Adjustment and Adaptation
ESRA's 43rd AGM will be taking place on Zoom a few days after I write these words. In order to keep everyone updated I am including here a few of the main points to be presented in my report.
We have a great deal to be proud of regarding our activities during the past year, with the key words being adjustment and adaptation. Not only do they describe the year but also offer an indication of what we must strive for in the future.
As mentioned before, the pandemic brought us one benefit. By forcing us to re-examine how we work and operate in our many areas of activity, it made us re-evaluate our objectives, effectiveness, and outcomes. Clearly, we needed to make changes to adapt to our new emerging world. In short, we needed to consolidate and focus our activities, deciding what we want to achieve in ESRA, and how best to go about it. Focus became our overriding theme for the year.
With a steadfast belief that enriching communities through education intervention, ESRA's Students Build a Community (SBC) continues to be our flagship project for the future, and one main focus of ESRA's efforts involves running and expanding this national project. This year we opened two new SBC projects, in Rishon LeZion and South Tel Aviv, joining the long-established projects in four Netanya neighborhoods and the more recent one in Akko, making a total of seven SBC projects that ESRA currently operates.
Establishing a new SBC project doesn't come with a guarantee of success. Difficulties, largely due to interruptions caused by COVID, have proved to be a learning experience regarding how we operate SBC and how to adapt it to the different needs of various areas. It has required much dedicated work, but we remain confident that we will be able to expand the SBC program even further to more areas of the country where it is needed – and there are many.
Running effective projects, and in fact running an organization, cannot be done without volunteers, and ESRA's slogan, "Volunteering for the Community", is put into action like no other. ESRA volunteers are simply everywhere. Our last annual report, The Annual Impact Report 2021, impressively cites nearly 2,000 volunteers collectively contributing more than 150,000 hours.
There are volunteers involved in services to the ESRA community, such as Counselling and Befrienders, and others serving on committees that run ESRA branches and organize events. Still more volunteers work in the ESRA office, making phone calls and handling enquiries and bookings, while others serve on ESRA's management committees, including the Executive, Finance, Fundraising, Welfare, and all the other committees that keep ESRA ticking over and operating. Yet another large group of volunteers are involved in the production and distribution of our ESRA Magazine, bringing news of Israel and the ESRA message to English speakers throughout Israel and even to readers abroad.
ESRA's largest single area of volunteering is with the English Tutoring Program (ETP). Epitomizing the amazing amount of volunteer work that goes on behind the scenes, ETP has experienced an almost unbelievable development over the past year, bringing today's total of ETP volunteer tutors and coordinators close to 1,000. Tutors are operating in numerous schools throughout the country, some physically and some on Zoom or WhatsApp, in what has increasingly become an international volunteering platform that now involves tutors from around the world regularly connecting with Israeli schoolchildren.
ETP is fully recognized and recommended by the Israel Ministry of Education, with whom the project is run in close cooperation. Together we continue to develop new and novel ETP programs, such as Teacher Chat, giving English teachers who are not native English speakers the opportunity to practice and improve their oral skills. We can be very proud of our volunteers who use their natural gift of speaking English to 'give back' to our country.
While taking pride in our achievements, we must not lose sight of the fact that many challenges lie ahead. As our founders and dedicated long-term members can now add ESRA's 44 years of operation to their age, we must turn to the next generation and consider how to pass the torch to ensure ESRA's continued contribution to Israeli society. This is the basis of our latest initiatives, the ESRA 40+ Community, and Get it Right in Israel, both aimed at creating a relationship between ESRA and the younger generation of English speakers, as well as new Olim. We are prioritizing the placement of new volunteers in influential positions within the organization, encouraging them to be involved and fall in love with ESRA as we have done. It is our policy for the future and a clear responsibility.
Finally, I wish all the members of the newly elected Executive a successful and enjoyable year, with ESRA continuing to go from strength to strength.