This summer, I am interning at a non-profit in Jerusalem called Hut HaMeshulash. The mission of Hut HaMeshulash is “to alter the perilous course of at-risk youth and young adults by providing a safe haven of shelter and support leading to a path of reintegration into society as confident and capable individuals.”
Hut HaMeshulash runs three projects: an Open Space Drop-in Center, a Residential Men’s Home and a Residential Women’s Home.
At the Drop-in Center, youth from very difficult at-risk backgrounds are always welcome into a friendly environment with hot meals, shower and laundry facilities, programs and activities, therapeutic care and a family-like atmosphere.
The Men’s Home provides housing and programs for troubled young men who need a caring environment and are motivated to change their lives. Many of them are on parole and if not for the Home, would find themselves in prison.
The Women’s Home serves as a home for young women, including expectant mothers, who do not have anywhere else to go. The Women’s Home is the only place of its kind in Israel.
Both the Men’s and Women’s Home provide basic needs (e.g., food, clothing, shelter), therapy and treatment, and rehabilitative programs for their participants until they can successfully and confidently live on their own. I have visited all of these projects and met with the women who manage them, and I have been impressed by all of them.
This is my second time working for a non-profit, and my experience this time is very different from my last. My first time working for a non-profit was great; I learned a lot, got along well with my supervisor, improved my skills, came to understand what it really takes to sustain and maintain a non-profit, and I enjoyed knowing that I was helping those less fortunate. One of the reasons I came to Israel this summer was to see how a non-profit in America differs from a non-profit on the other side of the world. I haven’t figured out all of the differences yet, but I do know that working for Hut HaMeshulash is a very different kind of internship than anything I have experienced in America.
American internships in general mostly consist of tedious tasks that no one else in the office wants to do, the “grunt work” as some people call it. Interns are often the bottom of the barrel at the workplace. Don’t get me wrong — my internship last summer was a great opportunity, but an intern is still an intern in America.
As an intern here, I don’t feel like I’m working at Hut HaMeshulash, but I’m working with Hut HaMeshulash. The five people that work in the office are the friendliest and most welcoming group of co-workers I could have asked for. My supervisor Anya, the Director of Resource Development, is always making sure that I am happy with the work she has assigned me and often asks me if there is anything specific I want to be working on. This internship with Hut HaMeshulash is tailored to my skills and what I want to get out of it, which is so different from what I would expect from an internship back in America.
When I met with the manager of the Women’s Home, she and I were discussing what I could help out with at the Home, and I told her that I’d be fine doing anything that needs to be done, whether it’s helping her in the office or teaching English to some of the participants, anything, and she asked me, “But what do you want to do? I want you to do something that you feel here” as she placed her hand on her stomach. She took me by surprise because I hadn’t really considered what I wanted to do. It is nice to know that the people I am working with genuinely care about my experience with Hut HaMeshulash.
I have gained a lot of knowledge and experience from the assignments and meetings I have had so far. One of my first assignments was to think of new ideas to update the website and create an ideal website for Hut HaMeshulash. Working on the website was more of a fun project because it was creative and a really easy way to ingrain the information about the organization into my head. I’ve also met with some of our social workers to hear about their favorite stories and why they love working with the youth. Listening to what they have to say is a great way to understand the personal and emotional side of the work we do here.
This past week, I’ve started to learn more about grant applications and how to write them. As I learn more about these foundations and how to apply for these grants, I’ve started to compare grant applications to college applications (with which I am much more familiar). So many other organizations apply for these grants, but how can we stand out among all the other applicants? What makes our case more compelling than someone else’s? And as an American college student, I definitely understand the importance of financial aid… All in all, I really enjoy the work I’ve been doing here because I feel like my ideas are really being heard and I am actually making a difference.
From what I understand, Israel does not have an internship culture, so there is no set structure for what an intern’s role is, and some interns in Israel merely fall through the cracks. But this lack of structure can also allow internships to be as special and personal as they please, and the people at Hut HaMeshulash seem to really care about how to make this internship a meaningful experience for me. I’m really glad to have the ability to take the reins of my internship and make the most of this amazing opportunity.