It may sound like a lofty goal, but Repair the World: Pittsburgh’s Founding Director Zach Block believes that through the collective power of meaningful volunteering, we can do exactly that.

Founded in 2009 in New York City, Repair the World was launched in the belief that “volunteers are the backbone of all social movements and they are one of the most powerful vehicles for change.” The nonprofit came into being in Pittsburgh last September as part of the organization’s four-city ramp-up. Other cities included Philadelphia, Detroit and Baltimore.

Repair the World’s engagement model focuses around a fellowship program that gives individuals an opportunity to build initiatives that will increase volunteer participation in nonprofits.

The vision for our fellows is to be experts at mobilizing the community to serve in a way that add value, says Mordy Walfish, vice president of programs.

Repair the World: Pittsburgh graduated its first cohort of nine fellows who worked on seven projects in three organizations: East End Cooperative Ministries, Jewish Family & Children’s Services and Higher Achievement. The projects included programs in hunger, housing, refugee resettlement and after-school programs.

Alaina Bernstein found the experience life-changing.

“One thing that I am very proud of accomplishing this year is setting up and starting an urban garden in Squirrel Hill. The garden, named Produce to Pantry, supplies the Squirrel Hill Community Food Pantry with extra produce for their clients in need,” she says.

Sarah Schrag worked with Pittsburgh’ s growing refugee community.

“I learned about a wide range of social and economic issues, shattered my own preconceived notions, developed new programs, taught community members about a range of social justice issues, engaged volunteers in meaningful opportunities and helped Pittsburgh’s refugee community gain access to necessary medical services,” she says.

Dravidi Stinett, a fellow from California, found her time in Pittsburgh incomparable. “We spent most of the year working out of The Beauty Shoppe, a coworking space, and it was filled with folks working on cool ideas and new start ups…I love the idea sharing, it’s like brain food. And going to TEDxGrandviewAve was one the highlights of my year.”

Zack Block is proud of the accomplishments of the group and looks forward to the next round of volunteers. “They engaged a lot of people and created a lot of positive experiences,” he says.

Block plans to change the fellows volunteer experience going forward, focusing more on the work with partner organizations. “This past year was amazing and I can only imagine how much better the second year is going to be for everyone involved,” he says.

Repair the World fellows serve for 11 months and are paid a stipend, housing and health insurance. A new cohort will start in September.

Leah Lizarondo

Leah Lizarondo is a food advocate, writer and speaker. She is also the co-founder of 412 Food Rescue, an organization that seeks to eliminate food waste to make an impact on hunger and the environment....