Thursday, June 26, 2014

Off to a Great Start

By: Matt Goldkind 
ENP Volunteer
Hillel Onward Israel 
Student at Washington University in St. Louis 

This week marked the start of the summer camps that the interns have been planning. All of the volunteers split into three camps and met the Ethiopian kids on Monday. The highlight of my week was getting to know them. I was surprised to find the campers so energetic and friendly. To start off the week we played soccer with them. It was clear from the start that they were really passionate and skilled. Whenever they got their hands on the ball they would start dribbling and doing tricks. We also played some icebreakers in English. The entire time they were laughing and joking. The thing that makes the camp so enjoyable is the free-spirited nature of the kids. Overall the week felt like the start of a big-brother relationship with the kids. I know that as the weeks progress, we’ll get closer and their enthusiasm for our activities, especially the ones in English, will grow.

Getting to Know You

By: Rachel Kraus
ENP Volunteer
Career Israel
Student at Brandeis University

It has been a very exciting and eventful first week of my internship with the Ethiopian National Project! I was really looking forward to my involvement with ENP because of my background with the Ethiopian population in Israel. I volunteered at a school in Kiryat Malachi with Ethiopian children. I also worked in a daycare in Arad, Israel and one of the teachers was born in Ethiopia and walked the long journey to Israel when she was 16. I loved sitting and talking with her when the kids were napping and hearing about her story and her life, and it sparked an interest in me to find out more about this growing population in Israel. 
Fast forward to now, and I already feel like I have a better idea of the Ethiopian Israeli story. I have the opportunity to go to ENP’s center in Lod a few days a week to plan activities for a group of local Ethiopian Israeli teenagers, as well as just to hang out with them. I am still new to their center, but the kids have been incredibly welcoming and warm to me, creating a very comfortable environment in a new place. This week, I went to the boys’ soccer tournament in Holon and cheered them as on as they won their games and had a blast. I also went to the center in Lod twice this past week and planned a get-to-know-you sort of activity, where I wrote questions on different sections of a giant soccer ball. We would throw the ball around and whichever section the catchers’ thumb landed on, they had to answer that question. It was a great way to start getting to know the kids. But I felt like I really got to know them just sitting and talking with them. They are so open and friendly, and love to ask questions about American music and TV shows. I as well am interested in learning about their culture and can’t wait for my opportunity to learn more about it.

It is just an overall great atmosphere at the center in Lod; great kids, caring and enthusiastic staff and amazing speakers and elective type classes for the kids to enjoy, such as soccer, debate and music, as well as all the amenities they have available, such as a computer room, foosball table, ping pong table and plenty of board games. I can’t wait to continue my work with ENP and continue getting to know more about Ethiopian culture. 

A Volunteer's Adventure at ENP

By: Jessica Shankman
ENP Volunteer
Career Israel
Student at University of Minnesota- Twin Cities
The first week at the Lod site has been filled with surprises. Finding the site was, of course, the first part of the adventure. Being my first week in Israel at all, it was natural that I would be unsure of how the navigation from Tel Aviv would progress. I was so pleasantly surprised to find myself being led around by various Lod natives. They were friendly, direct and so willing to help out. And I did end up making it to the site, just a few minutes over time.
            Upon arrival to the ENP center I was amazed at what they had done with the place. The building was filled with radiant colors, handprints, signs—so many signs of the activity of the people in the center. Our coordinator pointed out each spot that volunteers had stepped in to help renovate the center some years back. One wall was filled with these volunteers’ names and pictures, while the others are painted with murals, quotes, and the children’s names. It was immediately clear that the ENP center has become a central hub for these kids to hang out and be with friends.
            In the last week and a half, I have traveled to the Lod center three times. Each visit has included different activities for the kids, all of which were beyond my expectation. They have a debate lecturer come in each week, music lessons, a soccer team, as well as many excursions around the area. I was initially quite nervous for what reaction my presence would evoke from the kids at ENP. Would they be excited to have an American there to help? Would they be totally turned off to the idea? Or would they simply ignore me? I was pleased to find that the kids have been warm and welcoming. They often look to find common ground, even though many of them speak little-to-no English. So far, I have found that they are more than open to trying to converse, whether it’s about their love for Michael Jackson, Beyonce, or the World Cup series. In fact, many of the conversations that we have been able to struggle though (on my end of course) revolve around our common tastes in music. Many of the kids have taken time to show me what’s on their iPod and are excited to see that I listen to a lot of the same songs!
            Another surprise for me was being asked to attend the boys’ soccer game in the evening.  Though I wasn’t sure what to expect, this felt really special to me. We sat and cheered the Lod team on while the kids played their heart out on the field. It is clearly such a source of passion for most of them. Although they didn’t win every game, their attitudes were supportive throughout the entire tournament, which impressed me greatly. This showed me how fun the sport is for them, and how it’s not just about the competition for them. The boys seemed so close to one another—it was amazing to watch.
            While the language barrier will certainly pose a challenge, I’m really looking forward to learning alongside the kids at ENP. It’s clear that this will be a summer of growth and I’m eager to see what the next few weeks bring!

