Yesterday, 42 Rashi Middle School students who are part of the Jewish Family Service of Metrowest (JFS)/Rashi Leadership Council visited the JFS Resource Room in Framingham. The Resource Room provides all sorts of necessities to refugee and immigrant families, such as winter coats and boots, personal healthcare products, school supplies, pajamas, and much more.
JFS staffer Lucia Panichella said, “Families come to the Framingham Public Schools building to register their children for school, and that gives us the opportunity to ensure they have clothes, housing, and food. We want to make sure that students can learn and be successful in school, and if they’re hungry or don’t have clothing or even a backpack, that can interfere with their learning.”
Approximately 550 families come through the Resource Room every year, and clients can take as much as they want. “The things you see here are the result of partnerships with large companies like TJX, which gives us surplus items, as well as donations from families like yours,” noted Panichella. “It’s hard to ask for help. We give people choices so they can wear things they feel good about. Adults and children shop with dignity. It’s very important that people feel respected here, because they are already dealing with difficult circumstances.”
Rashi students listened attentively to the presentation and voiced their feelings of gratitude. Yael D. said, “Looking around here I feel lucky to have what I need and to go to Rashi.” Ari G. added, “It’s really great for us to come here and step up and help.”
When asked if they had questions, lots of hands went up. Emily C. wanted to know if feminine healthcare products were included in what families can choose—yes, period products are often available depending on contributions from companies and other donors. Perri K. was curious about whether she could donate her own books or clothes, and JFS staff shared that they are happy to coordinate Rashi families’ donations.
Students then went into the gym, which was organized with tables of clothing, cards and tote bags as well as two big bins of child- and adult-sized socks that the Rashi students donated themselves. They proceeded to assemble holiday gifts of clothes and holiday messages for the more than 39 refugee children currently being supported by JFS.
The impact that this service learning project had on the students was palpable. Eighth grader and Student Government Co-president Henry Z. wrote after the visit:
Dear Rashi Parents and Students,
Yesterday’s field trip to the JFS Resource Center was truly inspiring. It went so well, and we learned so much about the actual work JFS does to help support those in need. We also learned firsthand what we, even as students, could do to be of help. As a group, we each got a note card with the name of a child who needed clothes, and we spent time gathering a specific outfit that was curated to their wants and needs. We learned how important it is to not assume what someone needs but the importance of respecting an individual’s dignity. We also made them a personalized card for each child. After seeing our completed gift bags we all felt a sense of pride that we were making a difference in someone’s life.
After we did all of this and got back to school, people expressed how happy they were to have been a part of this trip. Some of the statements my peers wrote in a formal reflection were, “I felt like what we did impacted their lives,” and “This trip made me realize how fortunate I am to have everything I have.” Another highlight of the trip was being able to spend some time with JFS’s youngest board member, Ben Gelber, who is also a Rashi Alumni. He guided us through the making of these holiday gift bags, while continuing to teach us how important it is to never stop helping even when you are no longer a current member of the Rashi school.
Thank you everyone for coming, and a special thank you to our continued partnership with JFS. Thank you Joni and Deb for always making these opportunities for leadership and learning happen, and thank you Ms. Frey for coming along.