New York, NY; January 18, 2011—American Jewish World Service (AJWS), an international development and human rights organization, is accepting applications from Jewish young adults throughout the U.S. for its 18th Volunteer Summer program. The year-long service-learning program brings participants, between the ages of 16 and 24, to developing countries where they live and work alongside grassroots non-governmental organizations (NGOs) for seven weeks to learn about international development principles and the Jewish tradition of tikkun olam. Following their overseas group assignments, participants spend the rest of the year completing an intensive domestic program that allows them to promote social change in their home communities and further explore the relationship between social justice, service and Judaism.
“Volunteer Summer is a challenging and rewarding program that allows participants to experience firsthand the power of local people effecting change,” said AJWS’s vice president of programs, Aaron Dorfman. “By learning about, contributing personally to, and inspiring others to take action for global change, volunteers carry out the most fundamental Jewish ideals of justice.”
More than 600 young adults have participated in Volunteer Summer since AJWS initiated the program in 1994. Each year’s program begins with a summer experience in a rural area of Africa, Asia or the Americas. In collaboration with local grassroots NGOs, participants work side-by-side with community members on projects that help build infrastructure and sustainability, including laying irrigation systems, building schools and community centers, and planting trees or crops. As part of this service-learning experience, participants gather daily to reflect on their experiences and explore relevant social justice and international development topics through a Jewish lens.
After volunteers return to the U.S., their program continues throughout the year with retreats and opportunities for participants to share their experience with peers via public speaking, writing, advocacy and volunteer service.
“Learning about the importance of community building and long-term sustainability and hearing people of the global south discuss what they need were issues that I could never have learned in a textbook,” said 2010 Volunteer Summer in India participant Cathy Kaplan. “The combination of work with curriculum made the overall experience more meaningful and allowed us to gain a deeper understanding of Indian culture, development and our own Jewish identities.”
For more information about Volunteer Summer and an application for the 2011 program, due February 9th, visit www.ajws.org/volunteersummer.
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