SELA mobilizes volunteers [pg.9]

SELAH, Israel's largest volunteer network working with new immigrants in crisis, has activated its 650 volunteers to provide assistance to people in northern Israel facing emergencies as a result of the missile attacks. "Our volunteers are very hands-on," SELAH executive director Ruth Bar-On told The Jerusalem Post. She described how SELAH volunteers, individuals and professionals who work pro bono to help others, provided follow-up services to the families of the eight Israel Railways workers who were killed Sunday, and to the family of Andre Zilensky who was killed by a Katyusha rocket in Nahariya on Tuesday. "The Social Affairs Ministry and the National Insurance Institute provide a certain level of support," continued Bar-On, "but we go in after they have left. We go in the evenings and in the days after everyone has forgotten about the individual." "Even when this crisis is no longer in a hot news item, these families will need help," she said. According to Bar-On, in the past few days SELAH volunteers - some from the North and others who've left the safety of their homes in the center of the country to help out - have provided safe refuge for many of the elderly and disabled who could not realistically reach the public shelters. SELAH has also sent out volunteers who speak Amharic, Russian and other languages to those who need help understanding what is going on. "We help those who usually fall between the cracks," said Bar-On, who started SELAH back in 1993. "We have volunteers of all backgrounds and all ages." Bar On said that many of the people the organization has helped in the past, such as victims of terrorist attacks or those who have lost family members through the ongoing violence, have now become volunteers themselves. She said that one of SELAH's most active volunteers is a young woman who was wounded in a terrorist attack in Afula 11 years ago. However, despite the overwhelming response of volunteers, Bar-On said that the organization still needed as many helping hands as possible. Those interested in volunteering in any way should call the SELAH office: (03) 510-7750.