Second Time Volunteer Experience

Posted on March 13, 2018

This is my second Skilled Volunteers adventure. Given that the concept for this trip was a first –  a working partnership with an Israeli focused Canadian organization – the Friends of Hebrew U (“Friends”), I did not know what to anticipate. There were 12 of us and 9 had previously travelled to Israel with friends, some many times at that.

How would we fit? How would the volunteering aspect, new to all except Heather, my wife and I, be received?

I needn’t have worried. The group jelled quickly with Merle Goldman, the Executive Director of Friends showing the way. Everyone was open, gregarious, friendly, generous with their knowledge and time,  and sincere in their willingness to be inclusive with conversation and with invitations to restaurants, excursions in spare time and the like.

Our decision to use arranged taxis and not public buses to take us to our assignments worked perfectly, giving us the flexibility in timing (programmes starting in different locations at different times) and in accommodating special needs as required.

The lectures from the Hebrew University professors were tremendous in their range of subject matter and delivery.  We all loved them.

Volunteering was the icing on this cake. The sites and the people we all worked with were so appreciative.  The interaction so gratifying for most that each day everyone went off to “work” with a smile, anticipating another interesting and worthwhile day. If any aspects of a placement were awkward or required a change, Terry Hendin, the Skilled Volunteers for Israel professional in charge on the ground was able to make changes on the fly. The debriefing was very positive from each participant.

For myself, this adventure has been simply a joy, one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I was there ostensibly to help students with their English (I did deal with resumes, introductory letters, mock interviews, correctIons of their spoken English and more). However, I found that the one-on-one relationships with students and Business School staff quickly went far deeper. Talking necessitated unscripted subject matter. Inevitably, we discussed what was going on in the lives of the students and staff with whom I worked which lead to more intimate discussions that would not otherwise have happened between strangers.

I learned about them and they learned about me. We quickly became friends. They shared their hopes, dreams and challenges and asked my advice. My life experiences were of interest and frequently of assistance to them with the problems they shared. What a privilege!

We exchanged contact information and I expect to maintain a relationship with most. I am now invested in their lives and I want to know how each makes out.

I am already looking forward to my next visit, to meeting others in similar circumstances both the volunteers from North America and the Israelis.  I expect to continue helping  with their English and lives to making new friends and, to spending more time with my new Israeli chaverim.

Thank you Skilled Volunteers for Israel and Hebrew University for you have both opened a unique door to my ongoing Israel engagement and in doing so have added meaning and a richness to my life. I will be forever grateful.

Ron Hoffman