Volunteer role: Derech Eretz participant
I had just returned from an eight-month trip overseas. I was slightly jaded with my uni course, with the exception of one subject – Human Rights and Wrongs in Australia – and felt I needed to do something with meaning. I began to do some research into a variety of Indigenous volunteering programs but nothing seemed to suit the time I had available, nor the style of interaction for which I was searching. I then came across a link to a program called Derech Eretz (DE) and noticed it was a Jewish program. ‘Hey’, I thought to myself, ‘I’m Jewish, this might work for me!’ Despite both my parents being Jewish, I didn’t grow up in the hub of the Jewish community. I completed my bat-mitzvah, which I really enjoyed, and occasionally went to a youth movement camp; but I had not otherwise felt particularly engaged with the community.
“I wouldn’t be here in Nepal if not for the exposure to the JAA programs,
emphasizing to me just how much I love this type of work, how much
I love working with kids and how much I love the
people involved in these programs.”
In year 10 I moved from a school that greatly emphasised community work and engagement, to a school in which the majority of my year was Jewish. There was not a great deal of enthusiasm for charitable endeavours. Needless to say, whether true or not, my lasting impression of the Jewish community meant I wasn’t able to find an outlet to contribute in such a manner. DE, and Jewish Aid Australia in general, blew that theory right out the window!
Many previous participants of DE say that, on the program, ‘you find your people’. I came back from that first trip and told my parents that it was one of the best programs you could go on. You feel privileged for having had the opportunity to meet and interact with such a welcoming and resilient community. You learn more than you ever could from a university subject or a degree. You make friends with a whole group of kind, bright, Jewish people who you can relate to on numerous levels. Now, four DE trips later and two years working as a part-time Sydney Refugee Program Coordinator for JAA, I’m in Nepal as an Australian Youth Ambassador for Development (AYAD). I wouldn’t be here in Nepal if not for the exposure to the JAA programs, emphasizing to me just how much I love this type of work, how much I love working with kids and how much I love the people involved in these programs.
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