Brit Olam’s core mission relies on the work of dedicated volunteers from Israel and around the world. By dedicating their time and expertise, volunteers affect tremendous change to benefit populations in need. In addition, through this work, volunteers are able to contribute to the wellbeing of others and to broaden their own horizons.
In December 2012, Brit Olam sent a delegation of seven high school female students, along with three counselors, on a two-week mission in Uganda.
Counselors led several preparatory sessions before the trip to discuss cultural differences and the concepts of tolerance and Tikkun Olam. Ilanit Cohen, one of the group leaders and a current law student at Bar Ilan University, discussed the aims of the trip. “The goal of our mission was two-fold. First, we wanted to work hand in hand with the Ugandan teens to come up with a volunteer-based project they could run on their own, without the influence of Western society. Secondly, we wanted to work with out partners to create a sustainable project.”
Upon arriving in Uganda, the seven Israeli teens partnered with about thirty Ugandan teams from Brit Olam’s Muse Uganda Arts Education Center with each group sharing aspects of their own cultural traditions. The Israelis told their counterparts about Shabbat and holidays, while the Ugandans introduced the girls to their villages’ norms and more.
Connections made, the joint group cooperated to create a long-term project to benefit the community. After exploring numerous project proposals, the group agreed on implementing a program in which single mothers with very little education and minimal sources of income would come to the school on a regular basis to receive tutoring from the high school students in English, and in several forms of design including fashion design, sewing, and jewelry making. This partnership offered illiterate single mothers the chance to expand their English and to gain design skill that would provide a better chance of securing a more steady income. In addition, the exchange offered Ugandan students an opportunity for self-expression, a trait not often highlighted in school or within their community.
Beyond this two-week engagement, this mission also had a lasting impact on the Israeli participants. Gabriella Rubin, a 12th-grader from Tel Aviv, maintains a regular correspondence with her peers in Uganda. According to the reports, at least twenty single mothers attend the language and skills sessions at the school twice a week for several hours each time.
Brit Olam Executive Director, Naama Shilo, acknowledges that Brit Olam’s work does not only benefit recipient communities, but also has a deep impact on the lives of volunteers. “Firstly, this was an important lesson for our participants to learn how people from other cultures live. It also taught them a great deal about learning to appreciate and make do with what you have. In addition, by forming a cultural dialogue with Ugandan children who are the same age, together they learned the power of volunteerism.” She continues, “We see ourselves as ambassadors for Israel, showing the beauty of the Israeli people in countries all over the world.”
Read more about the is delgation in the Jerusalem Post