Over twenty participants in the Esra leadership course attended a half-day insight seminar into Esra held at the new Hefzibah community center in Netanya. The aim was to give this leadership potential a deeper understanding of the full range of Esra’s activities and projects.
The morning was moderated by Annette Lavender who, with her inimitable style and flair, started the day off so well, continuing to monitor the speakers who were each given three minutes to describe their branch of activity in Esra – an almost impossible feat.
Debby Lieberman, chairperson, welcomed the participants with an overview of Esra and was followed by a list of several of Esra’s “Movers and Shakers” – a stunning array of speakers who moved us from laughter, to tears, to amazement at the depth of commitment of these volunteers. They included Meira Applebaum, Phyllis Bloch, Renee Goldstein, Audrey Goodman, Adele Hunter, Adele Rubin, Nina Zuck and the director, Linda Olmert, giving us the “professional” view and back up of our dedicated office staff.
The panel was followed by a visit to two Esra projects in the community center:
Netanya sewing center where the guests were welcomed by the Ethiopian men and women who are learning to sew, and were shown an array of clothing that they were working on. Most students were wearing the suits, trousers, dresses and skirts that they had made themselves. Varda, the sewing teacher, assisted by two volunteers – Anita, an annual visitor from Canada who comes for two months a year to volunteer at our four sewing centers, and Avraham, our “maintenance magician” who manages to keep our 30 year old machines in working order – gave the visitors an insight into how the center is run.
Students build a neighborhood project where we have twelve students from the nearby colleges living in four apartments in the Hefzibah neighborhood . Each student is responsible for three children from the neighborhood, helping them with homework and social activities. They also get to know their families and assist in building the neighborhood from the inside. The visitors were taken by the head of the neighborhood committee and the coordinator of the project to one of the apartments where they met two Ethiopian students from Ruppin College who explained their participation in the project.
Next on the agenda was a light bagel lunch and a lecture by Avi Talala, the young and dynamic director of the Hefzibah community center. This was followed by an in-depth explanation of the achievements, problems and dreams for the Hefzibah community by Damsash Irdai, a charming, dedicated founding member of the newly-established Neighborhood Steering Committee, which left us Esra members with a real sense of pride in our part of the reconstruction of this neighborhood and much food for thought about the future.
I’d like to end off with some of the emails received from participants in the leadership course after this terrific day…
“Thanks for arranging such an inspiring day. Just hearing about a project is not enough to understand what a difference the Esra-sponsored students are making in the children’s lives and how much the young men we met have done to turn the neighborhood around.”
“…was absolutely amazing. Although we knew about most projects – to actually see what really goes on in this area is an eye-opener. It was a privilege to be there. These students are doing a unique job and if this was done internationally, the world would be a better place. I am so pleased and proud to belong to Esra.”
“…I came away emotionally moved by what the various project leaders had said and certainly after the visit to the two delightful girls in their flat … thank you for a most meaningful day.”
“Yesterday was the best day of the leadership course. The volunteers who made presentations clearly described approaches that should be used to effectively lead volunteer organizations … they are the reason Esra is so successful. The only ‘problem’ I found with the session is that Esra has such a large array of opportunities to volunteer that a choice is difficult!”
“The Esra speakers did a wonderful job with their concise presentations and it was heartening to see the work being done in the Heftzibah for the local community.”
“This wonderful project is highly professional with a lot of thought given to addressing the needs of the community … the whole neighborhood is coming together to plan and celebrate their holidays, preserve their culture, self respect and pride. The ‘door of communication’ is opening and will certainly extend to the society as a whole. The excitement which vibrated from the students we met, their empathy, devotion and caring, left me with uncontrolled tears…”
“Just wanted to tell you how impressed I was yesterday – the organization of the morning; the caliber of the women who spoke; the fabulous work being done on the different projects. ...I always knew that Esra was a ‘good’ organization; yesterday I realized how good.”
“What has stayed with me after the wonderful Esra day for the Leadership Course?
- A memory of a truly happy few hours.
- A wonderful collection of people with wonderful reports of wonderful projects they are doing.
- Every minute was energizing.
- The visit to the flats where the students live was a highlight.
- Naomi said that getting a note from a certain pupil thanking her for the confidence he now has was the best prize she could ever have been given.
- When asked what Esra does for them, Malka answered that they have just received this beautiful computer, Esra pays for their connection, their rent, city taxes... what more could they be given?
- When both girls said that they are available to all their pupils (+ any parent who needs help) any time that they are home, it sounded as if they already belong to Esra's volunteering team.
- The contribution this program has made with them living in the neighborhood is that they are fully involved, the cleanliness is as important to them as to everybody else... the noise level matters to them just as it matters to other people in the building or the neighborhood.
- The pride Tamar has in all her instructors shines through her eyes...
- This is the biggest win/win situation I have ever seen when talking of a contribution to the community.”
“Hard to put into words the feelings that I left with on Tuesday – to say that I was on an exhilarated and hysterically happy and fulfilled high might describe my feelings. I want to thank you for providing this experience for us. Bringing us in direct contact with real people making a difference in their own lives, I believe made us retirees/volunteers feel "real" as well. The exhilaration and the high was also a result of the group listening and feeling the creative energy coming from the Esra leadership group. The combination of thinking, seeing, hearing from dynamic "doers" of all walks and ages was an injection of energy and happiness. Part of the essence that makes volunteerism work, is the fact that we are dealing with a population (retirees)
who unconsciously accept the fact that in the eyes of many have stopped growing. Tuesday’s people, young, energetic, bright, determined, looked us straight in the eye and their message to us was - We need You! Not just funds, but we need a relationship with you, guidance, ideas and direction – how often do we hear that from the younger generation?”
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