Mitzvah Corps Pacific Northwest
Mitzvah Corps Pacific Northwest offers two separate sessions; each giving participants the opportunity to engage with the refugee community in Seattle.
Issue Focus: Refugee Rights & Immigration Reform
Each year, the United States welcomes thousands of refugees from around the world. Fleeing persecution, natural disasters, or conflict, these individuals and families arrive in America, often emptyhanded, forced to integrate themselves into a foreign culture, learn a new language, and rebuild a new life. Many find themselves in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, where there are organizations that offer a variety of absorption and resettlement services to aid these refugees in becoming positive, contributing members of our communities.
Mitzvah Corps Pacific Northwest participants work in partnership with the Seattle branch of the International Rescue Committee to create a summer day camp for refugee children, while their parents are at work, utilizing job training skills, or in language courses. Our philosophy is to support the integration of these children into the environments they live in; the camp is located in a neighborhood local to the refugee population, and activities are specifically designed to be relevant and authentic to their daily lives. Playing soccer, picking berries, participating in arts and crafts, and more – both campers and Mitzvah Corps participants get to interact with their peer counterparts in a way that builds relationships that long outlast the summer.
In Partnership With: International Rescue Committee (IRC)
Mitzvah Corps Pacific Northwest participants work at a summer camp run in partnership with the International Rescue Committee (IRC). The IRC helps people whose lives and livelihoods are shattered by conflict and disaster to survive, recover, and regain control of their future. This program combines the IRC's extensive experience in authentic community empowerment with Mitzvah Corps' deeply rooted Reform Jewish values and commitment to engaging participants in meaningful, relevant Jewish experiences.
Throughout the program, Mitzvah Corps participants will have the chance to work with the International Rescue Committee to create and run a summer camp for children of refugees living in the greater Seattle area. Together, they'll have the chance to:
- Play sports and go hiking
- Explore the scenery and pick berries
- Create arts and crafts projects
- Host a talent show
Connecting With Innovative Organizations
In addition to direct service, participants will get to meet with other organizations that are having a positive social impact, such as:
- The Bulitt Center, the greenest commercial building in the world.
- Theo Chocolate, a fair trade chocolate factory.
- The Gates Foundation, who provides grants to tackle global challenges.
Life on a College Campus
Mitzvah Corps Pacific Northwest participants and staff reside on the beautiful campus of the University of Washington, located in the heart of Seattle!
- Dorm living
- Use of pool and recreational activities
- Variety of dining hall and restaurant options
- Acres of safe, open outdoor space
- Connection with Hillel and Jewish life on campus
The Culture of Seattle
Each day, participants will have a chance to experience the culturally rich and unique Pacific Northwest, and explore all that Seattle has to offer, including:
- Going on the Seattle Underground tour
- Visiting and eating at Pike Place Market
- Riding a ferry
- Visiting the Ballard Locks
- Exploring the International District and Uwajimaya Village
- Taking in a Seattle Mariners or Sounders game
Day 1 - Welcome to Seattle! Participants will arrive into Seattle-Tacoma International Airport throughout the day, and be transported back to the dorms at the University of Washington, home for the next two weeks. Once everyone has arrived, the group will engage in some initial community building activities and icebreakers. After dinner, they'll review the Mitzvah Corps guidelines and expectations, get an introduction into the volunteering components of the program, and have time to explore the campus and surrounding areas.
Day 2 - History of Seattle & Orientation to International Rescue Committee (IRC) After breakfast in the dining hall, the group will begin to explore the history of Seattle. They'll start with a Seattle Underground Tour, and then delve deeper into the unique demographics and cultural dynamics that have given Seattle its reputation as a leader in urban environmentalism and sustainability. Following lunch, they will go through a training and orientation with the International Rescue Committee.
Day 3 - IRC Volunteering First day of volunteering! In the morning, the group will hear from IRC staff who are themselves refugees and will learn more about the human rights issues from their countries of origin. They will then spend time preparing and kick off the summer camp partnership.
Day 4 - IRC Volunteering & Farmers Market In the morning the group will tour the Namaste Garden and then enjoy a second day of summer camp with IRC youth. Later that afternoon they'll take advantage of the late sunsets and take a field trip to the Wallingford Farmer's Market!
Day 5 - IRC Volunteering & Jewish Family Service The group will meet with a representative from Jewish Family Services of Seattle to learn about their work and the Jewish values of welcoming the stranger. The afternoon Summer Camp will focus on learning more about each other. They'll head to UW Hillel for an evening program exploring how to live Jewish values on campus, both within and independent of formal Jewish organizations.
Day 6 - Explore & Shabbat The Mitzvah Corps teens will make a visit to the famous Pike Place Market to explore and do some Shabbat dinner shopping! To welcome Shabbat, the group will prepare dinner together at Temple Beth Am, and then join their community for evening worship and celebration.
Day 7 - Relax & Explore Seattle Relax and sleep in a bit, then spend the first part of the morning engaging in some alternative Shabbat experiences. The group will then continue exploring the unique and intricate ways that Seattle works by visiting the Ballard Locks, a crucial link for boats between the salt water of Puget Sound and fresh water of the Ship Canal. There, they'll be able to watch the parade of various forms of ships, and visit the fish ladder, which was built to allow salmon to pass between fresh and salt water and navigate the lock system as well! The area also has a botanical garden that the group can explore and relax in throughout the afternoon. That night, the Mitzvah Corps participants will celebrate Havdallah back at the dorms together.
