As I approach the end, I begin to reflect on the enlightening conversations I’ve had and the most impactful things I’ve learned from working at Hut HaMeshulash. I’ve spoken to several instrumental individuals within the organization, all who contribute to a dimension of this nonprofit.
I recently spoke with Rona, a social worker who works with at-risk youth participating in a social business program, funded by Hut HaMeshulash, at a restaurant within the Ticho House. This social business, according to Dualis Social Investment Fund, which sponsors the program, “is a business that aspires to realize social aims while gaining profit – an initiative which uses business tools to address social Issues.” At this restaurant, at-risk teens participate in an 8 month to 1½ year program in which they learn occupations within the kitchen. The teens work alongside an experienced member of the kitchen staff, learning the structure and responsibilities associated with each role. Rona works closely with the teens and with the staff; one of her main responsibilities is to act as a liaison between the teenagers, who are inexperienced and come from troubled backgrounds, and the staff, who are also inexperienced at interacting and collaborating with troubled teens. As a result, these teens learn not only useful occupational skills, but also build relationships and develop confidence as they witness their efforts translate into earned profit.
While this social business program provides hands-on occupational training, there is another program within Hut HaMeshulash which relates to preparing at-risk youth for their future, independent employment. Oshri Hayke facilitates a pre-employment program designed to emotionally empower those who participate and to expand their perspectives. They address topics such as why people work, how to recognize one’s own strengths and weaknesses, and how to view a situation from multiples perspectives. As opposed to a lecture, Oshri facilitates group discussion around key topics and attempts to summarize a common agreement, or a common denominator, between all which was said; this summarization allows the participants to feel that their voice is being heard, and thus aims to generate a feeling of empowerment. As a result of this workshop, several participants go on to join civil service, the army, or occupational training. Others, instead, continue working at their job, and tell Oshri that they now understand their work more and enjoy their role; this, to Oshri, is success.
Moreover, I visited and toured the Drop-In Center. I spoke to Ptachya, a senior counselor, who explained to me the impact that this location has on its population. It’s a space for at risk teens and young adults, open from 10am-10pm, and it provides an open and unconditionally accepting atmosphere. There is free food, showers, laundry services, and if needed, the counselors will provide free underwear and socks. Most of the young adults find out about the Drop-In Center by word of mouth; in addition, twice a week two counselors scout out specific areas in the city to attempt to find and make contact with additional young adults. The support doesn’t stop there; the center also provides a wide range of enrichment activities such as a music program, yoga, art, and individual counseling is served as well. This center provides a stable and safe community, as well as individualized support for each young adults to go beyond the services offered and to grow within normative frameworks.
Learning about each individual, their role, and their impact on Hut HaMeshulash has inspired a more profound appreciation and understanding of this organization; by understanding the individuals who make up the organization, the organization comes alive. This experience, living, interning, and experiencing Israel for two months, has, without a doubt, been one of the most meaningful and amazing experiences in my short being, and I owe so much to that profound experience to Hut HaMeshulash. The perspective I’ve gained from listening to others, and from witnessing first-hand the heartbeat of this organization, will continue to grow and expand after I’m gone. I look forward to what the future will bring as an aspiring social worker, as I keep my experiences at Hut HaMeshulash in my thoughts and in my heart.