Giving Back By Romy Sachwald

As a psychology/marketing student about to enter my final year of studies, I decided to do something meaningful with my time over the summer break. It was time to do something selfless, put my skills to use, and return to society what society has given to me.

My friend Stefan Oberman, who worked for UIA suggested I discuss  volunteering opportunities with the UIA Shlicha Amit Tzur-Tal. She informed me about the Ben Yakir Youth Village, located just south of Hadera, for religious boys, aged between 12-18, most of whom were Ethiopian who come from severely broken homes and backgrounds. At Ben Yakir, they are given the tools to grow and succeed in life. Hearing this made me eager to know more about the village…and so I booked flights and counted down the days till I left for Israel.

I arrived at the village and was warmly welcoming by the students and staff a few days before Chanuka. Whilst I was friendly with all of them, a small group were eager to befriend me quickly, and always invited me to sit with them at meals and join in their activities. The students went home to their families over Chanuka break, and returned after New Years. I observed some of the classes and assisted with tutoring English and Maths. My main task was to assist in brightening up the school and dormitories by painting fun, colourful pictures on the walls. It was amazing to see the boys’ eyes light up at my artwork. Its incredible how something that seems so simple and easy for me to do can make some small, but positive impact on these boys’ lives.

Communication was a slight challenge, despite my ability speak and understand Hebrew well. The boys often spoke very fast and used a lot of slang. Despite learning English, most were too shy to practice it with me.

I still keep in touch with a few of the boys on Facebook, and hope to visit them in the near future. I recommend for anyone who has the time and energy to spare (and some Hebrew ability, though not essential), to visit Ben Yakir. These boys need your help.