Serving a Cause Abroad

A significant fraction of my experience in Israel has been, and will continue to be, my internship at Hut HaMeshulash. It’s an NGO that is dedicated to serving and nourishing at-risk youth, and such became my first choice when I read about the values they uphold on their website:

“We believe that each individual…

  • Is essentially good
  • Needs recognition of that goodness
  • Possesses the ability to change
  • Deserves to have his/her basic needs met
  • Deserves meaningful human relationships
  • Has unique and individual strengths and talents”

My eyes lit up. I feel so connected to these values, as I’ve identified with these concepts for some time now. A little over a month in, I feel like a part of this family. Anya Zhuravel Segal, the Director of Research Development, and my boss, has such a kind and compassionate demeanor; I value how easy it is to communicate with her. Oshri Hayke, who runs the employment training program here, sat down and spoke with me for around an hour and a half; we spoke about ourselves, our interests, our values, and philosophy. After he explained to me what his program entails, I became impassioned and realized that his role and teachings aligned so much with what I would love to do with my life. Yonatan, the CFO, recently had his fifth child, and he radiates positivity. Liora, the office manager, has been by my side since the first day, and she has been so welcoming and helpful every step of the way.

Hut HaMeshulash runs three major projects. One is a Drop-In Center, which is an open space for youth to come and feel accepted, to participate in activities, to receive meals, and to connect with one another. The second is a Residential Home for Young Men, which is a housing program dedicated for troubled, homeless young adults who are motivated to become independent and live normative lifestyles. In this home, the young men learn necessary skills for life and develop self-confidence and self-worth. The third project is a Residential Home for Young Women, which focuses on young women on an individual, group, and communal level with the intention to reintegrate these women back into their communities. Each week in the Women’s Home is characterized by individual counseling, group activities, and working together to celebrate every Shabbat. These three projects are the life force of this organization.

It was not until a housewarming party that I attended for the Residential Home for Young Men that I really understood and felt what Hut HaMeshulash was about. In attendance was the staff, the board members, the CEO, Igal Goldstein, and the residents themselves. Everyone was so warm and welcoming. A couple of the residents gave me a tour of the house, and I even ended up sitting down with one of them and participated in a great conversation. Speeches were given by the CEO, the Director of the Home, and some others, followed by a musical performance by a few of the residents. It was during this musical performance that I understood Hut HaMeshulash. It was as if all of the 50 people sitting in that living room, regardless of occupation or status, were all one. This musical performance is what we all had in common; at that moment, there was no distinction between myself, an unpaid intern, and the CEO, because those young adults who demonstrated their practice and harmonized as one were the reason we were all sitting in that living room.

Ever since I was able to see with clarity the heart of Hut HaMeshulash, I’ve continued to grow more and more connected to not only the individuals I work with, but also to my values as an aspiring changemaker.

About the Author
Allie Vaknin is an American student at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, where she studies Human Communication, Sociology, and International and Global studies. She is currently participating in a two-month internship program in Jerusalem, and she is enthusiastic to share her experiences while living and working in Israel.