As part of BJE Impact’s Teen Service Corps summer focusing on “Empowerment,” we worked in partnership with Camp Alonim to integrate service learning into the Counselor-in-Training (CIT) experience, a leadership program for entering 11th graders. We explored this theme during a week of learning, and then the CITs had the opportunity to figure out how to bring what they learned to the younger campers, and then to volunteer at one of three community organizations that empower others who face various obstacles. The below is a post by one of the CIT Advisors about the impact of this experience on his teens’ summer. –BJE Impact  

During their eight-week leadership program, the CIT’s (Counselors in Training) at Camp Alonim develop and enact Jewish leadership skills by infusing the Camp Alonim community with creativity and ruach, and by applying their experiences in camp to the greater Jewish (and non-Jewish) community of Los Angeles. During their Community Service Day, the 88 CITs were split into three groups, and traveled to three community-based organizations to work, learn, and share their spirit with others. The CITs visited the Pico Union Project, a multi-faith center focused on bringing people of all cultures and backgrounds together. There the CITs helped plant trees in the neighborhood and learned about the history of the people who visit and help run the project. A group also went to the Alexandria House, a shelter for women and children escaping troublesome living situations. At the Alexandria House, the CITs helped cook food, organize the house, and helped in the daycare area. The CITs had an amazing time playing and taking care of the children in the daycare! The last group led a program and celebrated Shabbat at ETTA, a non-denominational Jewish program for individuals with special needs. The CITs helped participants of all ages create school supply filled, hand-decorated backpacks for children who cannot afford school supplies.

This service day ended up being the favorite day of the summer for many of the CITs. After returning to camp and continuing on in their daily routine, a group of CITs planned and executed “Yom Chesed” (Day of Good Deeds) to build on their amazing experience serving the community outside of camp. In order to make good deeds more prevalent in the minds of every camper and staff member at camp, this group of CIT’s infused chesed into camp. They crafted a large frame for campers to take pictures in, but first, they had to write a message of gratitude on the dry-erase board section of the frame (creatively made out of tape and cardboard). They also hung large posters in the dining hall that prompted those who walked by to write a good deed they had done that day. The amazing and passionate CITs of 2014 at Camp Alonim truly impacted the greater Los Angeles community, and their own camp community with their energy, compassion, and smiling faces!

–Josh Gelfat, Camp Alonim CIT Advisor 2014

Alonim CITs at Etta Israel 3

Alonim CITs at Etta Israel 1