By Pauleen Faynberg
Learning how to be independent in a foreign country is not as easy a feat as one might think. Despite the freedom and adventure that comes with being alone, one must take upon several responsibilities that are both challenging and new. For me, these responsibilities include going grocery shopping, cooking meals for myself, navigating my way around the city and going to my internship at the Ethiopian National Project. You might ask why I have chosen to spend my free time this summer getting up early, going to work and volunteering. To answer this, I’ll explain what my volunteering at ENP actually consists of. I split my time between the office, working on the website and other social media forums, and spending time in the field working with kids from an all-boys school about 40 minutes from the main office in Jerusalem. As interesting as it is to learn the intricacies of marketing and social media in the office, nothing compares to interacting with the kids that make this organization possible. When I first arrived at the all-boys school, I was nervous because I had no idea what to expect. Would the language barrier be a significant issue? Would they participate in the activities we had prepared for them? Would they like me? With these thoughts running through my head, I entered the classroom and met four charming, energetic 14 year old boys. Not only was I surprised at how well they understood English, but how willing they were to join in the games we had planned after just meeting us a few minutes earlier. Although, I was impressed with their ability to understand the rules of the games, miscommunication was a natural occurrence. Luckily, Instagram and soccer are both universal languages. Once the boys found out I had an Instagram, they took at least 50 selfies on my phone and insisted I post at least 25 of them. Coming in as a close second favorite hobby is anything related to soccer. The boys were immediately impressed with my mediocre ability to juggle the ball and smiled when I headed the ball into the trash can. The fact is, the moment I connected with these boys on a personal level – the moment their faces lit up with smiles – was the moment I realized my importance in this organization. It’s not my job to force these kids to do activities they don’t want to do, but to understand their perspectives and lifestyles as well as share mine with them. Simply seeing them smile makes this trip whole trip worth it.