Volunteering at WIZO Ahuzat Yeladim is not the ordinary Hadracha experience that Habonim Dror participates in on its Shnat Program. It is a school which takes on what is perhaps one of the most challenging tasks in Israel educating troubled youth. These youth have unstable family backgrounds, poor socio-economic status and learning difficulties. They lack direction and values. The environment of the boarding school makes the task all the more challenging, with the staff having to be the children’s family away from home providing them with all the guidance and discipline necessary.
As a group of four Australians walking into the school, we expected to engage in education with enthusiastic students in a structured routine. Before long, we realized that the experience demanded us to be a different type of Madrich, and that relationships and connections with the students would not come so easily. Over the weeks we gradually integrated among the students, speaking to them around the school and having discussions with the schools kvutsot, telling them about ourselves, our background, our country and hearing their stories in return providing them with a source of support which they were otherwise lacking and a relief from the intensity of the social dynamics of the dormitories.
In many cases, the school required us to work in incredibly difficult situations, whether it be with rebellious and violent students or with students who had very serious personal issues. At times we were required to keep students focused in class or we simply sat and explained concepts to them which they found fascinating e.g. Australia does not have conscription because we have peace. Often we were faced with a seemingly impossible task which in turn proved to be an amazing learning experience.
Ultimately it was difficult to see the fruits of our labour, having only been in the school for three months. However, it was important for us to understand that we were an important link in a chain of countless other individuals who together, over the course of many years, prevent these kids from ending up with a bleak future. It provides them with the opportunities to succeed in life and we would encourage Australian Madrichim to continue their support of this WIZO School, inspiring the children to learn English and learn about different cultures.
Federal Mazkir of Habonim Dror Daniel Teitelbaum described the program
as a unique example of old and young Zionists working together improve the state of Israel