Volunteering - Together We Can!
"Volunteers do not necessarily have the time; they just have the heart." – Elizabeth Andrew
The United Nations has declared Sunday 5th December 2021 as International Volunteer Day. Volunteers in all corners of the globe will be thanked for their impact on their communities, particularly in light of the challenges during the pandemic.
Appropriately, ESRA has chosen that date to celebrate our own fabulous volunteers and the work they do so modestly, impacting our children, our communities and our country. "Volunteering together for the Community" is ESRA's slogan and as such, volunteering is truly a part of our DNA. I am therefore happy to dedicate the whole of this column to a celebration of our own truly amazing volunteers.
ESRA's English Tutoring Program (ETP) involves the largest number of volunteers. After being decimated by Corona, it took on a new persona and completely transformed itself. There are now three areas where ESRA operates in close cooperation with Israel's Ministry of Education:
ETP involves tutors working hand in hand with English teachers during school hours to help their pupils. This is either on an individual online basis or, now that we are returning to the previous "normal", actually entering schools and assisting teachers by tutoring small groups of children.
During the height of the pandemic, a wonderful team of retired professionals reinvented the whole concept of tutoring in Israel and developed Chat Away. This is an after-school Zoom-based program where tutors enhance the spoken English of schoolchildren all over the country. With Zoom, distance presents no limitation, so that a tutor in Haifa can be assisting a student in Beer Sheva. We quickly realized the vastness of such possibilities and developed it internationally. ESRA now has tutors in the UK, USA, Australia and Argentina tutoring Israeli kids on a regular basis.
Quick to pick up on ESRA's initiatives, the Ministry of Education encouraged us to develop a further new program, Teacher Chat. This engages Israel's English teachers, whose mother tongue is not English, in regular conversations with a native English speaker, giving them the opportunity to practice and improve their verbal skills, which they otherwise rarely have. The Ministry recently promoted Teacher Chat, circulating information among their teachers. ESRA was astonished to receive 640 applications from teachers all over the country and from every sector of society.
All three of these projects are up and running, involving more than 950 volunteers, and the number is growing daily, establishing ESRA volunteers as Israel's major force in English tutoring. For anyone interested in joining, ESRA provides training, so no previous teaching experience is required. All that's needed is your English and your time, as little as one hour per week.
Another area of volunteer activity is in the production and distribution of your ESRAmagazine. First published in May 1979, you are currently reading edition number 211. All contributors, as well as members of the editorial board, are volunteers. Layout and printing by paid professionals is the single exception. Even much of the distribution is done by a large team of volunteers. This saves ESRA thousands of Shekels in postage for each edition, freeing up funds to be utilized instead on furthering our Education and Welfare projects for the benefit of disadvantaged individuals and families.
ESRA has many more volunteers who are involved in a range of activities. All ESRA's management committees, whether in the branches or the Herzliya office, are composed of volunteers. It is their regular commitment that keeps the whole organization ticking and enables us to work with a very small but effective staff, keeping overheads exceptionally low. The ESRA office could not cope without its team of volunteers augmenting the staff and involved in every aspect of activity. They answer the phones and deal with all types of questions relating to booking of events. They remind members to renew their membership and register your generous donations.
I am continually praising ESRA's Education and Welfare projects, and here again it is wonderful and completely dedicated volunteers who are leading the way. ESRA's flagship project, Students Build a Community, has been achieving substantial success for more than 15 years and is now expanding into additional areas of the country where more and more volunteers are needed.
The Welfare Fund, run by volunteers, continues to offer nationwide financial support to families in times of crisis, while more than 50 volunteers are involved in our Befrienders and Counselling services, providing comfort and companionship to other English-speakers in need.
ESRA's nearly new shops and secondhand book shops are dependent on volunteers for their operation. We are currently investing a great deal of effort in the development of our nearly new shops, which will mean more volunteering opportunities coming up.
In conclusion I want to say a massive 'thank you' to every one of ESRA's hard-working volunteers. To quote Martin Luther King: "Life's most persistent and urgent question is, what are you doing for others?" ESRA members have the answer - it lies in the invaluable work you, our volunteers, contribute.