Tikkun Olam – social justice, helping others – is an important learning element at Yemin Orde’s gap year leadership program for immigrant young men (mechina in Hebrew). Participants engage in weekly community service projects which, in turn, leads to greater compassion for those in need as well as provides a boost to their self-esteem and leadership skills.
Volunteer opportunities include helping at an absorption center for new immigrants to Israel, spending time at an afternoon program for youth at-risk and helping at an after-school center for young children in the local community of Hatzor.
Yemin Orde’s Gap Year Leadership Programs for Immigrant Men and Women (called IsraElite) are the only such programs in Israel specifically designed to meet the unique needs of marginalized at-risk youth. Additionally, these programs operate under the auspices of Village Way Educational Initiatives and are supported through private philanthropy.
Healing ourselves through social justice
The men’s mechina educators say that they see a marked improvement in the attitude of participants after they begin to volunteer. Many of the mechina’s young men are from underserved communities in Israel and continue to struggle with language and cultural difficulties. As a volunteer, participants feel empowered and begin to see themselves and their role in society in a more positive light.
“Our Tikkun Olam program is also impacting their home life,” said a mechina instructor. “They help more around the house and want to give more time and attention to their families. We also see that they are engaging in less dangerous habits. The responsibilities and independence they receive at the mechina gives them so much confidence in themselves.”
Another important part of the Tikkun Olam program is the feedback and guidance the participants receive in meetings with their group leaders. Throughout the year, participants have one-on-one meetings to define their personal goals and outline specific steps to achieve these goals.
“The mechina gives us support,” said Osher, a participant from Rehovot. “The one-on-one conversations give us so much help. You get to really see your personal development lined up for you. It is like a mirror. I know that the staff is really here for me and that they have my back.”