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Yahel Alumni

Rachel Zieleniec Yahel Social Change Program 2010-11

When were you on the Yahel Social Change Program? Briefly, what did you do on the program?

"I participated on Yahel as part of the first cohort of volunteers in 2010-2011. I lived in Gedera and volunteered with an organization called Friends by Nature, which is Israeli nonprofit focused on community empowerment in the Ethiopian-Israeli community. I supported various efforts, a few of which were marketing and communications for the organization, english tutoring for kids after school and co-leading a small girls youth group."

What have you been up to in the years since Yahel? What do you do now?

"This is a big question! My life since Yahel (now 6 years ago), has consisted of 4 different jobs, 2 geographical moves and a marriage. I currently live in Atlanta and work as the Vice President of Marketing & Communications for an organization called Honeymoon Israel. Previously, I worked for a short time supporting communications for Yahel, and then was a grants manager and program associate at two philanthropic grant-making foundations in Washington DC and Atlanta, respectively."

How has Yahel impacted you? More specifically, how has Yahel influenced what you are doing now?

"Yahel impacted me in more ways than I could explain, but as one of the members of the first cohort that now has 6 years between my Yahel experience and my current life, I think the impact the program made is now more prevalent when I think about my outlook, my relationships and my profession. The foundation that the Yahel experience laid for me is indescribable - I learned what it was like to push myself really hard to think diversely, communicate effectively, relate differently, grow greatly and empathize whole-heartedly. I truly believe that one of the most impactful, guiding experiences of my life was Yahel - and it played a huge role in the path I took both professionally and personally."

Why did you choose Yahel in the first place?

"I chose to participate on Yahel for a few reasons - one major reason was my constant desire to be a part of something new. I was one of 6 volunteers who took a big leap of faith, hopped on a plane and joined this new program called Yahel. There was no one to talk to who participated in the past, and there was nothing yet to read online explaining what the experience would be like.  Before signing up, I had no real idea of what service learning was, and I personally didn't understand how I was going to be a part of creating "social change" in a random community in Israel. While I loved the idea of it all, I was completely unaware of how it was going to be put into action. But it was something special that 6 of us decided to take a risk and jump on board. We all truly felt like pioneers - helping create and build something from the ground up. It was a real honor. And to be honest, Dana is the greatest pioneer of all - she guided us while listening, adapting and learning. She built something from nothing and did it all with such a high level of integrity, honesty and compassion. The world could use about one million more Dana's. "

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