CWB has created a service learning program that brings Jewish and non-Jewish U.S. teens to Israel to volunteer in a special communal environment, known as a Children's Village where they assist underprivileged Israeli youth who live in the framework of large adoptive families. While living and volunteering in the community, the participants also participate in study tours both in the region of the village – the Galilee - as well as other parts of the country. On the tours the students become acquainted with Israel's diversity – religiously, ethnically and socially – while at the same time they learn about the core ideas and values that have shaped our world – such as the interaction between the great monotheistic religions - Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
As part of the volunteer program, the participants will work together with their Israeli peers, which will enrich both sides of the partnership highlighting their common values on the one hand, and their cultural differences on the other – all this in an atmosphere of mutual respect.
The children's village is located in the north of Israel and it takes care of some 275 children and youth between the ages of 5-18. They are counseled to join the village by social workers from all parts of the country primarily due to socio-economic reasons. The majority of the youth come from distressed families. They are all evaluated as to their ability to fit into a normal school framework and the necessity of removing them from the community in which they have been living in order to give them a chance to fulfill their potential. The Israeli kids are placed in foster homes in the village that are first and foremost normal functioning nuclear families in their own right. The family group is run by a married couple residing in a home with their own children and 10 children from the village. The couple's role is to conduct a normal, everyday lifestyle with this extended family which will serve as a model for the children in their future lives. Most of the house mothers come from the field of education; their husbands from various professions.
All the students attend regular schools in the city of Carmiel. After school the kids participate in many activities, and many also receive tutorial assistance with their studies or are provided with a supervised homework support environment. There are also music, art, handcrafts, sports, and nature programs, all with an emphasis on interaction between the children. In addition there is a large petting zoo (also open to the general public) where the children learn to care for the animals. The "job" of the Service Volunteers from the United States is to give valuable help and support in many of these after-school activities.
So what are the goals of the Service Learning Program to Israel?
- To foster a sense of belonging, commitment and responsibility to a community
- To promote the value of volunteering
- To awaken a desire to bring about change
- To teach about the values of civic society
- To advance the idea of mutual responsibility
- To take the participants out of their comfort zone and challenge them
- To help put things into perspective
- To facilitate a process of self-exploration and consolidation of identity
- To provide an opportunity for true intercultural encounters
- To experience Israel – its diversity, its values, its society, its history
What benefits will the participants gain from the program?
- They will earn service hours that will enhance their College applications
- They will actually and not virtually make a difference in the world
- They will meet with Israeli peers and learn about a foreign country
- They will learn and experience something new on a daily basis that will be relevant for their futures
- They will make life-long friends
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