BGU students help South face crisis

Although classes have been suspended, some stay behind to volunteer.

ben gurion uni 298.88 (photo credit: Dan Machlis)
ben gurion uni 298.88
(photo credit: Dan Machlis)
Although classes have been suspended at Beersheba's Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU), some students and faculty members have remained in the area to do volunteer work with children and other residents. Ilan Kalgrad, coordinator of the Open Apartments Project of BGU's community action unit, said students received training on how to speak to frightened children, calm neighbors and otherwise help residents find the nearest bomb shelter or safe room. "The students live in the older and socio-economically weaker neighborhoods," Kalgrad said. "They set an example all year round, but especially now, their presence is even more important." Kalgrad said students had helped neighbors open and clean local bomb shelters, while others went door to door, talking to residents and allaying their fears. "The students became the address for inquiries and questions, giving advice and helping residents with the city's hotline, the city council and other such matters," he said. In addition, BGU's student association has opened a "war room" and begun to recruit additional volunteers to help Beersheba residents. Meanwhile, some 250 BGU students are actively involved with the voluntary organization One Heart, which assigns them to numerous postings, including a traumatic stress recovery center, a soup kitchen, programs for youth at risk and the Soroka University Medical Center. Members of the university's Spitzer Department of Social Work, chaired by Prof. Lea Kacen, are manning a hotline for people suffering from stress and anxiety. An international conference on "Crisis as an Opportunity," which had been due to take place later this week at BGU, has been relocated to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. BGU has also opened a day-care service for the children of university employees and over 300 youngsters aged four to 12 have been registered. Meanwhile, the Hebrew University's authority for community and youth is doing its part by hosting young people from the South. About 100 eighth- and ninth-graders from Ashkelon, Sderot and Netivot are participating in a program designed to motivate and encourage middle school and high school pupils from outlying areas to further their educational prospects. During their stay in Jerusalem, the youngsters have participated in workshops at the Belmonte Science Laboratories for Youth on the Givat Ram campus and met members of the Israel Scouts movement, as well as pupils at Hebrew University High School. In Ashdod, Mayor Yehiel Lasry visited the city's Magen David Adom station on Monday to thank the staff and volunteers for their round-the-clock lifesaving work. MDA Director-General Eli Bin said an unprecedented 200 ambulances of all types were on duty in the South. All ambulance drivers and medics had trained in advance for massive rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip, he said.