Wednesday, February 12, 2014

ENP: Changing The Lives of Participants and Volunteers

By: Penina Romanek
ENP Volunteer
When I decided to intern for ENP, I had no idea the extent of the difference it would make in my life or the new perspective it would give me. I graduated from Illinois State University in May 2013 with a degree in History Education and decided to come to Israel in August. Coming to Israel and interning for ENP has been one of the best decisions of my life. Not only are the Ethiopian-Israeli youth learning from me, but I am learning even more from them. I have gained so much from my time working with children at the youth centers and at Branco Weiss High School in Beit Shemesh.
ENP gives Ethiopian-Israeli youth a loving, safe environment to attend after school hours. Without the services the youth centers provide, a majority of the children would be wandering the streets up until 10 o’clock at night. The youth centers provide the children with positive role models, scholastic assistance, and extra-curricular activities. These activities include piano, sports, games, and arts and crafts. The centers also teach Ethiopian-Israeli youth leadership skills and interpersonal communications. Additionally, ENP provides scholastic assistance during after-school hours at the high school to improve self-confidence and the motivation to learn. ENP gives Ethiopian-Israeli youth the tools to succeed.
I am so thankful for the time I got to spend getting to know each child and adolescent. They have forever changed my life and I know I have impacted theirs as well. What I have learned is that each child has a name, a face, a story, dreams, goals, interests, and aspirations for the future. That is what I want to share with you.
I cannot wait to hear what Ethiopian-Israeli youth amount to in the future. I know they will be successful

First Day, Lots of Smiles

By: Karin Meron
ENP Volunteer

  Last Sunday was my first real day at the Outreach Center in Beit Shemesh. The other volunteer and I got there a little earlier so we ended up sitting outside waiting for the kids to come. There were already a few kids playing outside and they came and started talking to us. They asked as so many questions. Luckily for me, I speak Hebrew so it was easy for me to hold a conversation with them. The kids were shocked to know that I speak Hebrew, thinking that because I'm from America, I don't speak the language, they were also shocked to know that we were there as volunteers and that we were taking time out of our day to be there with them. I loved how curious they were. They were so full of life, always laughing and smiling. The Outreach Center opened and they all rushed in, they all looked so excited to be there. Seeing them so happy to be there, made me even happier. The smiles on their faces just lightened up my day. At first, I was really shy and kind of stayed in the corner and just watched them play ping pong and pool. They all got along so well, they were like brothers. As the time went by, I started opening up a little more, I spoke with them, asked them some questions, and cracked a few jokes with them. All in all, I had such an incredible time. I can't want to go to Beit Shemesh every Sunday, and get to know these amazing kids even more.   

Sunday, February 2, 2014

A Rewarding and Inspiring Experience

By: Ephrem Hawando
ENP Volunteer

It is certainly rewarding and exciting to volunteer with an organization that is geared towards making an impact by working at the grass roots level. I consider myself even more fortunate to have the unique opportunity of volunteering with Israeli children and youth of Ethiopian decent who are eager to learn and empower themselves in order to effectively integrate into society and claim their rights as responsible citizens of Israel.  Moreover, it is particularly special for me to volunteer with a group of individuals who once shared the same language, culture, history, and traditions as me.

After I arrived to Israel to study in the MA program in International Development at the Hebrew University (see: , the first question that I asked my program coordinator was if she had any information on organizations working among Ethiopians Jews in the Jerusalem area. She gave me some recommendations and in the end, I decided to contact ENP. After my first introductory meeting with them, I knew that I had found the organization I was looking for.  I immediately joined their team and was excited to begin contributing my skillsets to the organization and program. I was first given an orientation, which included a brief introduction with ENP staff, discussion of project goals and target participants, and an overview of how the program helps achieve change and progress within the Israeli-Ethiopian community. After the orientation, I was ready to jump in and begin volunteering.  I found many options where I could possibly contribute:  one is to work with school children by helping with their homework in the after-school programs, giving Amharic and English lessons, assisting in translation between Amharic and English and general assistance at youth centers.

My first ENP`s after school program was in Gymnastica and Givat Gonen schools. I presumed (albeit mistakenly) that they would still speak some Amharic, but I quickly discovered, that most rather spoke fluent Hebrew and very little Amharic or English. I began to wonder if communication between us would be a challenge, but we got together with passion and communicated smoothly with the spirit of oneness.  It was fun to hear students trying to speak some Amharic and Oromignya (another Ethiopian language).  I take that as an encouragement as they seem eager to learn more Amharic and even English, which gives me other ways in which I can contribute and assist these students, and I expect that my volunteer work will be fruitful. However, more in-depth communicating with these students would have been difficult had I not been accompanied by one of ENP`s staff members, who speaks all the three languages perfectly.  With the help of my translator, I introduced myself as an Ethiopian citizen completing an MA at Hebrew University. The students appeared both excited and encouraged. My hope is that I would serve as a kind of role model for these students and show them that they can succeed, achieve and become what he/she has always dreamt to be.  It is worth mentioning that when asked what each one aspires to be, the responses were impressive: a scientist, medical doctor, engineer, mathematician, lawyer, activist, politician and more. Last, I want to extend my gratitude to all ENP staff and all ENP project beneficiaries who made my visit and voluntary work possible. I look forward to continuing to empower and advance the Ethiopian-Israeli community through my volunteer service.