On Monday, my wife and I went to Ben Gurion airport to pick up our daughter, Ayelet, who was just returning from a three-month stay in Gondar, Ethiopia. As I wrote three months ago (http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/ten/) this program is run by the Jewish Agency. It is a program that sends citizens and non-citizens to a number of different countries where they volunteer in various programs in the host community. While we knew she would have an interesting experience, little did we know how wonderful it would be!
Ayelet worked in a number of areas: working with disadvantaged children; children whose parents were incarcerated, with a group of teens working on ideas to improve their quality of life and how to approach adulthood with a goal-oriented focus.
Yes, being in a Third World country was not without its challenges! Running water that often didn’t run; electricity that often did not work; sudden rainstorms; cramming 8 people into a 3-seater taxi and so many other adventures. And yet, through it all, Ayelet faced these experiences with a smile.
While all the volunteers were there to make an impact on the community (and yes, there is a percentage of Jews that are there), there were other results that came out of this volunteering. The most wonderful part of the program (speaking as a parent) is what our daughter “took away” from the program. Yes, it is called “TEN” meaning “to give.” But at the same time, while she GAVE, she also RECEIVED. She received on many levels: she discovered talents that she possessed of which she was unaware. She saw she that had talent that was able to be used that caused us all to laugh with her when she said she was going to try them (Origami? Really?). She learned some Amharic and how to navigate in the area of Gondar with her new language skills. She received so much, while giving of herself.
So, to Project TEN and to the Jewish Agency I say thank you for the program and for what it did for our daughter. May you be able to continue to do good work. And to Ayelet, we welcome you back and say how proud we are of what you have done. May you continue to go from strength to strength!