Yahel partners with Camp Tawonga, a Jewish summer camp based in California, for 4-week summer service learning programs for teens entering 11th and 12th grade. These programs, which run In collaboration with our Israeli partner Friends by Nature, provide teens with a unique opportunity to build relationships with Ethiopian Israeli teens and participate in community-based empowerment work. By volunteering and traveling side-by-side, teens from both Tawonga and Israel engage in cross-cultural exchanges and experiences. In Summer 2013, our 4-week service learning trip took place in Yavneh, Israel.
The program has four main components:
Tawonga teens volunteer in numerous community-based activities including the community gardens, youth center programming and community renewal projects.
Past projects include:
Exploring and working on an organic farm to learn about permaculture and sustainable living
Working in the community garden alongside local residents and teens, building benches and composters and preparing the garden for planting
“This trip helped me to experience Israel in a way that I will never be able to recreate. It caused me to think in ways that I have never thought before and made me feel like I really had an impact on the community. I know that not only have I left my mark on Israel, but it’s left its mark on me.”
The learning component includes sessions about Yavneh, introductions to the Ethiopian Israeli community’s history and culture, Jewish text study, a look at Israeli through the lens of social change, leadership development and personal and group reflection.
Tawonga participants spend time traveling as a group as well as together with local teens on camping trips and hiking excursions. The traveling component gives participants the chance to deepen their relationship with Israel and build lasting friendships with their Israeli peers.
Past tours include:
Walking tour of Jerusalem's Jewish quarter and Yad Vashem
Hiking trips in the waterfalls of Northern Israel
Kayaking down the Jordan River
Floating and relaxing in the Dead Sea
A core piece of this program is the partnership with Friends by Nature and the local community. Teen participants volunteer alongside their peers in the community, which helps provide a stronger connection to their service projects and a meaningful perspective on community-based empowerment work.
"Working with Yahel was an amazing and richly rewarding experience. The care with which Yahel cultivates their relationships and works with program partners is exemplary. From the well-organized itinerary to the wonderful educators and staff to the flexibility it was a top-notch experience. We feel proud to have them as a partner in this work."
-Camp Tawonga Teen Program Coordinator