By Jules Spector, MHWOW Host, Houston, Texas
This year for Sukkot I was interested in engaging with my MHWOW community in social action related to the holiday’s focus on temporary shelters and the harvest. Having moved to Houston less than two weeks before Hurricane Harvey hit in September, I was forced to confront the reality that many people in my new city were displaced and living in various states of temporariness, whether it be lack of habitable home, unable to attend school or work, or loss of possessions. Then following the initial aftermath of Harvey, I recognized that the refugee population in the city (one of the largest in the country) was experiencing these states of temporariness on an ongoing basis, well beyond the scope of one individual natural disaster.
I was pleased to find out that there was an active organization in Houston called Plant It Forward Farms that offers economically disadvantaged refugees an opportunity to become self-sufficient through growing, harvesting and selling produce from a local sustainable urban farm. Each farm has the potential to generate a fair wage for a family of four while providing premium brand sustainably-grown produce to Houstonians.
After some research, I discovered that Plant It Forward had one urban farm based in my local neighborhood. I worked with the volunteer coordinator at the organization to bring a group of seven people (all students at Rice University) to work on the farm on a Saturday morning last week. It was a fantastic experience to engage with my fellow classmates to improve our community and to interact with Roy, one of the farmers from the Democratic Republic of Congo, who instructed us in helping at the farm. While we were working, it was great to see neighborhood members stop by the farm stand to buy produce, witnessing the full circle economic benefits of the local agriculture.
Volunteering at Plant It Forward was definitely an alternative, non-traditional way of celebrating Sukkot than I had experienced in the past, but it was a rewarding and meaningful way to engage with the holiday and has motivated me to seek out other opportunities to help my local community in Houston.
— Jules Spector, October 2017