My name is Raquel Ware and I grew up in South Africa. After graduating high school, I got an opportunity to move to Australia where I earned my BA and MA degrees and I now work for an award-winning advertising agency in Sydney.
Like many young adults in their early 20's, I want to change the world. So, towards the end of last year (2019), with two weeks of work vacation approaching, I decided to use it to do volunteer education work for WIZO, an organization whose values reflect my own, and whose projects spoke to my heart.
I flew to Israel where I was assigned to volunteer at the after-school tutoring center at WIZO Pardes Katz (located between Bnei Barak and Ramat Gan); a program generously supported by WIZO Denmark and run by Racheli Mangoli, the iconic chairperson of WIZO Pardes Katz who established the center in 2006.
I vividly remember my first day at the center. At 3:30 pm the door swung open and the kids came running in smiling and hugging one another. Their body language alone communicated that they were happy to be in this safe space and excited to get to know me. From that moment on, every day with the kids was incredible since they were eager to learn and assist one another in doing so. Friendships with me were formed from the get-go. It was evident that regardless of our different upbringings, our heritage and quest for knowledge united us.
Together we did English homework and learned about our different communities. Contrary to my initial concerns, my weak Hebrew proved to be inspirational to the kids. They realized that even as an adult, I too was still learning and made mistakes. Moreover, it was uplifting to see how the children's parents also benefited from the support provided by the WIZO Pardes Katz center. Without a doubt, these facilities have changed the lives of many Ethiopian immigrants to Israel. The appreciation from the kids and their parents was heart-warming, making it an environment where you want to keep on giving. And thanks to WIZO and its generous donors and the centers dedicated volunteers, the facilities have whiteboards, maps, colourful stationary, textbooks and snacks to keep the kids engaged. For me, being actively involved, even for just a short period, was a delightful experience. Every minute spent with the kids, young adults and parents was transformed into something of infinite value.
As Jews, we owe it not only to the children of Israel but to ourselves to educate and empower others to live to their fullest potential. My visit enabled me to see firsthand how a generation of Ethiopian immigrant children were nurtured through the after-school program to become successful adults. This program is most worthy of your support whether as an educator, a donor or, in my instance, a humble, but very grateful volunteer.
Thank you WIZO Pardes Katz. I will be back!