As you may know, I think that voolunteering abroad is one of the best ways of getting to know other countries and culture. Not only do you gain valuable experience but you also help local people and support local initiatives.
On the blog I’ve already published inspiring stories of people who volunteered abroad. Stories from different projects in different countries. Today I invited Arleta from zamieszkali.pl to share her story of volunteering in Israel. Together with her husband, she helped a local NGO in promotion. They also had to take care of a lovely villa by the sea 🙂
Sounds good? Go ahead and read Arleta’s story 🙂
If you’re interested in volunteering abroad yourself, check this post with practical tips.
Why did you decide to go volunteering in Israel?
Honestly, I have never thought of volunteering abroad. Maybe because I was already an adult, maybe because I have a ton of my own ideas and projects. I’d love to invite volunteers to help me with them myself!
However, in our everyday work we supported many non-profit organizations. We made free graphic designs, websites, we helped with social media marketing, we organized events and shared our knowledge. We did it as an addition to our every day work in interactive agency.
Due to that, we got to know many people and made connections which didn’t base on financial support. That’s how we got an offer of volunteering, Israel sounded fascinating.
The decision whether to go volunteering in Israel or not didn’t take me and my husband much time.
Back then we lived on Tenerife – we spent winter and spring there working remotely. We were wondering whether to prolong our stay for summer. That’s when we got an offer of volunteering in Israel. We made the decision within days, confirming our stay almost directly after Tenerife. On our way to Israel we paid a visit to our families in Poland. We haven’t seen them for over half a year.
Was the decision to go volunteering in Israel difficult?
No, we were happy to be able to spend three months there.
Obviously, we had our doubts caused especially by the political situation there and questions we were hearing.
Most people imagine Israel as dangerous, full of war where people die on every corner. The truth turned out to be different. The reality was surprising us from the moment we got off on Tel Aviv airport till the end of our stay.
How excatly did you get the volunteering offer?
As I mentioned before, the proposal didn’t come to us the standard way. It wasn’t an official volunteering for Israel program organized by a specific partner or organization.
However, I have a good news for the interested. There is a great volunteering program organized by Israeli government. You just need to send your application and wait.
There are many different options – different tasks, short and long stays. It is also an option where volunteers get small remuneration, their accommodation and meals are covered. Trips and hebrew lessons are available too.
For international readers, it is best to contact this cooperating organization directly via their website.
What were your daily tasks?
While volunteering in Israel, we designed a website and prepared promotional materials (graphic and video) for the fountation which invited us there, we also participated in their events.
We did the same as every day at work – just for free to help the foundation.
We supported their Internet activity, improved and modernized it, so that it meets current standards and expectations of the Internet users. This work took us up to 20 hours a week.
The second task on our volunteering in Israel was taking care of a villa located by the Mediterranean Sea, in Caesarea Maritima (between Tel Aviv and Haifa). Basically, the villa didn’t require anything else than living there – and hosting other volunteers or guests of the foundation. But most of them knew the place already so they didn’t need our help.
Except for the official part, we also participated in the foundation’s events. We had a BBQ with holocaust survivors, we heard their stories, often related to Poland or our eastern neighbors.
Did volunteering in Israel meet your expectations? What were the best moments?
The best part which makes me want to go back are people we met there. I understood Israel, something clicked. Warm sea, the warmest I’ve ever swam in. Smells and tastes, arabic coffee and spices, the best food in the world. Passion fruit and mango which I picked in the garden for my morning porridge. Fresh pomegeanate and juice you can buy on every corner.
Israel is an intense, lively country which gives you an opportunity to develop. Start-ups grow fast in Israel, contrary to what the TV shows you. Our best moments were when we traveled and visited the country, proving wrong one stereotype after the other. Our thoughts sometimes couldn’t keep up with what we were seeing.
Did you have worse, difficult moments?
Of course! As a foreigner visiting Israel for the first time, you don’t understand much. No matter if it was our first or last week, we had different moments.
During our volunteering in Israel we cooperated with international people – it’s normal there. We’ve experienced many culture shocks which required us to be flexible. On some days, languages mixed in my head to such extent, that I didn’t know which one I want to use and if my brain is going to understand anything today.
I was wondering whose hand I can shake and whose I can’t and if working in the office on a Saturday won’t offend anyone (shabbat). I didn’t know if Google maps leads me through a safe area or I am in danger. If the police which stopped us in Palestine will be friendly or not (in the mirror I see how one of them approached our car and the other has his gun ready… and we just wanted to take photos of camels). If the 19 year olds traveling with me on a train knew how to secure their gun properly before looking in their mobile phones to play games. Constant tension in strategic areas was tiring.
Many of these things were shocking. Luckily I know my way around a shooting range and I am not as scared when I see a gun, as an average person seeing them in movies only. If you go to Israel for a religious pilgrimage or an organized tour you won’t see it as clearly as if you live there for 3 months, using public transportation or a car to move around the whole country.
We went to Israel with a one way ticket because we didn’t know what to expect. We weren’t sure if we will be done with our work in a month or we will want to stay three months.
Eventually, we stayed three months, we left on the last day of our visa. Volunteering in Israel exceeded our expectations. We visited an amazing country, The Holy Land, we met extraordinary people who we could help in many ways. In return, we received much more. We lived and learned things we wouldn’t have experienced anywhere else. Until today we benefit from this cooperation and volunteering in Israel.
What were the costs of volunteering in Israel?
Our volunteering time wasn’t paid. It wasn’t an official program. We covered the cost of our flights, food and trips. In return for our work, we got an office where we could work, accommodation in the villa by the sea, a car (with fuel), invitations to events.
About the authors:
Hi, it’s Arleta and Rafał. We have an interactive agency and for 8 years we have been working remotely. We write a travel blog (in Polish) zamieszkali.pl where you can find guides and relations from our trips. You will also find out how it is to live in different parts of the world and how to achieve it. For 2,5 years we have traveled full time, stopping for a longer time in a few places. Today, we live in Silesia, southern Poland and we leave a few times a year for longer or shorter trips. In the meantime we both run. She paints, takes photos and makes posters, he develops his passion for onlive advertising and online courses.
If you liked this story, you think it is worth volunteering abroad and you’d like to try yourself, check the below practical post:
Check also other volunteering-related stories of bloggers and travelers:
- Volunteering in Latin America: What is it like to teach little niños of Guatemala?
- Unusual House Sitting On A Farm Of Alpacas In France.
- Volunteering in Kenya. How to help vulnerable children on a remote island on Lake Victoria?
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