Breaking the Ice with Salsa

By: Maya Katz-Ali 
ENP Volunteer
Boston Onward Israel
Student at Clark University

A couple of days ago I started work at the Ethiopian National Project (ENP) branch in Kiriyat Bialik, right outside of Haifa. Here I am learning the stories of the children and their families. I am particularly interested in learning and documenting the stories of young people as they strive to overcome the obstacles they find in becoming a part of Israeli culture.
I have studied Hebrew for four years in high school as well as a semester at Clark University. I have also spent considerable time in Israel, volunteering at inner city schools and touring the country. I wanted to take my learning experiences a step further with ENP by working with the stories of the students. I hope to learn more of the Ethiopian community’s struggles, fears and triumphs by working in this center.  On the way to the center I met up with another wonderful young woman working at the center under a different program.  Her name is Lisa and she helped to prepare me for the new adventure I was about to begin. 
                Meeting the kids and staff soon after meeting Lisa was wonderful; they were all so sweet and friendly. They welcomed me right into their family. The first day the girls in the program asked Lisa and I to teach them salsa. We took the girls to a cool room, put on music and taught the girls the basic steps of salsa. They were so eager to learn! We worked around the language difficulties and broke the ice with the common language of laughter, music and dancing. 

                Both the girls and the boys of the center are so light-hearted and have so much to share with anyone who asks and seems interested. Each student of the center has a unique story that I cannot wait to learn more about!

ENP's programs in Kiryat Bialik are generously supported by the Jewish Federation of Greater South Palm Beach County

A Humbling Experience

By: Allison Kaminsky
ENP Volunteer
Onward Israel Boston
Student at Northwestern University

As my first two weeks at the Ethiopian National Project come to a close, I am very thankful for this opportunity to reflect on my experiences. I have learned so much in just a few weeks, and I know that I will gain even more knowledge by August. These past few weeks have been humbling, and I look forward to being further humbled.
I began my internship feeling confident that the background research that I had done on Ethiopian-Jews gave me a good picture of the community. I will be the first to say that I was wrong. It was very ignorant of me that my basic research would suffice. This summer I am focusing on bringing international awareness of the Ethiopian-Jews by creating an informational PowerPoint and writing a comprehensive article on the history and customs of Ethiopian-Jews. However, before I could inform the American public about the history and customs of Ethiopian-Jews, I needed to do more research. Therefore, I have busied myself by reading books, newspaper articles, government reports, and website articles.
I still cannot say that I know everything about the Ethiopian-Jewish community. When studying a community that has existed for potentially 2,500 years, it is silly of me to assume that I will learn everything there is to know within two months. Therefore, I hope to have a working knowledge of the Ethiopian-Jewish community by August, but I cannot hope to fully understand the community by the time I leave.

