Repair the World – Tikkun Olam Makers (TOM) Comes to The O.C.

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The TOM: Tikkun Olam Makers (tomglobal.org) movement, an initiative of the Reut Institute, connects makers, engineers, designers, and developers with people with disabilities to develop solutions for neglected challenges.  This Israeli initiative is driven by the Jewish value of tikkun olam, meaning to repair the world. The world may be a daunting task, so why not start in your own community?

This spring, students at UCI, in partnership with UCI Hillel and UCI’s Samueli School of Engineering, will bring the TOM movement to Orange County, with a make-a- thon on campus. They call this their TOM UCI and it will take place over the weekend of April 28-30. TOMs are essentially 72-hour, hackathon-style events in which Makers create inexpensive products that will help people with disabilities in our community overcome a specific challenge they are facing, and for which no product to assist them currently exists. Makers are expected to work and solve problems most of the time over the 72 hours and be challenged, motivated, and moved by what they will accomplish, some may even pull an all-nighter!

UCI sophomore Elisa Tran decided to bring TOM  to her campus, after she learned about the initiative in July as a participant in the  interfaith student fact finding mission to Israel and the West Bank, coordinated by the Rose Project of Jewish Federation & Family Services. She then recruited fellow trip participant, UCI senior Tin Hong, to  to codirect the program. Elisa has been training for the UCI TOM all year – including travelling to San Diego, New York and Australia for training. “It all started from the Rose Project Interfaith Student Mission.  Arnon Zamir, the director of TOM, spoke to our group, and it was really personal to me because my mom suffered from a severe stroke after having brain surgery on her aneurysm back in 2008.

Getting the chance to hear about the mission of Tikkun Olam Makers inspired me so much because I felt like I found something that I could channel all of my passion into. Working with people, helping a good cause, creating solutions, and building relationships is so vital to this organization and different Make-a- thons. I feel so empowered to make a difference in the world, and why not start with my community? People really underestimate their capabilities in helping others, and I believe this organization is a great start for that,” said Elisa Tran.

“We spend a lot of time on our interfaith trip meeting with people who are making important contributions to the region and the world,”said Lisa Armony, Director of the Rose Project and the creator of the Fact Finders Trip. “It is of great value to the campus community when those engagements inspire students to bring some of that work back to their campuses.”

TOMs have taken place in Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Israel, Vietnam and Canada.  TOM UCI will be one of the first in the U.S., and one of five taking place on college campuses around the U.S. this year.  This will be an inclusive event that will involve many people from the community. “I got involved because I want to help inspire engineers to have a hand in their own community and this is an opportunity for them to use their unique abilities to help disabled people in the community,” said Tin Hong.

Once the make-a- thon is over all the products will be available online as an open source solution (free and available online) with instructions on how to build your own.

For more information visit: www.uci.tomglobal.org  

Tanya Schwied graduated from New York University, studied abroad in Israel, and currently works as the Coordinator of Outreach and Engagement for the NextGen Department at Jewish Federation & Family Services, Orange County.

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