Alternative Winter Break Leaving a Mark – Melanie Silver

By Year Round Programs
Melanie (2nd from r) weeds with friends

Today’s t’fillah (prayer time) was a writing prompt. We wrote about things we were thankful for or aspired to have, symbolizing the Shemoneh Esrei of the Amida. I thought it was a really interesting way to start out a week focusing on helping others and leaving a mark on New Orleans. It showed us that we can be grateful for what we have and can still want things. The underprivileged kids we hosted a holiday party for this afternoon also seemed that way. They were very grateful for what they had and always asked before they took food, however as expected, they couldn’t wait to get the presents we had brought for them.

Earlier in the day, I volunteered at Sankofa, a garden that supplies fresh produce in a more convenient way to the residents of the Lower Ninth Ward. While we were there, we spent the entire day weeding one of the garden beds which was very rewarding because even though we didn’t get to see the people we were helping, we saw the immediate, major results of what a few hours of gardening could do. During breaks from gardening, we took a chance to appreciate nature. We meditated and did yoga as a group including Andy, the employee guiding us in the gardening process. After gardening, we had enough time to drive around the Lower NinthWward and look at the houses. We looked up what exactly the circles with X’s in the middle and the words surrounding them meant on the outside of the homes. The circle meant that it had been checked and the X divided it into quadrants: Entered or not, which rescue crew checked it, date it was checked, and if there were any dead. Incredibly all the houses we saw had a 0 in that last section. This drive was really interesting because it really showed the damage people had gone through based on the empty lots, the devastated and destroyed homes and the reminder of the O and X that was on all the houses that hadn’t been redone.

~ Melanie Silver is a 10th grader from Deerfield, Illinois. She is a local leader in Young Judaea and will be one of the teens leading Young Judaea’s Chicago Teens for Change, a new Alternative Spring Break in Chicago.

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