Today’s participant blog post comes from Leah Topper, a current participant in the Yahel Social Change Program. Leah's group is living, learning and volunteering in Rishon LeZion, Israel for 9 months this year. This post was taken from Leah's personal blog, which can be found here.
This is it, the post where I finally describe my volunteer schedule in detail. As my sisters and friends in college simultaneously plan their course schedules for next semester, I will share my own weekly volunteer schedule that I will follow, give or take a few modifications, for the next eight months of my time in Israel. To put things in context, tomorrow begins our third week of volunteering.
**hint: there’s a calendar/visual of my schedule at the end of this post if you want a faster-to-absorb representation of my volunteer schedule**
My morning placement:
Three mornings a week (Sunday, Tuesday, and Wednesday) from 8:30 AM till 1:30 PM, I volunteer at Zvulun, a local religious elementary school (1st – 6th grade). For six class periods of 45 minutes each, a fellow Yahel Social Change Program participant and I take 4-6 students (total) out of their regular English class. These students are typically more advanced in English than the other students in their classes, so we serve as an additional resource for them to practice speaking English, learn more/different vocabulary than they are learning in class, hear American-English speakers’ accents, and hopefully experience the learning in a more fun/relaxed/informal way.
Over the course of the three volunteering days, we see 8 different groups of students: 2 classes of 3rd and 4th graders once per week, 2 classes of 5th graders twice per week, and 2 classes of 6th graders four times per week. The girls and boys learn in separate classes from each other starting in 4th grade, so the 2 classes for those grades are 1 class of boys and 1 class of girls. Keeping track of all the different classroom locations, the class schedule, and the kids’ names has been a memorization game with which I am not yet succeeding, but I’ll give it more time. No rush.
My afternoon placements:
Afternoons are comprised of an assortment of 4 different placements (and in the future, possibly 5). On Sundays and Wednesdays, I do Homework at Home (henceforth referenced as HW@H). My HW@H placements are coordinated through two different outlets: Project Atzmaut (a local community organization that helps foster Ethiopian Israeli independence through education, employment, and family matters– for anyone interested, atzmaut means independence in Hebrew) and the Welfare Department. I am paired with two different students (one on Sunday, another on Wednesday), and I visit their homes in order to help them with their English homework. Seemingly self-explanatory, given the name of the placement. I actually haven’t started the placement yet; my first time is tomorrow! So stay tuned for more information/descriptions of this volunteering experience..
On Mondays and Wednesdays, I volunteer at neighborhood club called moadoniot (2 different ones, for 2 hours each). Moadoniot, the singular of which is called a moadonit, are after school programs provided by the Welfare Department for “at-risk” kids. The programs run from 1-6 pm each day, and there are approximately 15 kids, from 1st through 4th grade, in each of my two moadonit placements. They come directly there after school. During the 5 hours, they get fed, do their homework, and play outside. The kids’ parents have jobs that last late into the evening, so these programs provide some of the extra support the kids need. Unfortunately, the number of kids who would benefit from these types of programs is much larger than the number of spots the Welfare Dept. can offer, so applications are considered on a year-to-year basis and prioritized by need. It’s a difficult truth of the situation. As English-speaking volunteers, we play games or do “crafts” (aka whatever we can come up with that uses lined paper and markers/pens) with them in English. Only time will tell if they’re learning any new English, but I think that the time we spend/the relationships we form with them are just (and potentially even more) important than the English they retain.
Lastly, I do one-on-one tutoring and English homework help with the Matnas Learning Center, the local community center’s tutoring program. I currently am only tutoring one girl, an 11th-grader, on Monday evenings. We meet in the library, located on the second floor of the community center — and boy, the library is a hoppin’ place in the evenings! There’s an audible buzz of learning (like, literally) that permeates the air.
And, as promised, here’s a visual of my schedule! It’s mostly set, but there’s still a little flexibility — so you may hear about new things that aren’t officially on this schedule. To explain a few other parts of the calendar: 1) Yahel learning: our weekly learning sessions! Monday morning is with just the Rishon group, and Thursday all day is all of us from Rishon and Lod; 2) Ulpan: our once-weekly Hebrew class. I can’t remember if I’ve already explained that; 3) Group check-in: another meeting with just the Rishon group.
Credit and 100% thanks to Roey (the Rishon city coordinator) for making this calendar. (Both in the literal sense of creating the excel spreadsheet and also for coordinating all the logistics of when/where we go for our placements.)