Last year (2016) after turning 71 I visited Israel for the first time. When my EL AL flight touched down at Ben-Gurion Airport a strange sensation came over me – I truly felt like I was coming home, even though I had never stepped foot on Israeli soil before. It was only a short visit, but it was an experience of a lifetime filled with strong emotions and a deep sense of pride. At that very moment I decided I wanted to return to Israel, not as a tourist, but as volunteer and now, a year later, here I am in Jerusalem. ☺☺.
I arrived nearly three weeks ago and will stay until the beginning of August before returning to Italy. The experience has been nothing short of extraordinary so far with all expectations fully met or exceeded.
Much of the credit goes to Marla and Terry of SVFI who carefully planned my placements to fully utilize my skills as an ESL teacher in Italy and leverage my 18 years of experience in education. They placed me with two NPO’s, one serving the African refugee and asylum seeker community at their downtown Jerusalem center and the other teaching active retirees in a neighborhood community center for “Young at Heart Seniors”.
I’m teaching two groups at the former, children and adults, and one large group at the latter. The participants at both places are enthusiastic and motivated and enjoy English. In addition, I’m doing individual lessons with executives associated with Israel based non-profit organizations who work extensively outside of Israel and therefore feel the need to improve their English language skills. Thank you Marla and Terry for the opportunity to work with these people. I’m enjoying it immensely and it makes me feel good inside to know I’m helping other people.
Also thank you for all your support locally from the orientation on day one to personally introducing me to the people at the different placements. Even though I came by myself, I never felt alone!!
Another positive factor has been my accommodation. I booked a small flat through Airbnb, well located to my volunteer placements (15 – 20 minute walk) in a quiet residential neighborhood. My hosts, who live above me, are very cordial and helpful. I highly recommend this place for one or two occupants. For more information you can contact Terry.
Last but not least. Volunteering in Israel doesn’t mean all work and no play. In my free time I did a lot of sightseeing. Jerusalem is great for that – there’s so much to see and do.
In conclusion, this has been one of the most beautiful experiences in my life and I can’t wait to return next year to do it all over again.
Robert G. Milan, Italy (July 21, 2017)