Today’s blog post was written by Ariana Solodar-Wincele, a Yahel Social Change Fellow living, learning and volunteering for 9 months in the Ramat Eliyahu neighborhood of Rizhon LeZion.
What do I actually do, on a daily basis? It may seem that my life is full of super exciting events and activities… and it is! But my weeks also have a steady rhythm and routine.
The Israeli week is a bit different than other countries in the world. My weekend is Friday and Saturday, but for many Israelis, Friday is also at least a partial workday.
On Sundays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays, I spend my mornings at Tebeka, a non-profit agency that supports the Ethiopian-Israeli community. Tebeka provides free legal support in Hebrew and Amharic, mentoring programs for Ethiopian-Israeli youth and young professionals, and works with the Israeli government to advocate equality for all citizens, through working with the police department and a variety of Knesset committees. The most recent accomplishment of Tebeka in its advocacy work has been to instate police body cameras for the entire police force, enforcing accountability for all. This makes Israel the first country in the world to have police body cameras nation-wide!
On Sunday and Monday afternoons I tutor Ethiopian-Israeli elementary school students in English, through a program called Homework at Home. Homework at Home partners with a few different organizations, including the Welfare Department and community groups, in order to help the next generation succeed in school. On Sundays my students are two sixth grade girls, Noa and Eden, who like to read stories from their English books. They are very self-motivated and excited to have the extra time to practice English. On Mondays I work with Emmanuel, a fifth grader who doesn’t like to work in his English schoolbooks. Instead, we learn English through listening to songs and understanding what the lyrics mean, and other activities.
On Tuesdays and Wednesdays I am one of the madrichim (Hebrew for guide/counselor) for a program called Etgarim (Hebrew for challenges). The group meets outside the matnas (community center) near two big trees, from which we create all sorts of climbing activities that foster teamwork and build trust, force the kids to confront fears, and teach them that they can accomplish things that they may not have thought possible. On Tuesdays, the group consists half of high schoolers and half of developmentally disabled adults. On Wednesdays the group is 11-13 year old boys. Given the different dynamics between the groups, the activities are quite different, but always challenge the participants in new ways. The madrichim also meet on Monday afternoons to plan these activities, both the main activity, as well as an icebreaker and something to close the day.
Ariana taking down the rigging from an activity at Etgarim
On Monday mornings, all the Rishon Letzion Yahelnikim meet for a learning session. This sometimes consists of meeting community figures and learning what they do, other times we have an informal Hebrew lesson, discuss our volunteer placements and find solutions for the struggles that occur there, or a variety of other such themes.
On Thursdays, all of Yahel comes together for learning. Similar to Monday, what we do during this time varies, but is focused on understanding Israeli culture through a variety of perspectives. And Thursday afternoons is our much-needed Hebrew Ulpan.
In addition, I am also on the planning committee for a community garden- Gan Kehilati- at the matnas. Our opening event will take place on Tu B’shvat, the Jewish holiday for the trees. We will be having a variety of activities to increase community awareness and interest in the garden, including repurposing plastic bottles to plant seeds and make birdfeeders, and decorate stones for a pathway. The actual garden is not quite ready to take shape, but it is exciting to be part of the planning for this new project!
Thursday night is like a weekend night. It is the only night of the week in which there is no work the next day, AND there is transportation! That leaves Friday and Saturday to relax and recoup, explore a new part of Israel, or meet up with friends, before starting the week anew!
So, that’s what my volunteer week looks like… keep in mind, this does not include acro yoga classes and acro yoga jams, Salsa classes, or spending time with my amazing host family!