On November 8, 2013, a deadly typhoon struck the Philippines, killing over 2,000, displacing over 600,000, and affecting over 11 million people. Men, women, and children were left without basic necessities such as food and shelter; they now survive with only the clothes on their backs.
Within a few days of the typhoon, the YULA Chessed Committee had organized a school-wide charity project to help those in need in the Philippines: Students and teachers were asked to bring in old clothing to send to the Philippines. “The clothing drive was a huge success! The amount of clothing that we were able to collect completely surpassed my initial expectations by a long shot,” said the head of YULA Chessed, senior Benji Kurnick. “The outpouring of support, which the student body and YULA Staff expressed, clearly displayed an eagerness to help others. After speaking with Uriel Mendoza, YULA Engineer and Philippine native, it really made me think about how our efforts can impact so many people.” After only one week, large black and white bags covered the floor of the YULA foyer, and a large sign, standing on a tripod, declared the project’s intentions. Uriel Mandoza said in an email to the student body, “I understand the reality of living in a third-world country, and you are graceful for what little you have given. I sincerely thank you for the kind gesture.” YULA Chessed intends to partner with the International Armoring Corporation, which will transport and distribute the collected clothing. Senior Yossi Etshalom said, “It’s one of the most inspiring programs YULA has ever run. The fact that we’re giving of our own to people who need – who really need – gives me perspective on who Jews are and how they interact with the rest of the world.”
YULA is known throughout the community for its various Chessed opportunities and projects. Benji Kurnick, elected last year to his post in Student Council, has worked tirelessly to advance YULA’s role in Chessed. Chessed Days, initiated this year, allow specific grades to spend the morning participating in opportunities such as spending time with Yachad at the park. YULA students have also taken leadership roles in groups such as Etta Israel, Chai Lifeline, and many others. General Studies Principal Dr. Paul Soifer said, “Students participating in Chessed projects is an integral part of the YULA experience.”