At the moment, any person in Israel with a conscious and human values is caught up with the situation regarding this horrendous decision to deport African asylum seekers. There is a big public up-cry from many sectors of Israeli society and a lot has been said and written about the deportation; sending innocent people back to human trafficking, extreme violence, torture and possible death.
Honestly, the situation is so bad that it would be easy just to give up and sink into depression!!
However, at JACC, the reaction is just the opposite, so in this note, I am not going to talk only about the deportation and this cruel decision of our government. Instead, I want to talk about the one ray of hope in this situation. I want to talk about the amazing volunteers at JACC, and the wonderful university students who are working day and night to try and stop the deportation; on one hand by leading a public campaign against the deportation and on the other helping individuals deal with any bureaucratic loop that would allow them to gain time or be exempt from deportation. In addition, we keep on working with the whole Jerusalem asylum-seeker community, trying to answer their ever-growing needs.
JACC has a record breaking 160 volunteers at the moment, and many more on a waiting list, wanting to join, wanting to do something to help.
We are carrying on with our regular work; working with the children in the mentoring program and in the playgroup, starting a new learning center in February, teaching Hebrew and English to adults and children, teaching computer skills to adults and children, working in the psychosocial program (where we have many more requests for help than we can handle) and finally the advocacy rights program.
The advocacy rights program has become the center of our activities, as in additional to the regular attention to health, rights and status issues, we are helping members of the community;
All this and more is done by volunteers!!! There are so many amazing volunteers at JACC, that I can’t possibly mention anyone by name, so I will just give you a general overview of a few positions;
The coordinator of the mentoring program knows every child in the school system by name – can tell you who their parents are, their siblings and what are their difficulties. She is in contact with the municipal social worker, the teachers, the parents and the school principals. In addition, she arranges events for the children a few times a year and organizes the ‘preparation for first grade program.' She is also an active board member
The rights advocacy coordinator works an average of 30 hours a week (and much more at the moment) training and running the 9 program coordinators and about 60 volunteers that work in the rights advocacy department. In addition, she is in contact with and works in cooperation with all of the other organizations working in the field.
The English and Hebrew departments are of course also run by volunteers, who have managed to bring both departments to new heights with a maximum number of students, teacher training, new children’s programs in the English department and building a written curriculum for the Hebrew classes. The coordinators coordinators, in addition to managing everything, teach classes themselves.
Each volunteer working in the psychosocial program spends many hours weekly dealing with the deep problems of individuals and families, who, due to extreme trauma, are having difficulty coping with their lives. The volunteers help with whatever is needed in each individual case. Help can include finding doctors and psychiatrists, accompanying the person to doctor’s appointments, dealing with the authorities, delivering food parcels etc. etc.
I could go on and on, but I am sure you get the picture – people who give unselfishly of their time and energies in helping this tortured community. There is no financial reward here. Inn fact, there is often no reward at all! The only reward that these selfless volunteers seek is knowing that they have done their very best to try and help this community, who are trying to survive under impossible conditions.
I feel very privileged to work with these incredible people, who give me the strength and energy to carry on, against impossible odds, to work for the benefit of asylum seekers in Jerusalem.