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From Refugees to Junior Counselors

Updated: Aug 4, 2022

70 Ukrainian refugees joined the hundreds of other 9th graders who took part in HaNoar HaOved’s youth counselor training seminar last week.

The yearly leadership seminar, which took place over the course of 8 days in the youth movement’s rural Kfar haChoresh campsite, is an opportunity for teens from all over the country to learn the skills they’ll need to be junior counselors in their local branches.

In addition to meeting new friends, going on hikes and having lots of crazy fun, participants learn pedagogical and social tools and understand the importance of being leaders in their communities. Teens leave the camp with a new understanding of their ability to make a change in the world.

Making friends and memories at camp

For 70 Ukrainian 15 year-olds, this was one of their first experiences since arriving to Israel. After an arduous and harrowing escape from the war zone in Ukraine and journey to Israel, the teens were searching for a safe, fun and meaningful place to begin their summer. The seminar offered them a chance to not only have fun and make friends, but also an empowering opportunity to choose to lead other youth in their communities and make an impact on Israeli society.

The usual program was adapted to suit the needs of the refugee teens. In groups mixed with native-born Israelis, they were led by Russian and Ukrainian speaking counselors who translated and tailored the activities to make the whole seminar more relevant and accessible to the new arrivals. They also gathered for special activities with a focus on Hebrew language learning and acquaintance with Israeli culture.

Ukrainians and native Israelis camped out together for 8 days.

The native Israeli participants in the seminar gained a new, in-depth understanding of the experiences, challenges and strengths of the newly arrived refugees. This had a deep impact on them and will help them to adapt their local programming to accommodate Ukrainian kids in their communities.

Iliya, one of the Ukrainian participants, took to the stage at the seminar’s closing ceremony to share about his experience, with the help of a friend translating:

“My name is Iliya and I am a new immigrant from Nikolaev. I feel lucky that I was able to come to this camp. I want to wholeheartedly thank all of the staff and counselors for all of their support and understanding. Friends, you’re all the best. I really hope to return to this camp again.”

Iliya and his friends received leadership certificates!

This seminar marks the beginning of HaNoar HaOved’s summer programming, which includes day camps and overnight camps for 10-18 year olds which will continue through August. All of this summer’s programming will be adapted and made accessible to Ukrainian refugee children.

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