Friday, June 7, 2013

Diller Family Volunteer Day- The Accessibility Icon Project

Sunday, June 2nd 2013
by Arianna Dines (Bedford)

Olivia Ference, Julia Spielman, Liza Sherman, Julia Habbe, Noah Bernays, Eytan Deener-Agus, and a client from Triangle

On Sunday the Fellows, staff, and parents had the amazing opportunity to work with Triangle and Ablevision on the Accessible Icon Project. Triangle is an organization that helps and employs people with developmental disabilities. Ablevision is a part of Triangle. It is an award winning television show created entirely by people with disabilities. The Accessible Icon Project works to replace the International Symbol of Access (commonly known as the handicap symbol) with a more active and engaged icon in parking lots. Upon arriving, a several employees/volunteers (both with special needs and not) talked about the programs and the project. We then discussed the issues with the commonly known “handicap” symbol.  Kineret described it as “passive,” and others brought up that it looked stationary and just waiting for someone to push them. In addition, the person appears to be part of the wheelchair. We traveled to the parking lot and spray painted new accessible parking lot icons. The new icon is more active and independent, highlighting the individual and the abilities they do have, rather than solely the wheelchair. It is meant to start dialogue for people passing by.  During the painting, some fellows talked on camera for Ablevision about what the project meant to them. After all the painting was completed, we convened again. We discussed uses of terminology, such as “handicap” parking versus “accessible.” We also talked about the independence of those with disabilities, and how they often receive help or are treated with extra care, even when they do not want it, just because people notice they have a disability. The discussion made me think deeper about the issue about things I had never even thought of such as how misrepresented people with disabilities are. Another highlight was having several generations working together. It was an enjoyable time full of hugs and laughs in addition to a great social justice and learning experience.  Diller Fellow Olivia Ference said, “it was really fun and I learned a lot about disabilities and the word handicap.” We helped to create social justice for others, learned so much, and at the same time had fun with friends and family.

JCC staff and Diller Fellow Hannah Elbaum paint-over the previous spots the night before!

Eytan Deener-Agus, Olivia Ference, and Andrew Jacobson being interviewed by Ablevision, a media news program created and produced by adults with special needs

Hannah Elbaum and her family being interviewed by Ablevision

Monday, June 3, 2013

Social Justice and Innovation Day!

Sunday, May 19th
MassChallenge, Inc

Written by Hannah Elbaum (Newton)

Diller Fellows and their 6 young adult coaches!
As we move into the part of our Diller experience that focuses on the Social Action Projects we will create, I feel a little daunted. This past workshop, we met at MassChallenge, a kickstarter company for entrepreneurship ventures.

First after arriving, we spent some time catching up as a group. We are all busy planning our days for Community Week this summer in Haifa, and wanted to hear all about everyone else’s progress. This process of organizing activities and programs from opposite sides of the world is a learning experience for us all, but everything is coming along, and it sounds like we are going to have so much fun this summer!

Before we delved too far into why we were at MassChallenge, we spent some time talking about Israel, and The Lone Soldier Project. We watched A Hero In Heaven, a documentary about an American man named Michael Levin who served in the Israeli Defense Forces as a paratrooper before he was tragically killed in battle. In the movie, his parents, sisters and close friends talked about this passion that Michael had for Israel, to protect her and her people. He had this connection to the place that I have never witnessed before. 

Hearing from David, a former lone soldier
I have been to Israel, once, last summer, and I loved it. I love new cultures and experiences and travelling. The history of the land amazed me, I ate falafel every day, I stood on Masada, and I dug in an archeological dig. I walked through the shuk in Jerusalem right before Shabbat, and pushed through people to hear the vendors calling out their prices. I stood next to my mom at the Kotel and slipped a note between the cracks. Still, I never felt like more that a tourist. I was there to visit and then I would be flying back home.  I never considered that as a Jew, this is my land, too. One of the four pillars of the Diller Teen Fellowship is relationship with Israel. I hope that this summer I will be able to feel one tenth of the passion and connection that Michael Levin felt when he joined the IDF. 

After a quick snack break, we sat back down as a group to talk about a little bit of a lighter topic. Another pillar of Diller is Social Justice, and we will all be creating our own Social Justice projects over the course of the next six months. Before the meeting we had been asked to fill out a sheet about what injustice we see in the world, and why we feel passionate about changing it. As my friends began to talk I listened closely. Some feels strongly about the environment, some about domestic violence, bullying, Judaism related issues, and more. I have spent the past eight months learning and spending time with these people. We have had programs on every imaginable subject and talked about everything under the sun, and still when they began talking about what they wanted to change, some of the ideas surprised me. After listening to everyone, I have no idea where my project will take me, but I know I will be passionate, and put my heart and soul into it.

Then, we got to know our coaches! For each group that is creating a social action project, there will be a coach, a young adult who works in Boston. Two of the coaches talked about a project they are working on called AltruHelp. It is a social media app to help with altruism in the world today. We played some “get to know you” games, and the coaches all seem really cool and interested in what Diller is and how they can help us best achieve our goals.
Touring the MassChallenge
Finally, we heard from a past Diller Teen Fellow. Adam Lassman began The Pink Seat Project last year as his social action project. He talked to us about when he first came up with the idea and how it has changed since then. It’s amazing how much he accomplished in a year, and hopefully we will be able to follow in his, and other past Dillers’ footsteps.