Boosting the Spirit of Volunteerism One Community at a Time!

New project trains skilled volunteers in Israeli Arab communities.

Special Collections: LEND A HAND


 (Photo by Aya Schada from Sakhnin)

It takes a village not just for raising children but also for building a community that helps and sustains the people that reside there. That's exactly what is happening in Arab Israeli villages, towns, and cities.

There are 189 predominantly Arab communities in Israel and these communities are located in the periphery and not in the center. Places that are off the beaten path, do not usually benefit from the same access to healthcare, education, and job opportunities making life harder. But one organization, Ruach Tova or Good Spirit is working on a project called Yad La’ Kehila (helping hand to the community) to train volunteers in the communities to help solve some of these issues.

Ruach Tova – part of the Ted Arison Family Foundation – is the home for volunteering in Israel and its largest project is Good Deeds Day, a global day of volunteering. In Israel, 600,000 of Israeli Arabs take part in Good Deeds Day and the numbers are growing. The spirit of volunteerism is in the community and the organization decided to harness this and make year-long volunteering more attractive and far more effective.

That's why they started the project. The concept is very straight forward according to Ido Lotan, the CEO of Ruach Tova. There are three main challenges where the organization believes that having skilled volunteers can make a big difference, first aid or first responders, violence in the community, and accident prevention for children in the home and out.

"Yad La’ Kehila," Lotan told Goodnet in an interview; "will give people the tools to help." Classes have recently started to train volunteers in these areas. The program will run classes as long as there are 15 or more people in the community who want to become skilled volunteers in one of the fields.

The first aid program called Heart to Community is run in partnership with United Hatzalah an NGO that runs the first aid training for community volunteers and leads to certification. This will be a major help to rural communities, Hila haj Yahia, the Ruach Tova director of community initiatives in Arab Society told Goodnet,  because of the time it takes ambulances to reach them and then transport to often far away hospitals.

Creating skilled volunteers who can recognize domestic violence and know what to do to help people affected by it is a 10-hour long training course taught by the partner NGO Hadar's social workers. The idea is to have people who know what resources are available to help women and families in the community.

Accident prevention for children is also major concern in Israeli Arab communities, where kitchen injuries are frequent, so there is a 10-hour training class taught by Beterem (Safe Kids Israel) on how to make homes safer for babies and children, how to prevent kitchen accidents. There is also training about safety for adolescents.

The first group of courses have just finished, and the program has been very successful. Over 400 volunteers from over 30 communities participated and this is just the beginning. In Kfar Kana, a city with 25,000 residents, 90 volunteers are in the program.  Kfar Kana's mayor is the driving force and the municipality supplied the volunteers and he said that many more people want to participate and learn.

For smaller communities, regional classes are being held and that helps to build bridges or connections between communities. Since the success of the initial classes, more and more municipalities are approaching Yad La’ Kehila to sign up. This will also help to empower communities to "learn to help their communities themselves," said Lotan. It takes a village after all.

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