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Meital Kraut

 
Meital Kraut Wins B'nai Brith Essay Contest

August 20, 2013

About the  B'nai Brith Essay Contest: Continuing our exemplary commitment to community service, since 2010 B'nai Brith Canada has instituted the B'nai Brith Essay Contest. The contest is open to grade 12 students of Gray Academy.   The contestants are required to write an essay that reflects upon the value and significance of the community service hours they have completed throughout Grades 11 and 12. To be eligible, students must have achieved a minimum of 100 community service hours in Grades 11 & 12.

This year the Judges were Sharon Chisvin, Freelance writer and oral historian, Wendy Erlanger, Founder of More Than Shoes, Author of More Than Soup and Terri Lee Farber, former Director of Human Resources with The Fairmont.
The 2013 B'nai Brith award of   $500.00 was presented by Terri Lee Farber at the Gray Academy Convocation which was held at the Shaarey Zedek Synagogue  on 17th of May, 2013. 

Meital Kraut, was the winner of the contest as the judges felt her essay best exemplifies her personal involvement, commitment and inspiration through service to community. Her essay is reprinted below
 

MY INVOLVEMENT IN COMMUNITY SERVICE
Meital Kraut, age 18
 

My involvement in community service began at a young age. In my family, similar to many other Jewish families, when a person becomes a Bar Mitzvah they donate some money and time to a cause that is special to them. As I am the youngest in my family, I watched each of my older brothers begin volunteering in various places around the city, including soup kitchens, Winnipeg Harvest, and the Sharon Home. I remember being so jealous of my oldest brother who would come home telling stories about the events of his day. Therefore I looked forward to when I was old enough to volunteer and have stories of my own to share.

By the time it was my next brother’s Bar Mitzvah, I was old enough to come along for a few of his afternoons of volunteering at Winnipeg Harvest. I have vivid memories of measuring out pasta to pack food boxes to be sent out. At a young age, I had already experienced how good it was to help those in need.

A few years later, it was time for me to have my Bat Mitzvah. I was excited to start my volunteer project. I spent most of my time at the Sharon Home, visiting with the residents. I often helped plan activities and brought them down to participate, or spent time in individual’s rooms listening to stories about their families or what they did before moving to the Sharon Home. Above all, my favourite activity to do while at the Sharon Home was the spa I created for the women. In the main room I would set up various nail polishes and paint the ladies’ nails as they told me about their life. I loved spending time with them individually, but more than that I loved how happy they were to have nicely painted nails, even if they were done by a twelve year old. That was the first time I truly felt an impact from my volunteer work and knew that I would need to continue on in my future.

In grade nine, I required thirty hours of volunteer work to go to visit the Holocaust museum in Washington. This was not an issue for me, I was already volunteering weekly at Special Olympics Manitoba with a group called Rockets. I started with the group because one of my brothers has special needs and was a member. The participants had various levels of abilities which required us to cater the activities so they were open to each individual. We played different sports, had obstacle courses, and once every few weeks we’d go bowling. I stayed with Special Olympics until I was in grade eleven and it no longer worked with my schedule.

Working with individuals with special needs is the most amazing feeling for me. I loved spending my evenings getting to know the participants. During one of my summers I volunteered at a program at the Children’s Rehabilitation Center. It was a music and art therapy program and I often worked as a one on one aid with a participant that needed a bit more attention. She was non verbal, but very affectionate. I could tell when she was excited about a project or when she wanted nothing but to leave the room. Working with her was sometimes challenging, but the reward of receiving a hug when she was happy was wonderful.

As I have grown, not only have I learned how important it is to volunteer, but how strong the impact is on both myself and the people I am affecting. Volunteering is not a chore for me, it’s not something I need to do to in order to receive some kind of recognition. I no longer have to get a piece of paper signed from my supervisor because my involvement in my community does not have to do with anyone other than myself.

This year I am president of BBYO, a division of BBYO is called Stand Up. It’s about standing up for a cause through community service and social action. At the beginning of this year, I chose to make our Stand Up cause Cancer Care Manitoba because unfortunately many members of BBYO have direct connections with the organization. I felt that it would give the members a chance to raise money and awareness for something that is so close to so many of our hearts.

Although my involvement this year with BBYO takes up a lot of my free time, I still make an effort to devote my time to community service. A few months ago, I began volunteering at the Children’s Hospital on Monday evenings. Throughout all my involvement with individuals with special needs, I have learned that I want to devote my time to working with people who need help or support. I have begun thinking of what I would like to study after I graduate high school and the idea of working in a hospital is a possibility. Spending time at the Children’s Hospital was different than any other volunteer work I had done in my past. I was feeling emotions I had never felt before because I had never seen children look the way they did.

Although sometimes I may have been nervous, I still knew I was doing the right thing. Many children simply wanted someone to keep them company, play a game or read a story, and I was that person. My most rewarding memory at the hospital was when I walked into a girl’s room who was only a few years younger than me. She was sitting in bed, and had a table lying across her with bowls of multicoloured beads. I sat with her and we had a casual conversation about our unique names, and then she offered to cut me some string to make my own bracelet. As we spoke, I noticed that her mood lightened. After a short little while, a nurse came to take her to dinner, she said good bye and gave me the bracelet that she had been working on.

That bracelet meant so much to me, more than anyone could know, and more than I will ever have the chance to tell her. That simple gesture of giving me her bracelet meant that everything was worth it. I no longer felt a sense of unease walking around the wards of the hospital because I had made an impact on someone, and she had made an impact on me.

My involvement with community service has become an integral part of my life. W

 
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Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.


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