The HaNoar HaOved youth movement branch in the northern city of Migdal HaEmek flourished this year thanks to some very meaningful visitors.
This year, participants at the HaNoar HaOved youth movement branch in Midgal HaEmek had an amazing opportunity to get to know Jewish communities from around the world while learning English! The branch flourished through this unique programming, which was organized by gap year participants from Habonim Dror, who spent part of their program volunteering in the city.
HaNoar HaOved has long been the “sister movement” of Habonim Dror, a Zionist youth movement which operates in over 20 countries throughout the world. For many years, participants on Habonim Dror’s gap year programs in Israel have volunteered as educators in HaNoar HaOved’s branches. In addition to bringing skills and pedagogy from their home movements, they are also uniquely able to provide fun and engaging English language support, which is in high demand throughout Israel. Having a solid grasp of English is crucial for students, especially those from underprivileged areas, as it is necessary in order to receive their full matriculation certificate and serves as a major factor in future social mobility.
Deb Secular, the branch’s director and an olah from Habonim Dror North America herself, shared that she “found that there was a big need for English support in schools. Everywhere we went people really wanted help with English.” She realized how impactful help from the gap year participants could be for local kids.
So, from November through May, North American gap year participants from Habonim Dror created connections with several schools and started running an English club once a week after school which drew quite a crowd.
When their program ended in the summer, 8 Australian Habonim Dror gap year participants took their place and they recruited in 2 more schools then ran a summer camp two days a week for a month.
During July and August, the branch ran English programming for over 50 kids from 3rd to 6th grade. Throughout the 8 meetings, kids came to learn English from the Australian volunteers, who turned the learning into fun and games. They shared dances and other uniquely Australian activities, like preparing “fairy bread.”
In addition, 15 kids from the branch spent a night at the youth movement’s campsite for an overnight camp. The camp’s activities were themed around the foundation of the youth movement and the campers enjoyed learning about Israel’s history through two days of fun activities, crafts and of course lots of costumes.
Deb explained that “the branch started the year with almost no regular participants and throughout the year grew to over 80, largely as a result of the amazing efforts of the gap year participants. Almost 50 new kids joined during the summer because of the English programming. ” She added that in September, the branch will open its year of programming in a newly renovated building and she is looking forward to the branch continuing to flourish.
Australian Habonim Dror participant, Aimee Ott, said of the experience “being given the opportunity to volunteer in Migdal HaEmek was one of the greatest gifts possible. It has been absolutely amazing being able to create meaningful bonds with the kids of Migdal HaEmek through the primary and high schools and the youth movement branch itself. We made meaningful relationships with the participants who we didn’t realise we held so close to our hearts until it sank in that we weren’t returning to the branch. It has been the most enriching experience and we are and will continue to be forever grateful for it.”