I signed on to be a volunteer with Skilled Volunteers for Israel because I was interested in working with Palestinians and Israelis who are committed to promoting shared experiences, and who embrace the possibility of peace through mutual understanding and respect for each others’ culture and history. You may ask: does such a place exist or am I dreaming?
In the summertime, the YMCA runs a multicultural day camp welcoming children of all faiths ages 5 through 12. When Terry and Marla, two helpful and knowledgeable women who staff SVFI suggested that I could be a counselor at the YMCA for a month, it seemed like the ideal match for my interest.
So, from June 26 to July 21,2017, I volunteered as an assistant counselor at the YMCA’s day camp, and it was an extraordinary experience. Each day I joined the youth counselors and campers for various camp activities such as art, swimming, sports, zumba, and drama. One special activity integrated into this particular camp experience was a “cultural activity.” This was a time when the counselors would introduce to the campers cross-cultural concepts through an interactive activity. For example, 12 year old campers were asked to tell stories that revealed the origins of their names. This opened up the conversation around different naming traditions and customs. Additionally, the seventeen year old counselors, who were similarly of diverse backgrounds, had to cross the divide as they grappled with cultural differences in their leadership styles. One particular experience that stands out is our field trip to the Islamic Museum in Jerusalem where all the campers of all ages participated in age-specific activities that related to the history of the Islamic religion. This was learning combined with fun and all the campers had an enjoyable time.
Please feel free to contact me through SVFI if you want to learn more or wish to discuss.