In the winter of 2017 I was looking to take my first vacation from work in almost two years. Since I knew I would be traveling alone, I decided that I wanted to spend some of that time volunteering to make my vacation both relaxing and productive (I am also an active volunteer at home and it’s important to me to do so). Volunteering would force me to get out and simultaneously give me the opportunity to see a city in a way most tourists don’t usually get to. I had been to Israel seven years prior and had been itching to get back ever since. I had also heard about this volunteer organization called GoEco and that it was reputable so I went on their website, put Israel in their search tool and BAM! They had quite a few options of projects for me to choose from. I had interest in a few of the projects being offered, but since I had experience with people with special needs, but wanted a new experience with them, I decided to pick the project called Guiding People with Special Needs. In that, I chose the option to volunteer at their social club for people between the ages of 45-50.
So, in the spring of 2017 I flew out to Israel! I was greeted by the wonderful GoEco staff and taken to my first day. The staff there is amazing, but it’s the participants that really make the impact. Even though I didn’t get to spend as much time there as I would have liked, it was an engaging and heartwarming experience that I’ll always remember. If you’re worried about a language barrier, don’t be. There is a very special thing about this population, you can form relationships without much conversation. Even though I speak basic Hebrew, it wasn’t enough to converse; however, I was able to make quick connections with the participants by engaging in the activities that they enjoyed i.e. jewelry making and card games. We had a lot of laughs and completed a few different projects. Since I do this for a living and privacy laws are a big deal in the states, I didn’t take many pictures.
Also, since the social club only runs a few days a week, I got the chance to spend a day at a local animal shelter. I got to socialize and walk the dogs (this is where my Hebrew shines!). If you have the time to do a day there, they have dogs, cats, rabbits, and turkeys and it is a worthwhile experience to spend some time with these animals.