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Why volunteering is good for you

Doron Bachar ... the most rewarding job

Recently I met the head of volunteering of Raanana municipality, Doron Bachar, at a meeting with ESRA's Director in our office in Herzliya. In a follow up meeting he discussed with me the opportunities for volunteering in the municipality and spoke about the advantages of being a volunteer.

"What brought you to your current position as head of the Volunteer Division in the Raanana municipality?" I asked.

"Well, I think that the spirit of volunteering is in my DNA. I have the desire to contribute to the community. So I don't consider my position as a job that I do from 08.00 till 16.00. Although it's not part of my job description, I go out to look for volunteering opportunities. I see it as a mission to make a difference in the community and in the lives of individual people. I have been doing this for the last four years, and although I have done many interesting things in my life, this has been the most rewarding."

"What have you brought to the position you are in?"

"I have brought with me my 'ani ma'amin'. Everyone who holds office should have an 'I believe' slogan and should try to implement it. Mine is that the person in the street is the one who can effect change, who can make a difference in the society in which s/he lives. Sometimes people think, 'Who am I? I am just one person. What can I do to make a better life for myself and for others?' But I can tell you. One person CAN make a difference.

I also love what I do. Sometimes I say that my title should be Head of Networking and not Head of the Volunteer Division because I have the ability to put A in touch with B - and then they work together to build something special. And because I'm curious by nature I look to see what other municipalities are doing in their volunteer programs, and if there's something I think will be good for Raanana I try to introduce it here. "

"According to the 2012 World Giving Index survey, Israel was ranked in the 84th place among 146 countries included in the index. How does Raanana rate in comparison to other municipalities?"

"This is very hard to measure because there are volunteers in many organizations and they are independent of the statistics we have in the municipality. There are 82,000 residents in Raanana, and I'd say that about 16 % of the population is involved in volunteering. This of course doesn't include people in synagogue support groups or the kind deeds done by one neighbor for another. People don't always recognize that this is also a kind of volunteering.

However, to ensure that volunteers are covered by National Insurance, it's important for them to make sure that their names appear on a volunteer list, either of the municipality or on a list of some other organization. Accidents happen, and you, Lola, need to know that if the ceiling in the coffee shop we're now sitting in suddenly caves in and falls on our heads, I, as an employee of the Raanana municipality, am covered by an insurance policy. But you too are covered by exactly the same policy because you are a volunteer, registered in the organization of ESRA."

"What volunteering opportunities are there in Raanana?"

"We have a very wide variety of volunteering opportunities. There is the Municipal Dog Kennels where I happen to volunteer every Sunday morning at 07.30. I used to be a photographer and I use this skill to photograph the dogs that are brought to the kennels. I then paste the photos on our Facebook page, and many dogs are adopted as a result of this.

We have a program called Bekol Ofan Rochvim (cycling in every mode) in which volunteers either ride bikes together with people with special needs or walk beside those who are riding a three wheeler bike.

We have three hostels in which we accommodate people with special needs who are over the age of 21. They live in these hostels, and after work they come back and volunteers work with them in many different activities. And then, of course, we have Yad Sara, Beit Levenstein and Beit Issie Shapiro where many volunteers help.

We have a program called Savta ve Saba Be Gan (Granny and Grandpa in the Nursery School) and this is a great program because the children have the extra attention from older residents who may not have grandchildren of their own to play with. Everyone benefits."

"I'm sure there are many English speaking residents in Raanana who would love to volunteer, but because they don't speak Hebrew they feel they are limited. What opportunities are there for English speaking residents in Raanana to contribute to your volunteering activities?"

"I'd say almost in everything. Most important is the ESRA English Tutoring Program in which English speaking residents help pupils with their spoken English. Mainly this is in preparation for their oral Bagrut examination, but I know there are volunteers who work closely with class teachers in lower grades too. Although they aren't teachers, they are native English speakers and I would like to see more volunteers and more schools participating in this wonderful opportunity for our pupils to talk in English and build their confidence.

Then there are many activities which don't need language, like riding a bike alongside a child with special needs or going for a walk with a resident in one of our hostels or playing chess with a resident in a retirement home.

And, as I told you, I'm open to any sort of new idea. A great example is ESRA's Let's Talk program which you want to start in Raanana. . This would be great for our community: Hebrew speakers matched with English speakers, one partner being able to practice speaking English whilst at the same time helping a new immigrant, and the other partner being able to learn some everyday Hebrew and meet a Sabra. A perfect win-win idea. I publicized the program on the volunteer page of the municipality and I'm thrilled to hear you've already had a good response.

So in answer to this important question, let me say to the English speaking residents of Raanana: Everyone is good at something. Perhaps you play squash or you're good with computers or would like to give a class in cooking? Contact ESRA and they will contact me and I'll do the networking.

But I have to tell you what I tell all my volunteers: The first time it's Hit-Nad-Voot. After that it's Me-Choo-Ya-Voot. (First time you volunteer. After that you have a commitment). But, of course, if things don't work out as planned, that's another story."

"I've heard the quote that 'Service to the community is the rent we pay for the space we occupy on earth'. What do you think could be done to encourage the spirit of volunteering?"

"I think the best way is for volunteers to talk about what they do. By word of mouth the idea can spread. We have a Facebook page which is regularly updated and also a newsletter which is sent out once a week to volunteers in Raanana. Then, of course, there is the program of volunteering which begins in school. If we are talking about attracting new volunteers we have to remember to acknowledge those we already have. Every month in the local paper, Kol Raanana, we publicize the winning 'Volunteer of the Month'. People like to see this and often it attracts others to join."

"Now and again new immigrants complain that often they don't know about special events taking place in the city because everything is only advertised in Hebrew. Can the municipality offer any help in this matter?"

Of course I don't have to tell you that, as with so many things, this is a question of money. We don't have the budget to deal with this. And although our website does have some English, it's not updated. But hey! Here's a great opportunity for someone to volunteer to translate stuff from our website into English."

"There has been quite a lot of research which shows that people who volunteer are happier and healthier than those who don't. Would you agree?"

"You've left the best question to the last. I'd say that absolutely, without a doubt this is true. A quick check on the Internet will confirm this fact. When people aren't just concerned with themselves all the time, when they can move out of their own closed environment and feel they can be of help to someone, there is a sense of satisfaction. When you know that you have made a contribution, even in the smallest way, it will make you happy. And happy people are healthy people.

In a word, volunteering is good for you."

Lola Katz is the Co-coordinator of the ESRA Volunteer Division. 

 

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Wednesday, 22 September 2021

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