Mitzvah Missions, an original student-led initiative at the University of Western Ontario (UWO), has proven to be a beneficial program to both Jewish students on campus and London’s community at large.
The program routinely gathers a large group of students to embark on volunteering expeditions in the community.
Modelled on similar charitable initiatives at their respective high schools, Shana Gordon-Katz, Joel Kadish and Ally Newton have shaped the program to correspond to a university environment and attract a wider range of participants.
On Oct. 25, the first Mitzvah Mission was conducted at the Boys and Girls Club of London. Along with more than 20 Hillel members and students, the group volunteered at an after-school program for children ages seven to 13.
The volunteers were able to provide the children with productive and structured activities in both an informal and leisurely atmosphere. The volunteers were very eager to work with the children, just as the children were equally excited to be exposed to a group of older students that they came to admire as role models.
The initiative, in essence, seeks to engage students to perform acts of tzedakah in unconventional and more active ways.
Traditionally, individuals tend to associate charity with donating money to worthy causes. While that’s still a beneficial way to contribute, Kadish speaks for the team in stating, “We believe there is much more to charity than just donating money.”
Donating time and effort, and working hands-on with fellow London citizens provides students with the opportunity to give back to the community that they are a part of.
The Mitzvah Mission team uses many means to inform students about their program, including using social media domains such as Twitter and Facebook.
But word of mouth has been the most effective and valuable way of spreading the word about Mitzvah Missions’ cause.
It’s no surprise that students have taken a keen interest in this new program.
Gordon-Katz explains that, “Generally, the students we work with in Hillel have been raised with strong Jewish values that encourage charity and engagement in the community.”
Students choose to become involved with such an initiative because they’re genuinely interested in social action and making a difference.
“Mitzvah Missions provides members of Hillel with the opportunity to fulfil the mitzvah of charity and help participate in the Jewish objective of tikkun olam,” Newton adds.
Over the duration of the school year, the Mitzvah Missions team, in conjunction with many dedicated Hillel members are hoping to continue providing community service assistance to additional organizations.
The next mission is scheduled for the new year, when student volunteers will lend assistance to the local London Food Bank.
On account of the initiative being in its first year, its leaders intend to continue adapting and developing the program to benefit both the community and UWO’s Jewish students by awarding all involved with meaningful experiences.
After learning so much in organizing this first mission, Gordon-Katz, Kadish and Newton are preparing and arranging to co-ordinate larger events in due time and are excited to watch the program flourish.