ESL Volunteer in Tel Aviv

Posted on July 10, 2014

Roz (left) and Benita in Tel Aviv, May 2014Roslyn Ross volunteered in May in Tel Aviv.  A retired, reading teacher on the college level, Roz and her friend Benita paired up to have an Israel volunteer experience together including sharing an apartment. They turned to Skilled Volunteers for Israel to help them make this opportunity a reality.  Their professional backgrounds are different, so Skilled Volunteers for Israel arranged individualized volunteer placements for each of them.

Roz had a particular interest in teaching ESL and working with Ethiopian students.  She shares a story about her volunteer experience:

“My first contact with Ethiopian college students came as a result of being assigned to IDC Herziliya this past May as a TESOL (Teaching English as a Second Language) tutor.

IDC is a private educational institution modeled on Ivy League universities in the US. As part of it’s mission, IDC created a program, Israel at Heart, to provide a “unique opportunity for Ethiopian candidates with high leadership potential to earn an undergraduate degree. The program aims to provide participating students with leadership skills and prepare them for key positions in Israeli society. The students in the program are veterans of combat units and national service programs, who have demonstrated personal excellence and distinctive talents. The program provides participants with a full scholarship as well as a stipend and a laptop computer, enabling them to focus fully on and succeed in their undergraduate studies.” These students also receive guidance and tutoring in the social, personal and academic spheres, which includes an emphasis on learning the English language.

And this is where I came in. My students were Derrese, Banchi and Avi. Having arrived not so fresh off the #347 bus from Tel Aviv, and after an introduction to the school by the Head of the EFL (English as a Foreign Language) unit, I was introduced to Derrese in the lobby of one of the academic buildings on the campus. Derrese is a highly engaging young man, who not only displayed from the start, diligence and seriousness to the task at hand, but also kindness and compassion. He took time out of his busy schedule to help me straighten out my cell phone voicemail, my defunct computer charger and to listen to me replay stories of my numerous trips to I Digital- the only option in Tel Aviv to get technical service for Apple products. We discussed not only his field of study, business administration, but pieces of our personal lives.

Banchi was the second of my students who I met that day. Banchi, who is studying government, is a young lady of high intelligence and an acute awareness of social justice. We devoted most of our time together working on a paper she was writing on Martin Luther King, (subsequently reported to me to be her “best paper yet”) but we also spent time discussing politics and government policy in the US and Israel.

My third student was Avi is handsome, charming and smart. Avi is studying law and during our discussions, he presented the most thoughtful insights into the opinions presented in the readings of case law. Avi, in spite of the difficulty of the vocabulary, forged ahead with incredible determination and fortitude.

I had many other students at Tel Aviv University and at IDC, all of whom were intelligent and willing. I imagine, though, that Derrese, Banchi and Avi standout to me because of their commitment to their studies as well as their deep gratitude for assistance along the way. It became clear why IDC chose them for Israel at Heart.  I have no doubt; they will be outstanding citizens making their own contributions to the society in which they live.

In a month’st ime, I had the opportunity to help these students improve their English-which is essential to their university studies as well as to their career success. At the same time, I learned a lot about the Ethiopian immigrants to Israel and about how Israeli institutions of higher education are supporting and encouraging these future leaders of Israeli society.