Posted on January 2, 2018
Childhood examples of tikkun olam helped inform Jamie Pear’s life’s work.
Jamie, a TBE member and resident of Bridgewater, has spent much of her career helping children, and training others to serve the most vulnerable among them.
Jamie says she has “always been passionate about working with children,” following in her mother’s footsteps to devote herself to a career in early childhood education and working in underserved communities. She has served in many capacities throughout her career, from expanding a playroom program for homeless children in Massachusetts, to working with foster children as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) in New Jersey, to now facilitating online classes for graduate students studying social work at Boston University.
After earning her bachelor’s degree in sociology from Clark University in Worcester, Mass., and a master’s degree in social work from Boston University, Jamie worked in central Massachusetts to give homeless children and their families the gift of a top-quality playroom at homeless shelters.
Jamie and her team would transform a shelter’s playroom in one day – and with weeks of advanced planning – to give children in need a great, safe place to play. She found this work especially fulfilling.
“The children and parents were often brought to tears by the amazing playrooms,” she recalls. “These spaces were developed with the highest quality furniture, toys, décor and materials. Not only were the designs focused on best practices in learning through play, but they were intentionally created to let the families know that they deserved only the best. This is what every child deserves.”
The needs of vulnerable children are only growing, and Jamie is hopeful that people and communities will consider becoming involved with youngsters to help them succeed.
“I think we are seeing concerning changes in the systems that support children and their families,” Pear said. “Getting involved as a volunteer with children can mean learning about the issues that impact them and advocating for programs that serve this vulnerable population.”
During her time with CASA SHaW, which serves foster children in Somerset, Hunterdon and Warren counties, Jamie supervised volunteers who advocated for children in the foster care system. CASA volunteers undergo training to provide comprehensive reports updating a foster child’s situation to New Jersey Family Court, and to all other parties involved. CASA research has shown that children with a CASA representative spend less time in the foster care system than those without an advocate.
CASA, like many organizations that work to benefit children in need, is always looking for volunteers. Jamie notes that most volunteer opportunities that involve working with children will require some level of training.
Prospective volunteers also should expect to undergo several background checks, as well as fingerprinting.
For those who would like to learn more about advocating for children, Jamie recommends starting with volunteer opportunities that require less of an ongoing commitment. For example, “You can also find other ways to support CASA SHaW through events, outreach, and smaller projects,” she points out.
Another great starting point, Jamie said, would be working shifts during weeks when the Interfaith Hospitality Network (IHN) brings client families to TBE.
The IHN works with a number of religious communities in the region to help provide temporary shelter and counseling for those who need it. TBE hosts IHN clients approximately every seven weeks and often needs volunteers during hosting week to help on several fronts, ranging from providing or serving a meal to spending time with clients and other needed activities.
The effort to work with IHN families has multiple benefits. “Spending time with families who may have different experiences from your own can broaden your lens and enrich your understanding of family dynamics, struggles and strengths,” Jamie said.
To learn more about Temple Beth-El’s work with the Interfaith Hospitality Network, visit this related page.
To learn more about CASA, click here.
Originally published in the January-February 2018 issue of the Shofar. For more issues of the Shofar, visit the Shofar archives.