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Catching Up With The Year Coursers!

With 2020 far behind us, and a month into the new year, we want to review how the first semester of FZY Year Course was for the group. Additionally, we want to provide you with a better understanding of several of the volunteer options the Year Coursers engaged in, so you can get a better sense of why FZY are so proud of the group and the contribution they have made to Israeli society over the past four months.

At the start of the programme there were three different options that Year Coursers were given which would provide the framework for their schedules and experiences. FZY had Year Coursers in each of these three placements. What follows in this article are perspectives written by three of the Year Coursers themselves about how their volunteering manifested throughout the last few months. Enjoy!


Community Volunteering

Hello, my name is Lara Calmonson. I have been involved in FZY since 2016.

Every year while being a member, I have heard the best things about year course so actually being here and living it for myself is something I can’t always get my head around.

For the past semester I have spent most of my days volunteering at the Jaffa Institute in South Tel Aviv. This is a non-profit, multi service social agency whose purpose is to assist some of Jaffa’s most disadvantaged children and their families. Their aim is to help break the cycle of integration along poverty through educational, therapeutic, and social enrichment programmes. I spent some of my time in the food distribution centre packing boxes of food for over 200 impoverished families and 300 elderly individuals, some of whom are Holocaust survivors. With the rest of my days I volunteer at the therapeutic enrichment centre.

My average day looks as follows. When I get there, the children have time where they can choose an activity such as colouring or doing a puzzle to teach them discipline. I sit with them and make sure they stay focused. After this is ‘mifgash’. This is a time where they get educational support. We teach them songs as the interactive element of the class helps to develop the children’s social skills, self esteem and self efficiency. They then have a hot meal before outdoor time. During this time, we supervise them and entertain them. Although this time is fun for both us and the children and a good bonding opportunity; it is also the time where we can identify any changes in behaviour that might need addressing. For example, more violent behaviour or children being very reserved compared to normal could be a sign of tension at home. This part of the day got easier the more we went. When we first got there the children didn’t really talk to us because we were just strangers to them and people that had the potential to abandon them or treat them poorly. Our commitment was vital and it paid off and when they realised we were going to be there most days they would start to trust us more and open up a little bit more. This was really important for us but also heartwarming that we were actually making a difference.

Magen David Adom

My name is Charlie Berman, I have been in FZY since 2016 and am currently volunteering with Magen Dovid Adom (MDA). I have loved every second of this experience and feel very grateful to have been given this opportunity.

A typical day for me begins at 5am, where I start to get ready for my morning shift. Upon arriving at my station, I am sent into the common room where the drivers pick the volunteers that they want for the day (this step is reminiscent of the Hunger Games nominations!). Following this, I check my ambulance to make sure that we have all the equipment, and to make sure that it all works correctly, and get ready to receive some calls.

My favourite thing about my MDA volunteering is the variety that each day brings. Whilst 80% of what I do tend to be minor calls (headaches/dizziness etc), there are usually a couple of ‘fun’ calls in each shift. I have been involved in a CPR, a handful of major traumas, caring for stroke/seizure patients and even the occasional COVID call. On occasion I can sign up for a night shift (which is 11pm-7am). These bring in a slightly different type of ‘fun’ (funny drunk people etc) and I really enjoy the challenge of trying to stay up all night. As a wannabe medic, all of this has been such an amazing learning experience, as well as being incredibly exciting.

My most memorable call was a car crash involving a mother and her five-year-old son. Thankfully nobody was injured, however the five-year-old boy seemed to be in shock. As I don’t speak a great deal of Hebrew, I couldn’t calm him down with my words, so I decided to blow up a glove and draw a smiley face on it to make a make-shift balloon. This seemed to work, and the feeling I got from providing this care is something I will always remember.

I wouldn’t recommend MDA to everybody; however, I have thoroughly enjoyed every single shift and will never forget the memories that I made.

Kibbutz Ketura

I’m Ella, a Year Courser from London who has been part of FZY since Israel tour, two and a half years ago.

Kibbutz Ketura is one of the 27 remaining socialist kibbutzim in Israel, located in the Arava region of the Negev, about a 25-minute drive north of Eilat. For 2 months this semester, this community was my home.

My original plans were disrupted due to Covid but this allowed another door to open for me in the shape of volunteering at the kibbutz. This was really appealing to me because I wanted my year to be spent having experiences unique to Israel, and what gets more unique than a kibbutz.

One of the fundamental principles of a kibbutz is that you give what you can, and in return, you get what you need. I gave my time working in the guest houses, making beds and serving meals, and in the aspaka (grocery shop), stacking shelves and taking inventory. These placements put me in the fortunate position to meet all the interesting members and workers of the kibbutz, learn valuable life skills, and practise my Hebrew. What I received was an incredible experience. I met fascinating people, including Judy, one of the founding members, Nadav, the oldest child of those born on the kibbutz, and Bill, who described the kibbutz as the third party in his marriage. I also visited many local attractions of which my favourites were: Hai Bar (a nature reserve with endemic animals to Israel); Yotvata (the largest kibbutz in the region, famous for its chocolate milk and ice cream); and Park Timna (the largest national park in the country with a plethora of natural and historical sites). I spent the rest of my free time going on hikes in the mountains that were the back garden of the kibbutz, and camping, both in the desert and on the beach, which I found to be a lot of fun.

I learnt a lot about the world and about myself during my time at the kibbutz and I know I will look back on this period of my life with joy and pride.

We are scheduled to go back to the kibbutz in a few weeks for shabbat as a programme. I am excited to visit the friends I left behind and share some of my experiences with my friends who stayed in Tel Aviv.

Lara Calmonson, Charlie Berman, Ella Broomberg


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