Yesterday at approximately 8:00pm EST, all of the AWB 2016 participants had arrived and started their journeys. Juggling phones, computers and even an Apple Watch this year, I was able to keep up with the arrivals and the adventures. During that period, it is difficult to absorb the meaning of this experience for the teens. Things always start to get clearer on the first morning.
This is the 10th year of Young Judaea’s Alternative Winter Break. I have spent 9 of those years stationed at my desk (one year in New Orleans) in NY making sure that the bus are rolling, the food is ordered, the volunteering is meaningful, the teens have an opportunity to learn, teach and have fun. Yeah, it would be great to be there – but from my desk in New York City, I get to hear the stories, see the pictures and help the staff. We’ve seen storms keep us inside, one caterer run out of food, volunteer organizations that do not understand teen volunteers, stitches for the staff and one broken toe. But no one but me remembers these things. The teens often don’t even remember the names of the volunteer organizations.
What they do remember is the overall experience; the people they meet along the way, both volunteers and clients of the organizations. They remember the way they felt when they built that home or dug that garden. Our job is the make sure that the experience is framed in a way that they take home not only the selfie that they took, but the message that the world needs us.
We’ve had an interesting year this year. Politics aside, the one thing that the Young Judaea staff agreed upon is that we are on the right path. Getting our kids to take their activism off line to do more that “like” on Facebook or share on Instagram is critical to this path. Getting them out to work and teach and learn is key. Teaching our children and teens that they have a voice and hands to make change is our most important task. AWB is one of the ways we do this.
This year, the AWB t-shirt has finally changed. “I Walk the Walk” is the message we are bringing to the world. During this week, you’ll see them walking a lot.