The story of cooperation between WIZO and Bridges for Peace began a few years ago when Daniel, the coordinator for the organization in Jerusalem, himself a Christian American, made contact with Kobi Hillel, Director of WIZO Rebecca Sieff Center in Jerusalem. Daniel described the organization's goal: to help Christians from around the world become acquainted with Israel. During the initial conversation, Daniel and Kobi decided to organize an activity for Bridges for Peace volunteers at the WIZO center in Jerusalem, which houses a special education school, daycare center serving 300 children, as well as centers for the prevention and treatment of domestic violence and battered women.
Daniel and Kobi agreed that the group, numbering some dozens of young Christians from around the world, would visit the center and do some physical labor in the compound's park, as well as painting and maintenance work on various buildings. Before starting the work, the young men and women from abroad visited the center, listened to descriptions of its work for the families, women, youth and children of Jerusalem and were received warmly by several staff members.
The volunteers' work was a tremendous success. The idealistic young volunteers arrived early in the morning, were briefed on their responsibilities for the day, and then split up into several teams, each one with a specific task to accomplish. Outdoors in the park, under the fiercely hot summer sun, one group removed weeds, collected garbage and painted fences. Another group painted and decorated the walls of the daycare center and renovated benches.
Years have passed since that first, experimental day. Since then, every few months, a new group of Bridges for Peace volunteers arrives at the WIZO center in Jerusalem to be exposed to its ongoing contribution to Israeli society and to lend a helping hand. Last year a small delegation drew and painted delightful decorations on the walls of children's activity rooms. Among the ranks of another group that arrived a few months ago were several construction professionals. They arrived just in time to play a central role in building a shaded outdoor terrace for the enjoyment of the high school students and daycare children.
Every group of volunteers receives special attention. Daniel, the coordinator, does the necessary planning and organization ahead of time to make sure that each experience is as seamless as possible. WIZO does its best to express to the visitors the importance of WIZO's history, role and place in the fabric of Jerusalem and the welfare of its citizens. As much as possible, WIZO center administration facilitates meetings between volunteers and the children and adults who benefit from their work.
Over the years, there have been several individual volunteers who have returned to WIZO Rebecca Sieff Center several times, reflecting their passion for WIZO and Israel in general.
"Thanks to the dedicated volunteering we've been able to accomplish a lot at the center," says director Kobi Hillel. "More than that, these visits allow us to show the beautiful side of WIZO and Israel, to show WIZO's impressive social activism to people from around the world and create ambassadors for Israel."