these activities. I’ve participated in many service opportunities, including marches, donating clothes to different organizations, running lemonade stands to donate the money to kids with cancer and communities who suffered after a hurricane, and volunteering at the ASPCA.

The first community service I did for my Bar Mitzvah was volunteering at Bloomingdale Head Start Program. This program is designed to educate kids from low-income families in Manhattan. I was at the school during their play time. We danced, played games, and played with trucks.  I enjoyed playing in the sandbox, building structures with magnet tiles, and racing toy cars with the kids. The kids were adorable and I hope to do more of that in the future.

During our recent family trip to Turks and Caicos, we volunteered at a place called The Pot Cake Rescue. It is a rescue place for the many stray dogs seen around the island. Here we had the opportunity to walk and take care of a puppy. These puppies are hopefully adopted and this gives them exposure to what it would be like to live in a household and to get used to being around people. I was excited about going into this experience because I have never walked or taken care of a dog other than my dog, Riley, who we have had since the fall. When we first arrived at the rescue we were greeted by dogs barking and howling through the window. Approximately two hours later, they opened the door and handed us a clipboard with everyone’s name on it and the puppy they were assigned to. Our dog was named Ruby. We brought her to the beach and watched her dig holes in the sand, and we went to a cafe where we ate breakfast and the dog relaxed patiently. This was a great experience not only for the dogs to be exposed to other humans but for humans too, to get a small grasp on how many dogs need homes across the world. In America alone, 6.5 million cats and dogs need a home each year. I suggest that everyone experience this.

During the same family trip to Turks and Caicos, we went to a restaurant where we were greeted by the owner. He came to our table and started to talk to us about his island. He explained his experience as a local living in a place where there is great economic disparity. Many people on the island live in poverty and the tourists often don’t see these areas. This man, Mr. Hutchinson, explained that he opened a restaurant in the tourist area, but wasn’t able to pay the high rent for very long. If he were able to keep the restaurant in the tourist area, it would have greatly benefited the locals who could work there and make a good living.

Mr. Hutchinson is working toward change in the area.  He opened a school to serve those living in poverty and explained to us that he was having a hard time raising money to buy computers for the children to use. This inspired me to think about how I could help. I decided to find ways to raise money, such as crowdfunding and also to donate a portion of my Bar Mitzvah money to help buy a computer or two for the school. Next time I visit Turks and Caicos I plan to see the school.

The last community service I did was for the Foundling Home. This home offers many services for underserved children, families, and adults. It also helps abused children in need of a foster home or a parent who can’t take care of their child. The Foundling Home provides resources to help rebuild their lives and their families. My aunt volunteers at the Foundling Home and goes every week to help take care of and play with the children. I collected and donated books from family and friends, and also some of my childhood books, to the home. This will help educate the kids and expose them to books they may not have seen otherwise. I hope one day to go there with my aunt and meet the children.

Throughout my experience with all of these community service activities, I see how important it is to give back and help others. My giving does not stop here. This paper and service requirement has started me thinking about other ways I can help my community.