For years, I have always felt like I lived a type of double-life. No, not the Hannah Montana kind, I just felt like I never had a place where I could be my whole self authentically. Where I could be both “Hannah Alper - activist, author, motivational speaker” and “just Hannah - kind, optimistic, a leader”. Ever since I was 9 years old, I felt like I had to be one or the other in fear of judgment, teasing or my peers looking upon me in a negative light.
That is until I went to Perlman Camp in Pennsylvania for BBYO’s International Leadership Training Conference. I want to tell you about one of the first moments I realized that it is possible to find your people and actually get the best of both worlds.
A huge focus of the three-week program was learning to become a stronger and better leader first-hand. One of the opportunities to do this was through planning committees - some of the groups were helping to brainstorm for Dallas IC 2020 (see ya there!) and others were planning programs that were going to happen for the entire camp. Naturally, in the choosing process, my first choice was philanthropy. I had no idea what we were going to do - but I knew I had to be a part of it.
As our group of about 10-15 passionate Alephs and BBGs sat in a room, we didn’t think we had anything in common. Then, we were asked what we think of when we hear the word “philanthropy”, and many things like “charity”, “money”, “millionaire”, “Bill Gates” and more were said. Then our facilitator and formal regional director, Tyler, countered the group with a different association: “five-dollar philanthropist”. Now, this is was something I knew a lot about and after a lot of debating in my mind, I raised my hand and started talking. We all recognized that philanthropy is not about being a millionaire, but all it took was being passionate about a cause and giving what you can to help. Later that day, I was asked to be one of the leaders of the committees and I immediately jumped at the idea of combining the two things I was most passionate about - BBYO and change-making!
Fast forward to a week later, we had an entire evening set up, giving everyone at ILTC the opportunity to be a five-dollar philanthropist. The night was filled with sessions on how age, race, culture, and beyond do not discriminate when it comes to change-making. We also chose to do fundraisers with the cause being the International Service Fund (ISF), AZA and BBG's treasury that allows our members to be engaged in the affairs of the global Jewish community. Our team knocked on dorm doors and collected BBYO apparel from members and even theMadricihim and opened up a clothing shuk where people could purchase apparel from around the world. The participants could take these souvenirs back to rep in their own regions and all the proceeds went towards ISF.
Alongside this, we had a raffle with different prizes like a serenade from Eric and Happie, a BBYO backpack and more. Lastly, the shuk (snack shop) was open for our program and a portion of the proceeds went to a specific part of the ISF that Alephs and BBGs had the opportunity to choose from: Ensuring that every Jewish teen has the financial needs to fully immerse themselves into the BBYO experiences through scholarships, money allocated to organizations doing good around the world as part of Stand UP, and a speacial fund for when disaster strikes and the ISF serves the global community through crisis response.
This gave people the incredible feeling of giving back and also what happens when you choose a cause you’re genuinely passionate about. We ended up raising almost $1000 (crazy, and helped people better understand how tangible change-making can be.
This is the power of community. Because of community and the opportunity to talk about what I’m passionate about with a group of people who were interested in the same things, my worlds suddenly collided. I had never felt more like myself and I chased that feeling. So now, wherever I am, I feel comfortable to be both “Hannah Alper - activist, author, motivational speaker” and well, me.
Hannah Alper is a BBG from Lake Ontario Region and has been an activist and author since the age of nine.
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