Alternative Winter Break Taking the Time to Reflect – Hannah Greenwald

By Year Round Programs
Hannah (with glasses) as a participant on AWB New Orleans 2011

Over the past few days in Los Angeles the LA AWB group has been volunteering at an organization called PATH (People Assisting the Homeless).  For me personally, as well as the teens and my fellow staff, we have had such a meaningful experience, whether it was actually cooking food with fresh ingredients for the residents, or sitting down and talking to them about all sorts of things.  We were able to personalize the issue of homelessness as well as get to know these people because we returned to the same place three days in a row. Even upon seeing us there day after day, the residents had smiles on their faces.  It was also even more meaningful for me to be able to see these high schoolers really converse with and care about these individuals.

After having such meaningful experiences we were able to unwind with Shabbat.  We took this time to really reflect on our experiences and relax before we started more volunteering on Sunday.  Part of Shabbat was also the ability to incorporate certain YJ traditions into the trip.  We did Kabbalat Shabbat, Oneg, Parsha Players, Havdalah, Rikud, etc.  Doing these activities strengthened the community that we already had formed volunteering during the week.  In addition, we were able to really learn and think about all that we had done on the trip already.  We really took Shabbat to be the way it should be, a chance to stop what we are doing and just relax as well as reflect.  We did an activity where we asked the participants on a scale of 1-10 how much they agree with different statements.  It ranged from reasons why they were on this trip, the issue of homelessness as a whole, and the importance or impact of the stuff that we have done so far.  It was really interesting and important for everyone to see what the kids have been thinking about the trip and how important the issue of homelessness was becoming to them.

I also felt the impact of the trip for myself.  I haven’t thought about homelessness like this before now.  I know that I will be more involved with this issue after our trip is over because it has opened my eyes to how big this issue truly is.  When I was a participant on AWB NOLA in 2011, I remember my experiences very well and still remember it to this day.  I hope that these participants will feel the same way.

~ Hannah Greenwald attends Rochester University and is from Westchester, NY

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