Day 8 - Explore Lake Washington and a Seattle Sounders Game The group will spend a lovely summer afternoon on Lake Washington! In the evening, they'll head to a Seattle Sounders game!
Day 9 - Explore Seattle's Global Culture & Human Rights The group will spend the first part of the day at the Wing Luke Museum. Afterwards, they'll head to the International District and Uwajimaya Village, the largest conglomeration of Asian culture in the Pacific Northwest. They'll be exploring how cultures express themselves through food, and lunch will be a truly global experience! In the afternoon, the group will visit the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, where they'll learn about the organization's unparalleled commitment to global development, and why Seattle is the perfect home base. They'll also get the chance to spend some time at the Seattle Center, one of the premier destinations for arts, entertainment, and leisure. This evening, they'll look at global development through the lens of human rights.
Day 10 - IRC Volunteering In the morning, the Mitzvah Corps teens will learn more about the process of becoming a US Citizen before spending the afternoon engaging with the Summer Camp participants.
Day 11 - IRC Volunteering The group will meet in the morning with local high school students who were recently resettled and have created special programs for teens with the IRC before another active summer camp afternoon.
Day 12 - IRC Volunteering & Fair Trade In the morning, the group will visit the Theo Fair Trade Chocolate factory for a tour and tasting! They will bring back chocolate for a final day of Summer Camp and a celebration party with IRC campers and families. This evening, the group will begin to think about ways to move the Mitzvah Corps experience forward, and take the concepts and values back to their home communities.
Day 13 - Visit URJ Camp Kalsman Today the group will head up to the URJ's Camp Kalsman, where they'll engage in joint programming with the camp's high school units. Together, they'll look at the ways that Kalsman embodies the spirit of the Pacific Northwest and Jewish values of social justice. They'll celebrate Shabbat under the stars at camp before heading back to Seattle that night.
Day 14 - Wrapping Up Final explorations, friendships, learning, and of course, time to pack. The group will conclude their experiences in a meaningful way, and as we celebrate Havdallah, a separation, we'll prepare to return home equipped with the tools to continue changing the world.
Day 15 - L'hitra'ot!
What if a participant needs to travel as an unaccompanied minor? Domestic carriers have varying regulations regarding unaccompanied minors (read specific policies and fees of major domestic carriers Southwest, United, Delta, American, and JetBlue). Please refer to the protocol of the chosen airline, and notify Mitzvah Corps in advance of the program so that we can provide the contact information for the staff member who will greet the teen upon their arrival, and coordinate a smooth travel experience.
Are vaccinations required for participation on Mitzvah Corps? The Union for Reform Judaism requires that all camp and travel program participants, staff and faculty must be immunized. Medical exemptions are granted in rare cases; please contact us regarding any potential exemptions prior to registration. For more information, please refer to the URJ Policy Statement on Vaccine Status.
What are the physical requirements for participation on this program? Mitzvah Corps Pacific Northwest is an ADA compliant program. While, as with all Mitzvah Corps programs, participants are expected to be independent and not require consistent one-on-one care, this program does not have any specific physical requirements.
Will participants receive documentation of community service? Yes! Upon completion, participants will receive documentation for 80 hours of community service. Please note that this number is inclusive of all social justice community engagement; participants who are looking to document specific, traditional direct service hours should contact Mitzvah Corps in advance with any questions.
What are the housing accommodations on Mitzvah Corps Pacific Northwest? Participants and staff will reside in the dorms at the University of Washington. The building and individual rooms are accessible only to members of our group, and the front desk is staffed 24/7 by members of the university security team.
The group will have exclusive use of a dorm building, including common rooms, kitchenettes, and outdoor space, as well as access to many of the amenities on a college campus such as pools, sport facilities, and convenience stories. Most meals will be eaten on campus, and there are numerous vending machines and coffee shops for the teens to access snacks throughout the day.
Towels, pillows, and bed linens will be provided for each participant, and laundry facilities are available.
What kind of clothing should teens bring to Mitzvah Corps? The summers in the Pacific Northwest are mild, with sunshine and warm temperatures during the day, and cooler evenings. Participants should plan to spend their days being active outdoors, and bring clothing that is comfortable, casual, and can get dirty, as well as close-toed shoes. They should also pack layers and longer sleeves, and be prepared to spend cooler evenings outdoors as well.
The attire for most of the program is informal, although participants should pack at least one "nicer/professional" outfit that would be appropriate to wear to Shabbat with a local congregation.
Are there laundry facilities available? There are laundry facilities available on campus. Detergent will be provided; however the cost of the laundry machines themselves are not included in the tuition.
How does Mitzvah Corps handle teens who become ill or injured? The participants’ health and safety is our primary concern during the summer. In all instances where the health of a teen is in question, parents/guardians will be contacted.
The Mitzvah Corps staff are First Aid/AED and CPR certified, and will carry a variety of supplies and over-the-counter medications at all times; parents/guardians have the option to give permission for the staff to administer these medications while completing the health history forms.
If a teen needs medical attention beyond what can be provided by the staff, or there in event of an emergency, the group always has access to quality professional care.
"Had I not taken a step outside of my comfort zone, I would not feel as fulfilled and motivated as I do right now." – Nicole, CT
"Through working with the International Rescue Committee to create a summer camp for refugee children, we have helped develop a safe place to welcome them to America. We have developed close and meaningful relationships with the campers, and it has been a unique privilege to offer time and assistance for these kids to grow and simply enjoy themselves." – Spencer, NJ