by Eric Rivlin
Participant, Urban Mitzvah Corps 2012
Today, less than 72 hours before I complete my life changing summer in New Brunswick, I can honestly say that Urban Mitzvah Corps has grown from an experience into a feeling. There are times where I barely think about my life during the school year, and become so involved in my volunteer work it becomes a comfortable routine that I can’t imagine life without. It isn’t just a program for Jewish teenagers that do volunteer over summer break; it is home.
I never thought I would have this much fun in a camp-like setting, where all you do is volunteer for things and do community service, but that’s part of UMC’s charm! I’m so glad that this summer I was able to take advantage of the opportunity offered to me to help other people in my community, and in more ways than I could have dreamed possible. As if that weren’t enough, with the friends I have made here, nothing is unpleasant or boring! The work can be pretty challenging at times, regardless of which jobsite you pick, but knowing that you have a team of roommates, and family, behind you every step of the way makes it a learning experience unlike any other.
For my jobsites this summer, I’ve had the pleasure of working first at Elijah’s Promise, followed by my second three weeks at Play S.A.F.E. To my slight surprise, I found that while the kids at Play S.A.F.E were awesome and so fun to hang out with, occasionally
they can get very noisy and sometimes they seem to prefer continuing their organized chaos rather than take a break to listen to instructions. Luckily, the staff that work there are so nice and understanding, and they have no problem with assisting a volunteer.
Working at Elijah’s Promise was challenging in a more physical type of way. The work several times a week involves working for several hours on a farm, which can get hot, and you definitely need that bug spray! It is beautiful, but getting dirty and sweaty is a daily occurrence. However, the reward of just knowing you helped someone is great, especially later in the week when you actually get to serve people the very same food you helped to harvest and prepare.
Speaking of food, the meals here at UMC are pretty good too, even when I help to make it. The trips we go on are always fun, thanks to our genius staff members. A personal goal I made for myself was to take advantage of every opportunity, put myself out there in my relationships with the other participants, as well as professionally in my jobsites, and leave on August 5th very sad, but very fulfilled, and with no regrets. Well, mission accomplished! Now, with only days left to go, the thought of leaving this place nearly brings tears to my eyes. I know that I could chat with my friends with the internet or over the phone, but it won’t be the same. I wish I could relive the little funny moments here a million times. I love everything about UMC, and if reading this article has made even a small fraction of the impact on you, that participating on the entire program has made on me, take a chance, and spend a summer here too!