This entry was originally posted on Molly’s personal blog, a participant on our Boston Onward Israel program in Haifa. For background purposes, Yahel is running a 6-week service-learning program in Haifa for 18 New-England-area students. Through direct service opportunities, participants will contribute to the Hadar neighborhood by volunteering alongside local Israel activists. In addition to group volunteer projects, each participant is assigned an individual placement where they will volunteer 4 days a week for the next 3 weeks.
Today, my group of 5 people got to talk to the camp director about our individual placement at the summer camp. What she told us was really interesting and made me super excited for the session to begin. She told us that the kids at the camp (4th-6th graders) are hand-picked by social workers, teachers, counselors, etc. to come to this camp. They are kids with a lot of problems at home; many have extremely low-income families, 60% live with only their mother, and they are all sent to this camp to have some older mentors to talk to, look up to, and just to hang out with while their parents are at work.
The camp is only 400 shekels for 3 weeks (that’s about 100$), and not all of them can even pay that. She said that the kids are the children one step below being removed from their homes by child services. Many of them don’t get fed at home, have nobody looking after them all day, and are exposed to things like alcoholism, drugs, and prostitution in the neighborhood because of the lack of care for them. Therefore, they come to this camp to be occupied and have counselors to talk to about their lives.
It seems like a big responsibility to have, especially since I can’t really talk to these kids. However, the schedule looks AWESOME. Every day we are doing something fun. We get to pick one “enrichment group” to be in (I want to do either arts and crafts or movement/dance). There is also one day each week when we go hiking, to the pool, and have a fun themed day with different activities that we get to plan. The theme of the summer is spies/secret agents/inspector gadget, or something like that, so all of the themed days also have costumes and fun games to go along with that theme. They also asked us to come up with a 5 minute shpiel every morning to teach a little bit of English that goes along with the day’s activities, through a song or skit or something like that.
I could not be happier with my placement. This is exactly what I do at camp, but with kids I can speak to. That is definitely what I am most nervous for. I don’t know how I will be able to connect with the kids if I can’t speak to them. But I know my Hebrew will improve a ton from this, and it will be a great learning experience with a lot of challenges. In a few hours we are going to meet them for the first time for just a few minutes. I’m nervous, but excited too! I also have the best group ever. It is 4 really great people from my group who I think will work well together. Wish me luck!