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A Volunteer Reflects

Updated: Apr 3

Ruth Wicks (center) with Volunteer & Study Participants Julia Kushnir (Left) and Gabby Rosenblum (right)

Ruth Wicks is a Volunteer & Study participant.  Ruth volunteered with two organizations during her three week experience.  She shares something of her experiences – the positive, the frustrating and her insights into some of the realities of volunteering over a short period.

Hod Jerusalem Home,  a residential home for elderly people with serious challenges, both mental and physical.  I worked through Sara Sherman who is responsible for the social life and non medical therapy of the residents.  She is great at thinking outside the box and said to me “I don’t want to hear what you think you can do for them, we have to work out what they can do for you.” I told her I was studying Ulpan and wanted to be able to read classical Hebrew more fluently.  She had in mind two English speaking residents, a lady J, who grew up orthodox whom Sara thought could help me with reading classical Hebrew, and a man S who could help me with modern Hebrew, provided I brought the Siddur and the Ulpan book with me, when I came to visit them.

Sara came in specially to introduce me around on my first visit and I met with J.  J. was really not interested in hearing me read from the prayer book, so we just talked, about her family, her life in Israel, why I had become Jewish etc.  I think she enjoyed the visit and the stimulus. She is a very bright lady, with her intellect and memory intact, and would not have much opportunity of engaging in good conversation with most of her fellow residents.

Sara then brought S. over to meet me.  We had a brief chat and he was happy to listen to me read from the Ulpan book.  It was an OK experience, but I think S. quickly became irritated with me because I couldn’t repeat properly, the corrections he was giving me, since he was speaking too fast for me to pick it up.  He did however ask me when I was coming back, so I guess he must have enjoyed the session somewhat.

I returned the following week.  It was strange, walking in there, trying to find someone ‘official’, then introducing myself and asking for J.  I was told she would be brought up to the lounge and she appeared some 20 minutes later.  Again we talked and had an enjoyable conversation.  We went to her room to get the photos she has of her granddaughter, so we talked about her too.  I broke off after some 45 minutes and went to find S.  He was back in his room, so I told him I would wait for him in the lounge.  He came up and this time, I made no mention of Ulpan and we just talked, which he enjoyed.  He too is intelligent and highly functioning.

My overall thoughts of the placement – I think there is potential for working out a programme for regular visits to engage in conversation with those residents who are able to converse, and who so desperately need this kind of stimulus.  Sara would certainly be someone interesting to work with, but it would need a regular and ongoing commitment by the volunteer and time and input from Sara, to develop such a programme.  The location is also difficult as it took close to an hour in transportation time between there and the centre of Jerusalem.

My second placement was with the Association of Americans & Canadians in Israel (AACI).  The AACI office is light and airy, a great environment to work in,  as well as it being conveniently located.  I have been working with Josie Arbel, the office manager, who no longer has a secretary, so filing for AACI’s huge resource centre has mounted up.  It’s been my job to sort through this back log and get it into the existing filing system for the resource centre, which lives largely in Josie’s office.

Once I am done with this backlog of filing, Josie wants to sit down with me and hear my ideas on how the resource centre should be reorganized.  Josie is also recruiting a data processor for the resource centre, so AACI is cognizant of the fact that much of their document based resources are now available on the web, so much of the ‘paper’ is likely to be redundant.  If I think I can help with this seismic shift, then I might stick around beyond my current volunteer committment, assuming AACI want me to.

Thanks to Skilled Volunteers for Israel for both opportunities,  Marla and Judy leave no stone unturned in their efforts to fit the right volunteer to the right placement, they were always there with support, advice, and encouragement, before, during and after the volunteer experience. To anyone who wants to spend time in Israel and do some meaningful, useful volunteering, I cannot recommend Skilled Volunteers for Israel, highly enough.”

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