My name is Maia and I’m the Director of Youth Programs at Beth Emet Synagogue in Evanston, Illinois. I’m so grateful to have the privilege of working with the amazing teens of the Chicago-area to learn about social justice and take action to make our world a better place. I’ve had so many incredible experiences with our teens exploring the Chicago-area to learn about the history of our city, different social issues affecting our community today, and how to take action to make a difference.
When I first heard about the possibility of this Springboard School Break trip with Tivnu and TOV Teens, I was ecstatic. I know the social justice aspect of the trip and the opportunity to work with marginalized communities and explore the root causes of poverty and houselessness is something our teens would really enjoy; not to mention the gorgeous scenery, hiking, and fun group-bonding. However, the aspect of the trip that really catches my eye is the opportunity to physically build tiny homes, which will have a direct impact on people’s lives.
Being able to have this kind of physical impact is something that has been important to me from a young age. Growing up, my favorite place in the world was summer camp. I loved to escape my schoolwork and chores to spend two months a year in an alternate reality where kids ruled the world. My summer camp was modeled after a kibbutz, so we spent our mornings doing Avodah (work), which included cleaning the bathrooms, chopping vegetables for our meals, building benches, blazing trails, and more. You would think I found this as boring as my chores at home during the year, but I loved our morning Avodah. I loved the gratification I felt sitting on the bench I made during meals in the Chadar Ochel (dining hall), showing my parents a mural I helped paint on Visitors Day, and eating a meal for which I helped chop the carrots. The crucial element of what made camp such a special place to me was that my peers and I had physically built it to be the open, accepting, and loving community that shaped who I am today.
While Tikkun Olam with Tivnu will a very different experience from my summers at camp, I can’t wait for students to feel the gratification of literally and physically shaping our world to match our values on this trip. I hope you can join us over Veteran’s Day weekend for this unique and special opportunity.