Making every day Mitzvah Day
410. Daniela Pears
A volunteer leader from Hampstead who introduced the ‘Mitzvah Day 365’ project, a Jewish-led initiative to encourage and inspire volunteering all year round and bring together people 40,000 people from different faiths to take part in collective, hands-on social action projects.
Daniela Pears, 47, was presented with her award by the Home Secretary at a Downing Street reception to mark Chanukah. Daniela has been involved with Mitzvah Day, an annual day of social action in the Jewish community which this year involved nearly 40,000 volunteers, for the last eight years. She started out by programming volunteering opportunities for her local Jewish community and realised this was a great opportunity to raise awareness of local charities in the area.
Daniela is now the Interfaith Chair of Mitzvah Day, a role to encourage local collaboration and offer an opportunity for neighbours of different faiths to meet and work together whilst helping others in need – something she is passionate about. The Mitzvah Day 365 project, which Daniela helped introduce as an extension of Mitzvah Day, encourages and inspires volunteering all year round. Mitzvah Day 365 events have generally coincided with Jewish festivals such as Tu BiShvat, Purim and Passover, but have now grown to coincide with important dates in other faith calendars like Harvest Festival, Eid, Ramadan, Sadaqa Day and Diwali. Together, these projects have helped charities in a hands-on way, such as repainting care homes, collecting food for food banks and packing goods for refugees.
Over the last year, including on Mitzvah Day itself, 460 communities (300 of them in the UK) have got involved with over 1,000 projects – including 100 interfaith, as part of Mitzvah Day 365. Daniela also introduced Mitzvah Day awards for schools, interfaith communities, offices and young people and the Mitzvah Day 365 interfaith cooking concept. The cooking sessions give the volunteers a chance to get to know one another whilst preparing nutritious meals for residents at local homeless shelters. Participants will learn about the shelters involved and about the difference that the project will make. Daniela has run around 10 of these so far, initiating around 50 partnerships.
Prime Minister David Cameron said:
“Daniela has given a huge amount of time to Mitzvah Day over the last eight years. By leading the ‘Mitzvah Day 365’ initiative she has encouraged people to volunteer all year round as well as on the day itself, helping the nearly 40,000 volunteers who give their time to do even more in their local communities. I am delighted to recognise her as the UK’s 410th Point of Light.”
“It is such a tremendous honour to be recognised as a Point of Light. Bringing faith communities together to help local causes is both my passion and privilege. If by receiving this award I enthuse others to join in, there will be more mutual understanding, respect and friendship between neighbours of different faiths and increased awareness and support for local charities, which I think is a ‘win win’.”