The Best Experience

Posted on November 22, 2017
It was the best volunteer experience since I began doing this  kind of trip.
Skilled Volunteers for Israel, the program I used was efficient, caring and very supportive. They provided three venues for me to work with, although  one was eliminated because I got sick and could not complete the numbers of days required to make it worthwhile. Terry, my Israeli contact was a g-d sent when I got sick.  It was like having my sister hovering over me to make sure I was on the road to recovery.
I was assigned to a memory center for English speakers with dementia and Alzheimers. At the memory center, I taught Tai Chi in an abbreviated form that required altering the moves to fit the abilities of my students. It was a tremendous challenge but worth all the energy I put in. Every class I taught was unique and the clients were quite responsive. The Center’s staff were delighted with each class and when possible, the staff even joined my classes as participants!  For me it was enormously gratifying  to observe the clients’ reaction while following me during the class. Although most did not remember anything the following day, for the 40 minute class they were totally engaged and very happy.
I also worked at a second location which was a Hebrew speaking Senior Center called Moadon Avivim.  At the Moadon, I taught Tai Chi and engaged the seniors in a knitting project  to create Twiddlemuffs.   Check out this link to similar Twiddlemuff projects.
I worked with fifteen woman  and they were able to produce 4 muffs which we then took to Melabev where they were presented to several clients. It was a huge success. The knitters felt they had made a difference  for the clients, the recipients loved the muffs. A real win-win situation for everyone.
I stayed at an Air BnB in a Abu Tor, a successful neigborhood that includes Israelis and Arabs. My apartment was within walking distance of both work sites and the Old City. Although I could use the buses, I choose to walk each day.
The couple that I stayed with were excellent hosts. They hosted a Friday Shabbat dinner every week with friends and some paying guests that wanted to experience a Friday shabbat dinner with an Israeli family.
I learned where to get the correct  buses, walked through the German Colony, took leisurely walks through the old city along a beautifully groomed trail that was 4 blocks from my residence.  Imagine that I was able to practice my Tai Chi overlooking the Dome of the Rock and the Old City.
In addition, I went to a concert honoring Shlomo Carlbach on the anniversary of his death. It was so moving to listen to his music, to watch the observant men dance to honor Hashem.  So many of the people attending were very familiar with his teaching and music.
I went to services  at a local community center where I had the pleasure of being invited to a Shabbat luncheon, where I met Peter who had been at another Saturday luncheon at a friend’s house.  It seems I met people wherever I went in Jerusalem, whether at a learning session or Friday night services.
I had a truly  memorable 3 weeks and I felt as if I were home, with  people who were inclusive, caring and very hospitable.  I did miss my family and friends, but I could not have asked for a better way to spend 3 weeks.