Tuesday, April 14, 2015

My Tikkun Olam Experience

Becca Schwartz, originally from San Francisco, California, is a Tikkun Olam Spring 2015 participant. Becca volunteers at Terem Refugee Clinic, as well as ARDC - African Refugee Development Center. Becca shares with us her experience thus far on Tikkun Olam! 

  I first heard about Tikkun Olam through my birthright trip and I knew immediately I wanted to be part of the program. I fell in love with Tel Aviv and my interests lie in psychosocial work with disadvantaged populations, so this program was exactly what I was looking for post graduation. I applied for the internship track and once I arrived here I chose to do my internship at Terem, the refugee hospital clinic at the Central Bus Station. I spend most of my time at this clinic every week and for a few hours on Wednesday nights I volunteer at ARDC (African Refugee Development Center).
The asylum seeker situation in Israel is complicated and you cannot truly understand it until you get here and experience it first hand. It is mostly one big “balagan” which is Hebrew for fiasco or chaos. That being said, there are many organizations trying to assist by promoting advocacy, awareness, and policy change.  Both my internship and volunteer hours are spent at two of these organizations. At Terem I work in reception and take on special projects for the clinic. At ARDC I help applicants fill out Refugee Status Determination forms. Both places I work not only allow me to provide aid to this population (which primarily comes from Eritrea), but work along side them. My co-workers and clients are wonderful. They have taught me what true strength, compassion, and determination looks like. It is through these experiences, I have kept a positive and hopeful out look on the complicated asylum seeker situation. It is my hope that the Israeli government will adapt a better system to determine refugee status and no longer keep this population in a legal status limbo. 

            When I first got here adjusting to Israeli culture was a bit tough. The cultural norms are pretty different from California where I was born and raised. But after living here for two and half months I understand why the word “sabra” is used to describe Israelis. The word refers to a cactus that is prickly on the outside but soft and sweet on the inside. This is a perfect description of my interactions here. It might be little intimidating at first but know that the kindness you will encounter here will be like unlike any you have experienced before. Israelis truly are the most genuine people I have ever met.
            Everyday I am here I discover more and more about this beautiful city. There is always a new food to try, a new street to explore, and a new face eager to talk to you. I am excited to see what the next two and half months hold.


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