Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

UCF Hillel volunteers go to camp for Spring Break


UCF Hillel students enjoy cutting up for the camera while at camp but were serious about their experience at Camp Ramah Darom.

"I wanted to do something different this Spring Break," said Daniela Weisz, a 20-year-old UCF junior and marketing major.

And that is exactly what she and eight other students did: They traded in lazy days on sandy beaches for volunteer work in the mountains of Clayton, Ga.

The Alternative Break Program, coordinated by Volunteer UCF, provides students with various opportunities to help others and impact communities, both locally and internationally.

One of the 13 trips offered this Spring Break was launched by UCF Hillel and involved volunteering at Camp Ramah Darom, a Conservative Jewish camp for those between the ages of 7-16. The seven-day trip was playfully titled Georgia on My Mind, in reference to the official song of the "Peach State."

But what motivated these UCF Knights to spend their vacation planting trees and creating garden beds?

Freshman Amy Troell, a 19-year-old studio art major, said she was driven by her desire to become a more active and engaged student leader.

"I wanted to get more involved at UCF and get more involved in the community. And one of the best ways to do that is through community service," Troell said.

Seth Reder, the trip faculty advisor and former director of Jewish student life at UCF Hillel, agreed with her.

"I was really looking forward to an opportunity to help some of our students on behalf of Hillel and the UCF community. I wanted to really give back and focus on the idea of tikkun olam," Reder said.

The Jewish concept of tikkun olam has become synonymous with repairing the world through social action. And that is exactly what encouraged these UCF Knights to charge on.

"I learned that I can make an impact on a community," Troell said.

While some participants were excited to become involved, others were ready to reconnect with their roots.

Freshman and biology major Rachel Kravatsky is an outdoor enthusiast who spent most of her summers as a camp counselor in Maine.

"It was a great opportunity to get back to doing what I love," Kravatsky said.

Junior Brandon Fisher, a 21-year-old hospitality major, said his time in Georgia reminded him of his hometown in Potomac, Md.

"This trip brought me back to who I actually am. I forgot what mountains are like. And what hikes are like," Fisher said.

Although each of the students valued their experience at Ramah Darom, they did have their doubts when they applied.

"With these types of trips, you never know who's going to be there or what's going to happen," Weisz said.

But those concerns were quickly dismissed after the eight-hour car ride from Orlando, Fla. to Clayton, Ga.

"My biggest takeaway from this trip was the ability to form a bond with strangers," Troell said.

Even though the trip ended on March 15, Troell said that she would not forget the meaningful Spring Break she spent with her fellow UCF Hillel peers.

"I probably won't remember all of the conversations or inside jokes, but I will definitely remember how it felt to be here. I'll remember the feeling of inclusiveness and belonging," Troell concluded.

I was one of the nine participants on Georgia on My Mind, and I must say that this Spring Break was unlike any other. I have never worked with such caring, open-minded and inspiring people. Not only did I learn more about each of them as the days passed, but I discovered more about myself. Volunteering at Camp Ramah Darom rekindled my passion for community involvement and engagement. I believe that Seth Reder best summarized our seven-day experience: "I've learned about the different ways you can impact others, ways that you don't necessarily see. It's really refreshing to just disconnect for a little while, and do something for a greater good."


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