Jesse Fabrikant, Mentor
The Funhouse Commons
Can you share a little bit about yourself?
I was born and raised in the suburbs of New York and, like many, my route to Orcas was storied and circuitous. I divided my 20s in near equal parts between VT, IN, NC, and CA, chasing jobs and degrees.
I studied and worked as a research economist and then a political scientist, focusing on the relationships between economic and political institutions and their effects on socioeconomic inequalities. During this period, I spent as much time as I could in the mountains, mostly ski touring and rock climbing.
Moving to Orcas three years ago was both the result of intentional searching and random chance. I was very much looking for a vibrant and resilient community in which to root myself when my partner took a summer job here. In a short time, Orcas revealed itself to me as a strong, active, and caring community bound by a reverence of place at the confluence of the mountains and the sea. Very quickly I began to see a life for me here.
Can you tell us about the organization you volunteer at?
I became a mentor to a ten-year-old boy at the Funhouse a little over a year ago.
It has been a challenging and deeply enriching experience. I applied during our first covid winter when I was feeling a little disconnected from my new community and wanted to take on a bit more responsibility and engagement. More than anything, mentoring has helped me learn how to listen without judgment or agenda, and to respect the individual perspective of my mentee. The joy of working with youth is that they possess an infectious presence which playfully pulls you back into the possibilities of the present moment.
A few months into being a mentor I applied to be coordinator of the program which I’ve been doing for a year now and has been an absolute gift. I have learned a great deal in the past year about youth mental health and how we as adults can support our island’s young people to live joyful, engaging, and meaningful lives.
What does volunteering do for you?
For me, civic engagement — taking ownership over and working to improve the fate of one’s community — is essential to living a meaningful life. Feeling yourself to be embedded in a network of like-minded individuals working towards a common goal for mutual benefit is a life affirming experience.
It has exposed me to people and facets of our community I might not otherwise have experienced, deepening my sense of place. On a macro scale, I also believe it to be existentially pertinent that our culture pivots away from hyper-individualism and towards a broader view of our moral accountability towards one another, the land, and future generations. I believe Orcas is ahead of the curve in this regard. Our philanthropic and volunteering culture here is evidence of that. It’s harder to ignore the reality (and the moral demands) of our interdependence when living on an island.
If you would like to learn about other volunteer opportunities on Orcas, please email Ed here. He would love to get together for tea/coffee to chat about your interests.