At the beginning of May, a group of students from Ma’ayanot Yeshiva High School attended a disaster relief mission to Minnesota, organized by Ma’ayanot, NCSY, and Nechama. While in Minnesota, we spent two days in Hammond, helping rebuild the community. In October of 2010, a flood hit and destroyed many homes there. At first, federal agencies came in to help with disaster relief by cleaning up the damage. However, they left before the job was completed and now schools like ours come to complete the work. Before the flood, over 200 people lived in Hammond unfortunately by the time we arrived less than twenty were able to move back into their homes. Our group was shocked that six months later the majority of their town were still not able to return to their homes. Together with Nechama we were able to finish some of the homes and allow families to return. Our tasks included painting and picking up garbage which may seem trivial. It was worth it because our efforts were appreciated by the local community and we were able to finish a house and let a family move back in.
One of the most memorable parts of the trip was meeting an elderly woman named Doris. She explained to us that one morning in October she awoke to the barking of her dog. When she stood up the water in her house was already up to her knees. She was one of the fortunate ones who was able to get out of her house in time and unite with her family. Unfortunately her home was destroyed along with most of her worldly possessions. After sharing her powerful story with us she shoed us line going across the top of her house. The line was a water mark left by the seven feet of water that flooded her home earlier this year.
We spent Shabbos in St. Louis Park, Minneapolis with local NCSYers. We were welcomed into their neighborhood with open arms. We spent Shabbos day with the NCSYers which gave us the opportunity to meet Jewish teenagers who live in a smaller Jewish community. We ate lunch, heard Dvrei Torah, and played games together. On Saturday night, we had a bonfire together and bonded with the local teenagers. The community there was extremely welcoming and truly made us feel at home.
Sunday morning we participated in the Susan G. Komen, March for the Cure. It is a 5K walk in which we marched on behalf of Sharsheret, a local Teaneck organization that supports young women and their families facing breast cancer. Over 50,000 attended the walk. Some in memory of loved ones they lost to the disease and others in honor of those who survived. It was truly inspiring to see people from all over joining in one cause.
After the walk we went to Mary’s Place, also known as Sharing and Caring Hands, which is an apartment building for homeless families with children, run by Mary Jo Copeland. There, we played with the children and helped bring some joy into their day. Some of us played board games while others played with the younger children on the playground. By the time we had to go, we all had smiles on our faces. Everyone had a great time.
This Mission Trip was an amazing experience for all of us. It was a great opportunity for us to do a unique Chesed and to help others in a time of need. Our school is constantly exposing us to new volunteer opportunities. Going to Minnesota was a great example of broadening our Chesed. We were also privileged to make a Kiddush HaShem to those who have never met Jewish people before. We were able to make a positive and long lasting impression on them. This is a great example of how even the small things you do to help, can make a huge impact. Even as teenagers, we were able to make a difference in many lives and assist in rebuilding a town in need of our help. The trip was empowering for us to know that we were able to finish building a house so a family could move in, march on behalf of Sharsheret, and bring smiles to children even though we are just teenagers. We will carry these experiences with us throughout our lives.
This trip allowed us to see the need for help that is out there. Often, when doing Chesed, we go to local organizations and do what we can to help in our communities. However, the need is much greater and goes beyond our communities, like the current situation in Louisiana. It is important that we all do our part in Tikkun Olam, in rebuilding the world. We must all lend a hand whenever it is possible and show the world that we care. We must all take part in bettering the world.
On behalf of all the Ma’ayanot girls who participated in this mission trip, we would like to thank all of those who helped to make it possible. A special thank you to Ma’ayanot, NCSY, Nechama, and the OU for making this such an uplifting and inspiring trip and for taking this trip from an idea to reality.
Daniella Steinreich is a sophomore at Ma’ayanot Yeshiva High School for Girls. She has been inspired by her school’s Chesed program as well as the Minnesota Mission and plans to attend NCSY’s GIVE program this summer where she will travel Israel and do Chesed.
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.