Tikkun Olam: the repairing of the world in Hebrew.
That is what Ellen Hochberg hoped the students at the Stroum Jewish Community Center (SJCC) art camps would know — that they have the power to change the world.
“I wanted students to think about what they could do to help repair the world,” Hochberg said. “To make their would a little better.”
This summer, Hochberg is running a summer camp known as The Art of Giving. In the camp, middle school aged students (10 – 13 years old) learned about social causes and built a small company they called The Kindness Project where they produced hand-made items to sell. Hochberg said the company is raising money to help children detained at the Southern Border of the United States.
The camp was conceived as a way to help students learn to be entrepreneurs as well as global citizens, Hochberg said.
In the camp, there are jobs in the business — like production manager, store manager, marketing, graphic design and research. Each camper has to fill out a paper application for the job they want. Hochberg, who is the CEO of the company interviews each student and offers the jobs to qualifying campers. Each team has to learn to work together.
”They have to learn to design products, order materials, create the products, store them and finally display and sell them,” she said.
In past years, the camp raised funds for microloans. Hochberg said microloans allowed them to lend money to people in developing countries who needed “a little hand up.” In the three years they have held the camp, Hochberg said they have loaned more than $7,500 and they have added more to their lending each year as they raised more money.
After seeing the tragedy at the southern U.S. border, Hoechberg said they decided they needed to do something to help.
“Especially the children who are fleeing dangerous conditions in their own countries only to be separated from their families once they reach the border seeking asylum,” Hoechberg said.
This year, the camp decided to raise and donate funds for KIND (Kids In Defense). According to the group’s website (https://supportkind.org/), KIND’s mission is ensuring that no child appears in immigration court without high quality legal representation; advancing laws, policies, and practices that ensure children’s protection and uphold their right to due process and fundamental fairness; and promoting in countries of origin, transit and destination durable solutions to child migration that are grounded in the best interests of the child and ensure that no child is forced to involuntarily migrate.
Camper Landon Jin said the more people who know about the situation, the more people who can support and help the children and families at the border.
The students recently visited the Bill and Melinda Gates Discovery Center to get a first-hand look at some of the problems confronting people in the world and the work that is being done to solve those problems.
“These students are part of this world and need to begin to learn about it. The more they know, the more they can decide to work for change,” Hochberg said. “I am hoping that this project is like dropping a pebble into the water. As our students learn about conditions at the border, they can tell others, who in turn tell others. And not only can we help an organization with boots on the ground, we can educate others.”
Hochberg said the Bill and Melinda Gates Discovery Center is a great resource for everyone.
“I learned how lucky I am and how much we take for granted everyday things,” camper Sophia Pae said. “[I] also [learned] that people around the world are suffering and we should do all we can to help.”
Camper Wyatt Kindred said if kids don’t know about the border, they won’t know how to help, and helping organizations like KIND is good because they are helping kids at the border.
The students of The Art of Giving camp will be selling clay magnets, Hamsa cards, Hamsa key chains, jewelry, masks, mosaic coasters, jewelry and food items including boba bubble tea from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Aug. 1 – 2. Residents interested in supporting the campers’ efforts can find the students at the entry of the SJCC (3801 E. Mercer Way, Mercer Island). The store accepts cash, credit and debit, as well as donations.