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Yahel Alumni

Jodie Guller Yahel Social Change Program 2015-16

Jodie Guller came to Yahel because she knew she wanted to devote the year before starting medical school to service. In weighing the various volunteer opportunities open to her, Jodie was drawn to the way Yahel understands social change work: as an opportunity to dive deep into relationships with local people to understand how they experience their communities, and then move forward together to create effective change. As someone who understands the field of medicine as form of service-work, Jodie felt this approach would be the most valuable and effective use of her time as she prepared to start her career.

“I really wanted to avoid voluntourism; I didn’t want to devote a year of my life to volunteering because it would make me feel good. I wanted to do something that was effective.”

While living in Lod during the 2015/2016 Yahel Social Change Program, Jodie gave her time and talents to several community education programs. At El Razi elementary school, Jodie ran English acceleration and supplemental activities for children, as well as a non-violence training program for youth that was developed in partnership with a local NGO. In the wider community, Jodie was involved in many projects; in collaboration with local leaders, teachers, social workers, and change-makers, Jodie contributed to projects that worked to develop interpersonal skills in at-risk youth, encourage cultural exchange amongst Arab and Jewish students, build computer-skills for Ethiopian-Israeli youth and provide companionship for both teens and the elderly.

“I chose Yahel because it was clear that the way they go into communities and work within existing infrastructure is most effective. The things we did wouldn’t disappear the minute we left, because we were partnered with local community members.”

As a current student at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California, Jodie regularly applies what she learned on Yahel to her professional studies. “The Yahel Social Change Program reaffirmed and strengthened my previous feelings that what I want to do with my life is service. I now appreciate the challenges of making change, especially in communities that you aren’t necessarily an integral part of. Intention is important, but your understanding of where people are coming from in their lives is crucial. Being able to sit down, hear someone’s story, and relate to them even if you don’t have much in common, lets you work together to improve their life. A lot of that I learned from my time on Yahel”. She particularly sees opportunities for empathy in her hospital work; she brings her experiences of creating connections and relationships across cultural and linguistic differences to her work with non-English speaking patients. Outside of the classroom and the hospital, Jodie volunteers in several Los Angeles NGOs, combining her medical school learning with practical volunteer work in the wider community on issues like food security and domestic violence prevention.

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