Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Volunteering in Kiryat Malachi, winter 2009

Adam tutoring English

Note from Adam Resnick, an Otzma volunteer from Phoenix, part of a group of 6 in Kiryat Malachi, , on the completion of his volunteering in Kiryat Malachi at the end of March, 2009:
Adam and other Otzma volunteers
I am writing you to express my utmost gratitude for giving me the opportunity to live and volunteer in the Phoenix partnership city of Kiryat Malachi for the months of February and March. My time there made an enormous impression on my life, and it is not something I will soon forget. I would also like to briefly share my experiences in Kiryat Malachi with you, along with the ways in which I see how the Federation is making a profound impact in providing for this struggling town.

As a volunteer and resident in Kiryat Malachi, most of my time was spent tutoring students in English. Because I am a native English speaker, and because English is such an important language for the students to learn in order to have a chance to attend and succeed in university, I was more than happy to help them in English as much as I was capable. I worked as a tutor in three different schools: Amit high school, Amal high school, and Netzhak elementary school. Adam with a girl from Netzach Yisrael Elementary School in Kiryat Malachi

At Amit, the religious high school, I worked with four different English classes three times a week. Usually, a teacher would give me two to three students to take out of class to either converse with them in English, or to help them with an English project they were assigned. I especially liked conversing with the students. Not only was it the most effective way for me to help them with their English, but it also gave me the chance to connect with them on a more personal level and learn about what it's like for them to live in Kiryat Malachi. The students, while sometimes shy at first, would often open up to me about all sorts of things pertaining to their lives. It was interesting to hear about their families and how they felt about such issues as the Arab-Israeli conflict and the operation in Gaza. Likewise, the kids were very interested in my life and what it's like to live in America. They seemed to think that everyone in America is rich, and when I told them I was far from rich, they didn't believe me. Most of them were also under the assumption that I personally knew all of their favorite American singers and they were disappointed to find out that that was also not the case. Also, because they were all religious, they were interested in knowing my eating habits. When I told them that I didn't keep kosher, they were shocked and told me that I shouldn't eat meat and cheese together because "it makes your brain smaller" (Luckily, they were lacking scientific evidence).

At Amal, the secular high school, I only worked with one class twice a week. I would often take three or four students out of class and help them with English vocabulary or review for an upcoming test. I became good buddies with one of the boys whose English was good, and after class, he would take me to a nearby park to play basketball. There, we would play HORSE while he practiced speaking English and I worked on my Hebrew. Fortunately, my basketball skills are better than my Hebrew skills and I never lost a game to him, but his English did improve a great deal in the couple months I spent with him.
A student at Netzach outside on a cold but sunny day

I went to Netzhak elementary school twice a week. I went once a week during the school day and once for an after school program.

The kids there were a lot of fun, and going to see them was the best part of my volunteering. And even though their English was almost non existent and my Hebrew wasn't all that good, we managed to get by and form bonds with each other. During the school day, I would help the kids learn the English alphabet and with very simple reading. Zara Friedman, an Otzma volunteer from Seattle, with Netzach children

A lot of the kids were really bright and had a lot of enthusiasm to learn English with me. In the after school program, I would help the kids with their English project and play soccer
Adam and boys from Netzach
In the evenings, I went to Migdal Or, a teen center for troubled youth. Migdal Or is a great place for the kids to enjoy themselves and stay busy and off the streets at the same time. There, I just hung out and acted as a friend to the kids, which often consisted of me getting my butt whooped and my ego shrunken in intense games of Ping-Pong.

When I wasn't working, I spent my time getting to know Kiryat Malachi. The city, while not exactly pleasing to the eye or the nose, was an enjoyable place for me to be. People were nice and I got a real sense of community there. Also, as the only light haired blue-eyed resident of the city, I got my fair share of attention whenever I was walking around town.

While Kiryat Malachi is filled with nice people and a supportive community, it is still a city in desperate need of more help. I know that my two months there, while helpful, was not enough to truly make a difference. Poverty is very high there, and the standard of living is much lower than that of the rest of Israel. In fact, sometimes you get the sense that it's being neglected by Israel altogether. For this reason, I really appreciate the work the federation has put into helping improve Kiryat Malachi, and I urge the federation to continue to support the city with the same amount of dedication that you have in the past. As someone who lived there for two months, I can say that the hard work is evident throughout the city and it's hard to imagine where Kiryat Malachi would be without the help of the federation.

Much Thanks,
Adam and other 5 Otzma volunteer in Kiryat Malachi, plus Ira Kerem, TIPS staff person

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