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Student Orr Shines a Light

Orr Joffe (right) handing out a gift and a personal greeting

Photos: Ilana Dedik

The positive side of a crisis in Israel is that it brings out the good and very best in our communities. During the coronavirus crisis, thousands have volunteered their time, effort and resources to ensure that those in need are heard, their needs met and, hopefully, no one is left unattended. These efforts far outweigh the reports of negative anti-social behavior by those that the British call "Covidiots".

Within days of the crisis taking its firm grip on Israel's daily life, more than one million, almost 28% of the workforce, found themselves furloughed. For many of us that is a statistic, an unfortunate fall-out of the Covid-19 attack.

However, Orr Joffe, a student at Holon Institute of Technology (HIT), noticed that the cleaners of the college had disappeared, and she wondered as to their ability to cope with this sudden imposed unemployment. Unfortunately, cleaners are among the many manual workers who are transparent, unseen, with little or no rights and with few options for alternative work. Orr, armed with years of experience in the army and a short course in social enterprises, started to check out the cleaners' situation.

The time was just before Pesach and clearly there would be no holiday gifts for these workers who survive on minimum pay.  Orr got hold of their names and set to work. Using the social networking WhatsApp she sent a message to friends asking for help to purchase vouchers for 31, mainly Russian and Ethiopian, cleaners. Within two hours NIS 2,000 was already in the Pay Box account which Orr had opened to collect the funds donated. By the third day, over NIS 10,000 had been donated by 188 donors who heard of this effort.

Then began the logistics of distributing the vouchers. Obtaining the cleaners' phone numbers and addresses, Orr and her student friends contacted each one and asked how they were doing, and generally showed care and interest.Then they hand delivered vouchers of NIS 350, together with a personal greeting card written in either Amharic or Russian to each of the 31 workers. This all sounds so simple, but the logistics were cumbersome and challenging.Orr took it all in her stride. The transparent cleaners had become visible and the value of the vouchers was exceeded by their increased self-esteem as they suddenly became recognized and appreciated.

Orr, despite continuing with her online studies, didn't rest on her laurels. Due to special needs during the spread of the coronavirus, the commercial, government and nonprofit sectors have had to join forces and cooperate in order to be effective. This may seem common sense, but it is not a given that these three different worlds with varying agendas should come together, respecting each other's contribution so that they can produce positive outcomes.

Student Orr Joffe holding face shield clasps, printed on her 3D printer

Against this background, Orr was part of a joint effort of a nonprofit organization, TOM (Tikkun Olam Makers), and students of HIT's industrial design course. This joint initiative has so far produced more than 5,100 essential transparent face shields for health and care workers. As nations throughout the world seek PPE (personal protection equipment), the students found a solution much nearer to home.

The HIT industrial designers of tomorrow used their personal 3D printers at home non-stop to produce these shields that not only provide protection but allow for greater communication, and for that much needed reassuring smile from a nurse to be seen.

Clearly, the logistics of such a project were many, from accessing and distributing materials, coordination between the students at home, standards control, deliveries to hospitals, elderly care homes, kindergartens and special education schools.

Central to the efficient organization of this project is Orr Joffe from ESRA's extended family. Orr, a third-year industrial design student, is no stranger to community involvement and to taking leadership roles. Whether as a youngster helping out at ESRA events, going over and above her various military roles in the IDF, continuing to serve in reserve duty, or activism as a student, Orr has reflected her commitment to Israel and our often-challenged community. All this she does with modesty and humility.Orr, especially, demonstrates how paying attention to the people around you is not something we all do.However, when we do, the benefits for our entire community are multifold.

What I find inspiring in this story is that these students demonstrated how their skills and ability to problem-solve have been turned toward the common good, improving conditions of work for many, impacting patients and their families and, for the students themselves, a creative and valuable way of volunteering. These experiences will carry them forward in their professional futures when they can recall the real value of cooperation between the three sectors in our society. This bodes well for the future of corporate social responsibility.

To all those who have volunteered, used their professional know-how, given their time and shared a thought for others, and especially to Orr and the students of HIT, thank you.

 

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Thursday, 24 September 2020

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