Skilled Volunteers was fantastic in setting me up quickly with two very interesting opportunities, helping me achieve my goal of giving back to the community.
Having arrived in Israel at the beginning of the Succot holidays, I was able to help the staff of a school that were running a day camp during the school break for developmentally challenged children in south Tel Aviv. The children ranged in age from 4 to 14, and had a variety of different challenges. I showed up for the daily staff meeting (more of a coffee/schmooze session) and once the children had arrived we gave them a hot meal in the classrooms. The staff made me feel a part of their group from the beginning.
As the activities are a bit unstructured, I found it worked best if I stayed low-key and waited for the right moment to contribute to the activities. This meant helping serve food, watch the kids play in the yard, defuse situations, and organise a loose version of a soccer game, to name some. I found that my working knowledge of Hebrew, while far from perfect, was most useful in helping me contribute to the day camp and to share experiences with the children.
Not having any life experience with children such as these, it was most rewarding as I discovered that while they perceive the world differently from most people, everyone really just wants to laugh and be happy while being surrounded by friends.
After Succot I worked daily for 2 weeks in the Lasova soup kitchen, also in south Tel Aviv. Lasova receives donated food from hotels, restaurants, the military, El Al, bakeries, and the like. They serve a hot meal from 10am to 2pm every day except Shabbat. The work is not easy, since regardless what you’re doing, you’re on your feet for 4 hours (of course you can always take a break). This experience helped me see first hand the demographics and socio-economic layers of modern Israeli society. It was nourishing (for me and for the clients) to help feed 200-300 needy people per day. An unexpected surprise was getting to know my fellow colleagues working at the soup kitchen. You see, they are not all volunteers, having been required to perform community service for one reason or another by the authorities. So there are some real characters there with interesting stories!
I would very much like to thank Marla in NYC and Minna in TA for making it possible for me to help others, and for making the arrangements so quickly and efficiently.