This post was written by a Rachel Edelman, a participant on the Repair the World Onward Israel Service-learning Program in Be’er Sheva. The group members are encountering social change initiatives in the Negev region and receiving leadership training for when they return to their campuses in the fall. Rachel is volunteering at a women’s shelter in Be’er Sheva.
Despite having written a post for my own blog everyday of this trip, it wasn’t until today that I felt I had something important or influential enough to post on the group blog. Since this is my first post let me quickly introduce myself. My name is Rachel and I attend Carnegie Mellon University where I am studying Decision Science (like Behavioral Economics/How People Make Choices) and Biology. My hope is to become a genetic counselor, a career in which I will spend my time listening to difficult and often tragic stories regarding health and pregnancy. Thus, when originally provided our volunteer options before the program began I was automatically drawn to the women’s shelter as it involved having the opportunity to help and guide someone to better their life and grow as a person. At the shelter I mentor two girls and then work with Hannah in the afternoon with the middle age group.
Prior to this week I can honestly say I didn’t feel like I was making much of an impact at the shelter. My mentoring with one of the girls had been rocky and I had not had very much time with the other girl. But, this week the inconsistency ended. At the end of last week I had told both girls that I had some ideas and asked if it would be okay for me to pick what we did this week (Normally since this time is theirs I allow them to choose). Thus, I came into the week prepared with ideas for both girls.
The older of the two, whom I meet with on Sundays and Tuesdays, had expressed an interest in reading a book in English so Shiran (our advisor) provided me with a great book for us to read together. Additionally, after meeting with her and seeing her every day at the shelter I knew a few of her interests. Knowing my own obsession with Pinterest and the ease of finding creative recipes on the site I thought it would be something that would interest her as well because she too likes to bake.
Thus, since over this last weekend we discussed creating sustainable projects for the kids we work with, I thought creating a cookbook with her would be a good way for us to do something together and allow her to make something she can take with her wherever life takes her. I was thrilled when she liked both the cookbook and the reading idea. However, I was ten times more excited when I saw how reading made her feel. She has told me she is not the biggest fan of reading in general but she seems to enjoy the book (probably because it is extremely relatable to her life). Over the last couple of days I have seen her improve so much in just a couple of hours of reading. When she sounds out a challenging word perfectly and I tell her she got it right a huge smile comes across her face. I don’t think I have ever felt so proud or satisfied after such a simple act as reading a book.
Additionally, when I show her cakes and other foods on Pinterest her mind seems completely blown by the beauty or creativity of bakers. Over the last year I have exposed many of my friends to the wonders and magnificence of Pinterest but again there is something really special about seeing the impression and thrill in her eyes. I left both of my sessions with her feeling like I had finally found my place in the shelter.
The feeling of finally having a place wasn’t present with my mentoring session with the other girl on Monday but today something switched in her too. We had had some difficulty over the last week because her morning activities had become creative and she was in the middle of a project and didn’t want to leave her group. But today she seemed happy to go in a separate room and work on her project with me. I finally felt like she actually wanted to be mentored and that we would have the opportunity to become friends. With the first girl I instantly felt like we would be friends, but with her, despite my desire to be fast friends, I knew it would be harder because she was more closed off. And even though we didn’t talk about anything in depth today just the simple acts of letting her introduce me to a new musician and asking for my help on her craft relieved any tension or stress I had towards working with her. I felt like I had finally won the battle of winning her trust. Of course I knew it would be challenging for her, or really for any of the kids or women, to trust us as much as I truly would but even the small amount of trust I feel I have received now feels amazing.
I feel satisfied and am extremely happy that I have finally found my place and might have the ability to accomplish my expectation/goal of making a small impact in someone’s life here at the shelter. It is one thing to feel changed but volunteering isn’t worth it unless those you are helping also receive a benefit. Thus, as I finish up my second to last week of volunteering I hope that in the 5 days we have left at the shelter, I can continue to strengthen my friendships with both of these girls and leave them with positive memories of their summer.