Planning a Summer Camp

By: Elliad Dagan
ENP Volunteer
Onward Israel Boston
Student at Tufts University

Two days ago was the first time I actually worked at the Ethiopian summer camp where I will be working for the rest of the summer. Until that moment I was planning the summer camp, coming up with ideas for activities, and making a budget and shopping for supplies. It was fun and at the end of the day I had some finished product but it didn’t feel as rewarding or fulfilling as I hoped. I still enjoyed the work because I got along well with my co-workers and I knew that I was working towards something greater, the actual summer camp. I have only worked there for two days and I already feel a connection to the children but even more the ENP cause.
I remember discussing with one of my fellow interns during the planning stages about the culture of the girls. She was worried that their culture would be so different from what we expected and that we needed to plan for that but I wasn’t that worried and I’m glad I wasn’t. Ethiopian or not, the girls are still just 12-14 year old girls. Just like in America some are more energetic and excited to learn while others prefer to keep to themselves and do their own thing.

 I’m really excited for the rest of my summer with them to get to know them better, to learn more Hebrew from them, and even learn more about their culture and history.

Summer Camp Beginnings

By: Elyse Waksman 
ENP Volunteer
Onward Israel Boston
Student at Clark University

During my first two weeks at ENP, I’ve worked with the other interns to plan a summer camp program for Ethiopian-Israeli youth. Camp started on Monday, and from the start we could tell that it wouldn’t go as planned.
            We began by asking each camper to introduce herself, but most of the campers were too shy to participate and would barely even mumble their names. This initial shyness disappeared for the most part by the end of the first day as we encouraged the girls to come out of their shells and participate, but there are still several other challenges we have to face.
My Hebrew knowledge coming into this was slim to none, which is about the same as most of the girls’ English knowledge. This makes communication extremely difficult, and subsequently being in charge of the girls becomes a challenge because I can hardly understand or respond to their questions. But after two days of working at the camp, I’ve spent a lot of time sitting with some of the girls and teaching them some English while they teach me Hebrew.
Another challenge was how disorganized everything felt. We had planned activities on an exact schedule, but keeping the girls paying attention (or even in the same room) was not as easy as we had hoped. But in the end it’s actually good that the schedule changes along the way, because some of the moments when we connect most to the girls are during free time when we’re just talking and laughing. I’m sure that we will continue to face these challenges and others over the next few weeks, but I can already tell that it’s worth it.

Ani Lo Medaberet Ivrit.

By: Amanda Schwartz
ENP Volunteer
Summer 2014, via Hillel Onward Israel
Student at University of Michigan-Ann Arbor

Ani lo medaberet Ivrit.  When I came to the volunteer-organized ENP summer camp at the Gonen school in Jerusalem on my first day, this was the only Hebrew expression I knew.  How was I supposed to teach English to a group of children when I couldn't even speak their language?  While waiting in the lobby for the kids to arrive on my first day, I could hear them arrive before I could see them.  I heard excited shouts coming from down the hall and then I saw my future students running by in a blur of color.  The first hour I had with them was a challenge because my coworker could speak Hebrew to them, so everyone understood each other except for me.  My moment of clarity came later in the day, not in the classroom, but in the gym.  The boys all wanted to play soccer and I automatically went to sit on the sidelines and watch, a habit perpetuated from years of gym class sitting on the sidelines and letting the athletic kids take the field.  I was touched when one of the kids invited me to play on his team, but I didn't know how long I would be able to hold my spot on the team once they realized how uncoordinated I was!  Even after I let in the first goal (....and the second), the boys were nothing but encouraging, shouting "Good!" and cheering me on.  When I finally blocked my first goal, all of the boys on my team came up and high-fived me.  I'm taking Ulpan classes to improve my Hebrew, but it means so much to me that the boys make an effort to speak in "Anglit" as well.  During our English lessons, we all collaborate as a group to learn together.  For example, when we played Around the World, I would say the word in English and they would have to translate to Hebrew.  Secretly, they were teaching me as well!  My goal is to make English as fun as possible for them so it doesn't feel like a chore.  I often catch them trying to listen to music on their phones, which is easy to spot because they can't help dancing along!  Matt and I decided to integrate their love of music into a game of Hangman, using popular pop culture artists as the key word.  This camp has inspired me to find new and creative ways to communicate and I'm looking forward to what the upcoming weeks will bring at my internship at ENP!