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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

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Finding meaning over winter break

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This time of year marks the long-awaited winter break for students.

Schools pause for several weeks, allocating rest and relaxation following a prolonged first semester.

For a multitude of Jewish families, this time off calls for a sojourn to Florida – perhaps to visit bubbie and zaide who have already migrated to the warm climate – or to a chic Caribbean island where the weather is guaranteed and the resort is an assured paradise.

I myself am an abiding participant in this winter getaway ritual. After all, who would give up an opportunity to escape from the cold winter to a destination of sand and sun?

Nevertheless, upon the onset of my annual vacation, I have begun considering various means to make this year’s excursion more relevant, namely, by integrating volun-tourism-related activities.

Volun-tourism is a phenomenon defined as travel that incorporates volunteering expeditions for charitable causes.

No community is spared from encountering periods of struggle and difficulty. For this reason, this winter break I challenged myself to make a difference and demonstrate my support for others in need.

Whether you and your family are jet setting to a destination, or are unwinding in the comfort of your own home, there are countless ways to give back and take social action.

Upon researching volunteer opportunities in Miami, I stumbled across one that I plan to explore during my stay in Florida.

Christmas Day marks the Jewish Community Volunteer Day in Miami, that allows for Jewish people to offer friendship and support to fellow non-Jews on their holiest of days. The Greater Miami Jewish Federation organizes events on this particular date.

Various projects run throughout the day. They include beautifying the area around the federation’s community offices, visiting the elderly at nursing homes or similar facilities, or even preparing and serving meals and connecting with the homeless or the Salvation Army.

This event’s success is completely reliant on the dedication of volunteers. Thus, if you find yourself in Miami on Dec. 25, I encourage you to accompany me among many others in a fix of volun-tourism, that will surely invigorate the lives of children and adults less fortunate than ourselves.

For those residing in Toronto over the winter break, there are similar ways to volunteer. One opportunity that I have come across numerous times is contributing time to Ve’ahavta, the Canadian Jewish Humanitarian Relief Committee, which operates a Jewish mobile response van.

In the name of community poverty relief, this non-profit operates an outreach van every Sunday through Thursday.

The van drives along the downtown corridor, where volunteers distribute sandwiches, coffee, donated clothing and other necessities to impoverished individuals.

Since Ve’ahavta is dependent on its volunteers to operate this charitable service, I definitely intend to participate in this expedition next time I find myself in Toronto.

Join me in making this year’s winter break a humanitarian one. Assigning one day or two out of our holidays in the name of social action and justice may produce lasting impacts on the well-being of many people, not to mention the communities they inhabit.

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