Diversity. Unity. Snacks. Love. Challenges. Laughter. Dinner. Tears. Strength. Confidence. Friendship.
That was the program for The Friendship Circle of Central Jerusalem’s bi-lingual annual “Day of Enrichment and Empowerment” for its 89 dedicated volunteers this past Sunday.
“These incredible volunteers show much devotion and perseverance,” says Director Mrs. Chana Canterman. They show up at the children’s homes after a long day at school, often after a 20-45 minute bus ride. They arrive with an assortment of activities, ingredients for cake baking, materials for easy sewing and more. Their creativity is endless, but most impressive is their indescribable boundless love for these children.
Sunday, the 89 volunteers from four different schools/ Michlalot – the Hartman school, Beit Shulamit, Beit Meir and Beit Chana – arrived at the Wizo Center on King David St, where an elegant fruit table awaited them, along with apple and blueberry muffins, snacks and candies.
The program began with a brief introduction, after which a ‘Lead and Led’ workshop began. Volunteers took turns leading a blindfolded friend through an ‘obstacle course’ via verbal instructions, all the while ensuring that the one who was led did not touch any of the obstacles before reaching their destination. An intense discussion ensued regarding the thoughts and feelings of those who took lead and of those who were led.
A panel followed where volunteers posed a variety of burning questions and challenges that arise in their work to: Elli Renda, LCSW; Esty Deutsch, mother of a ‘special needs’ child; Chava Mishulovin, behavioral therapist; and Mrs. Chana Boaz– licensed life coach and lecturer.
The girls gained much insight from the combined wisdom and experience and many conflicts and dilemmas were resolved, yet the inspiration went both ways.
“These volunteers are phenomenal,” enthused Mishulovin. “I literally had goosebumps when I heard Eden, a volunteer, share her story of how she had requested to change who she’d visit because ‘instead of a six year old for whom I would feel like I’m babysitting, I wanted to be paired with someone my age, who I could treat like a real friend.’”
Another touching moment was when volunteer Sheina Golomb spoke of the manicure she promised – and delivered – to her wheelchair bound, cognitively disabled friend who lives at the Hettena Center. “Her face lit up when I walked in with the nail polish!”
A powerful skit was produced by Mrs. Esther Rozenson, mother of one of the volunteers, and Chava Mishulovin. The hilarious and dramatic show definitely hit home as the volunteers were reminded of how much they mean to their special friends even when it seems there is no response to their efforts as well as the vital importance of being committed and responsible in their visits.
A poignant 4-minute video absolutely blew the girls away as they saw how the incredible, indomitable, spirited Libby Schneerson went from FC child to Volunteer, demonstrating that when there is a will, the sky’s the limit.
A lavish dairy supper was served to the eager crowd, all homemade by Chana Canterman who strongly felt that the girls’ precious work from the heart should be recognized and matched by a dinner that came from the heart.
Key note speaker was Ayelet Hashachar Eitan, director of the Child Integration Clinic at the world renowned Feuerstein Institute. Eitan passionately described the Feuerstein Theory of belief in the ability of man to change. She taught that intelligence is modifiable; it’s up to the volunteer to act as an influential yet humble mediator to promote the necessary thinking and learning skills for the child to succeed. She gave a wide variety of valuable tips and suggestions which were well-appreciated by the audience. They were lucky to learn from this Jerusalem-based institute that has influenced over 80 countries around the world in both clinical and classroom settings with its theories and applied systems.
The exciting seminar was brought to a close by a moving thank you to all volunteers, in particular to Dina Sufrin, Chushi Rozenson and Miri Touger, heads of the volunteer coordination at their schools. Each volunteer walked away with a newly printed games book in two languages, a voucher for ‘katzefet’ and a wealth of inspiration and encouragement.
“It is clear that these volunteers are working for the cause,” says Canterman, “yet I believe that every human being needs a ‘tshupar’ from time to time. This evening of enrichment provides them with the energy, self-value and motivation to continue with their selfless giving to friends who aren’t always able to communicate just how significant the friendship is to them. These volunteers are celebrities in my eyes, along with the children. Their work is not paid for, not because it’s worthless, but because it’s priceless!”