Day 33, 34, 35: Volunteering - Courteney Zoellner and Jordana Cohen

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We started our second option which was volunteering in Afulfa at a place called Emuna.

When we arrived, we took one look at the place and before even entering,  immediately thought that this was going to be a long three days. We met a few of the Sheruti's, who welcomed us in with open arms, and soon after struggling to lift our suitcases up the stairs, we were shown our rooms. Four of the girls were placed in a small bedroom, while Jordana and I were placed in a classroom, as there was no room in the bedroom. After settling in our rooms, we had a small tour, and a very poignant talk with the leader of the organisation. We were told a story about a father who landed up in jail, but once he went to jail, he was still the glue that held his broken family together. Unfortunately, circumstances eventually left the younger child alone, lost and in the dark.

This story moved me, as I could not even bear to imagine what a young child in this situation would be feeling, how unwanted he must feel. However the organisation stepped in and ensured that this child would be looked after, would feel wanted and accepted and like a normal loved child. After a few success stories and background information, we had lunch, time to organise ourselves and finally we were split into three groups. Jordana and I were put with the children with ages ranging from 5-12. At first it was incredibly difficult, due to the language barriers. However, we soon found out that all the children desired was someone to play with, and maybe to pull a funny face once in a while. The children’s adorable giggles and cheeky smirks, made me think why they were at this organisation.  I wished to know their individual stories - whether they have experienced hardships, Were they were all abandoned, or were their parents simply unfit to look after them, and if so, why? I recall chasing the children around for a possession of mine that they decided to “steal”, however even if I did not catch them they would always return my possessions. Besides all the traumatising information we had to encounter about the kids lives and experiences when we started our day in our groups, we realised that each child had a unique story that has impacted them in different ways and that these stories will surely continue to impact them forever.  After we met all the adorable kids in our group we began an extraordinary 2 days of volunteering, it slowly took a while for the kids to open up and talk to us but once they felt more comfortable around us, we could see who they truly were.

Volunteering really turned into hard work and not a relaxing option we thought we had picked. Every 5 seconds a kid told you in Hebrew to start running after them and for us teenagers, it really isn’t up our alley, every 10 seconds a kid will come up to you and jump on your back and tell you to run and “Dai” meaning stop, and every minute a kid would pull you towards their classroom to get water. Besides all the love the kids gave to us (and we gave to them) we experienced quite emotional experiences ourselves; two tween girls acted like wolves and pushed us and locked us in a synagogue, where they wanted us to play a game where we had to be blind folded in the dark, with our arms tied up behind our back.  The game stopped when we begged for them to “dai”.

This experience for us changed how we think and how we act. Not all children are privileged and have the same opportunities as us, however they all want the same thing; to be happy. All the children that we met had troubles and hardships that they experienced, however many of them have so much good in them. It was clear to see what type of human being they were and how they would each make a mark on the world.

Day 36: Netzach, Israel - Mimi Schlessinger

Day 33, 34, 35: Scuba Diving - Sean Goldring