By: Ashira Weiss
One who helps others, helps themselves. This is a core belief for Rachel Arrouas, who lives in S.Maur in the southeastern suburbs of Paris, France.
School begins at 8 am and ends at 6 pm, but the seventeen-year-old, one of four sisters—two sets of twins—finds time to help others in school and out. "I just really want to make a difference in the lives of others," she says.
So Sunday mornings find Rachel volunteering at the local Hebrew School where she teaches preteens and also serves as a mentor. On school days she takes part in her school’s food bank initiative. Rachel encourages her peers to bring in dry goods, non-perishables and used clothing to be donated to Mazon, a charity that provides for the needy, especially around the Holidays.
As a CTeen leader in 2019 she got her fellow teens together to bake homemade cupcakes, which they sold to raise money for a local charity.
When the pandemic hit, Rachel went into high gear. She herself plays piano and guitar, enjoys drawing, and runs daily, "To keep myself healthy in body and soul," she says. But she knew there were those of her peers who were finding the isolation difficult, challenging their mental and emotional health in particular. So, she met them where they were at, on Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat and began creating fun social media challenges in which teens could participate from home. She helped reach out to teens from all around the country, and would spotlight one each week on social media, in a Teen of the Week series.
Then she turned her mind to the elderly. "It wasn’t just us young people having a hard time, but our grandparents too were suffering," she says. So, with some friends she initiated 'SOS Grandpa,' a program that encouraged teens to call their grandparents, or an elderly friend, or relative and check in on them once a week. They offered prizes for teens who posted screenshots of their calls on social media, which in turn spread the word and got more teens to join the effort. Every week Rachel would go on Instagram Live and draw a winner from a lottery of all those who had participated.
Hundreds of teens got involved, to the point where the CEO of Fizzer, an e-postcard company, gave SOS Grandpa participants a promo code that allowed them to send postcards to their grandparents for free.
Another avenue for keeping kids engaged and in touch, Rachel set up a blog where she shares recipes, insights and teen testimonials.
As Rachel graduates and heads to Midreshet Moriyah Seminary in Jerusalem this Fall, she leaves in S Maur and beyond, a trail of people, from young children to the elderly, in whose lives she has certainly made a difference.