On the very first J-LOFT Boston service trip, teens and parents from Beth El and other MetroWest synagogues worked alongside volunteers and mentors in New Orleans to help repair a house in the city’s Algiers neighborhood.

Most of the teens belong to Congregation Beth El in SudburyKerem Shalom in Concord and Temple Beth Am in Framingham and have been involved with J-LOFT throughout the year and decided to embark on this meaningful adventure together.

J-LOFT teamed up with the Massachusetts-based Volunteer Ventures (VVMA) and the local Youth Rebuilding New Orleans (YRNO), a nonprofit grassroots organization that purchases deteriorated homes, fixes them up with the help of volunteers, and then sells them at affordable prices to first responders, teachers and community members with limited resources. Through this process, they aim to educate youth about the values of hard work, community and self-reliability.

The group’s project for the spring break week in April 2023 is to help repair a lovely single-family home located in the Algiers neighborhood, across the Mississippi River from the city center. The main tasks at hand are painting the exterior of the house, finish installing the dry walls and rebuilding one of the bathrooms.

“It’s really rewarding knowing that we’re genuinely helping people rebuild their lives. We feel like we are needed, and every day feels like we are accomplishing something,” said J-LOFT students Rohan Green-Vaswani and Finn Doyle. “Also, the food is amazing, the people are really nice, and the music is great!”

YRNO and VVMA provide professional guidance and supervision, and their instructors are part of the team working on the house. Whether it’s driving a screw or mudding a wall, teens first learn how to do it safely and are closely guided throughout the process. YRNO also provides accommodation in a big house with bunk beds, a huge kitchen and a living room with games, TV and couches.

After working all day on the house, the group explores New Orleans in the evening, with visits to the Audubon Park, the Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience, the National WWII Museum, the French Quarter and as many local food joints as they can squeeze into a busy week.

As soon as this trip is done, J-LOFT Boston will begin planning next year’s service trip, which any teen in grade 8-12 from the MetroWest area can join. Keep checking the J-LOFT Boston website for more information and follow J-LOFT Boston on Instagram.

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