For all that those in the volunteer sector trumpet their altruistic intentions, there can be no denying that there are selfish reasons involved in their activities as well. The feelings of achievement, satisfaction and self-respect after a day's employ in the service of others are addictive drugs - and I am as hooked as the next man. For the last six weeks, I have spent four hours a day volunteering at Akim Jerusalem, an organization for mentally disabled adults, which has three residential homes in the heart of Talpiot. In the building where I work, Beit Leo, there are more than 30 residents, all of whom are likely to spend a large part of their lives under its roof in the care of the dedicated staff who tend to their every need. The day begins late for the volunteers, since the residents spend their mornings working at factories and institutions around Jerusalem, not returning to Beit Leo until around 3 p.m. By the time they've come home, eaten and showered, they are in the mood for more pleasurable activities than those they've performed at work - and that's where the counselors and volunteers come in. From painting to gardening to soccer, the home organizes a wide range of activities on a daily basis, all of which are gleefully received by those taking part. The sheer delight with which the residents take part in their chosen pursuits is palpable, and makes the organizers' efforts thoroughly rewarding. Thanks to my British, soccer-soaked roots, I usually find myself down on an asphalt pitch with three or four eager players, whose sole aim for the duration of the session is to recreate the goals of their Betar heroes up the road at Teddy Stadium. Shots are fired at me with machine-gun rapidity as I stand between the goalposts, and the triumphant celebrations when my defenses are breached resonate throughout the Talpiot streets. Meanwhile, others sit in the shade of Beit Leo's back garden, fashioning clay models or painting scenic pictures, under the watchful gaze of their counselors. The counselors work tirelessly to keep the residents both entertained and behaving appropriately - which is not always easy given the inevitable friction that results from sharing a home with so many others. Despite the occasional fights, there is an underlying, deep love for one another among the residents, all of whom recognize one another's individual ailments and are quick to come to their aid if a situation requires it. At the same time, they took kindly to my sub-par Hebrew, affording me far more tolerance with my speech than many of my more able-minded compatriots ever have. The residents adore each and every one of their counselors and volunteers, lapping up the attention bestowed on them and the chance to unload any problems they encounter. To that end, a resident will often ask to be taken for a stroll outside the confines of Beit Leo, which offers some privacy to speak one-on-one. These are often the most rewarding times for whoever is walking with them, since it provides an opportunity to advise and encourage their charge in dealing with the issue at hand. The residents are all expected to participate in preparing dinner, as well as in cleaning the building and tending to the gardens outside. In this way, they learn the importance of responsibility for more than just themselves - an invaluable tool for people who, by no fault of their own, have spent much of their lives on the receiving end of treatment, rather than having to take care of others. Since many of them have the mental age of pre-teens, teaching them these skills is akin to the act of parents imbuing values into their children in preparation for adulthood. However, for many of the residents, adulthood is a state of mind that they will never truly attain. There is no cure for their ailments, and working with them is more about helping them to get through each day as comfortably as possible rather than hoping to make some miraculous breakthrough. This is one of the hardest aspects of working with such individuals - the feeling can creep in that all the work is futile, and that there is no light in sight at the end of the tunnel. But when a man clad in a Betar shirt wheels away in delight having put another shot past the hapless English goalkeeper, or a woman proudly displays the ceramic chicken she's spent the last hour molding, the realization dawns that these simple pleasures are what it's all about, and why it's all worthwhile. Which is why the counselors are so proud of their work, and the volunteers too. Just to have seen the residents through another day where they feel a sense of achievement and self-respect is worth its weight in gold to all involved. And that's the drug that keeps us coming back day after day.

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