Jewish volunteers from all over the world help create sustainable projects in developing countries.
(photo credit: COURTESY PROJECT TEN)
The Jewish Agency’s Project TEN brings together Jewish volunteers from all over the world to create sustainable projects in vulnerable developing countries. Embodying the spirit of tikkun olam, it also enables the young adult volunteers to explore what it means to be a Jewish activist.
Project TEN operates in Mexico, Ethiopia and Ghana. It concentrates its work in the following fields: Informal education – English, computer skills, youth movements, leadership skills; Public health – teaching basic first aid, hygiene, dental health; Agriculture – environmental education in schools, demonstration farms, helping to create sustainable local agriculture.
Daniel Ascheim, director of marketing and public relations for Project TEN, explains that 70% of the volunteers’ time is used for the actual work, and 30% is spent learning Jewish values and understanding why it is important for Jews to be involved in this work.
In the four years since it was established, Project TEN has involved 930 young Jews between the ages of 19 and 35 in its projects.
Volunteers Project TEN participants can volunteer for almost any length of time, from one week to one year.
Those who go for a short time work on a particular project don’t get to meet or interact much with the local population. Project TEN workers ensure that the local population is not inconvenienced by the changing volunteer groups, and each new group continues where the last one left off, so there is continuity in the work that is being done.
Involving the local population Ascheim explains how important it is to discuss what you are doing with the local population and not just impose what you’re sure are wonderful improvements.
On a project in Ethiopia, he discovered that the women in a certain village were walking 30 to 40 kilometers every day to get water and bring it back to the village. So Project TEN workers dug three wells in the village so the women could get water near their homes, assuming this would greatly improve their lives.
“But we noticed that these wells were being used less and less each day,” says Ascheim. “So we went to the village elders and asked why, what was wrong with the wells.
The elders said, ‘What should our women do now every day? You have broken hundreds of years of tradition,’” he recounts.
“We learned that not everything that we think is great is good for the local population. We must consult with them and make changes slowly,” he says.Project TEN in Israel
For volunteers who want to work within Israel, there is a Project TEN center in Kibbutz Harduf in the North. It supports the local population’s needs and helps develop Jewish-Arab coexistence.
The volunteers work together on educational and agricultural projects, and they learn Arabic and Hebrew, which is essential for understanding and coexistence.
There is an amphitheater in the middle of the Harduf Forest, and the local Beduin high-school students from nearby villages are encouraged to participate in dialogues and theater studies.
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