High fives for Project TEN in uplifting communities
She chose to be a part of Project TEN because, she says, “I was told all about South Africa – the inequality, the differences between the rich and the poor and we are trying to do it right in the spirit of tikkun olam”.
“What I like about the project is that it gives Jewish values and, we, in turn, can learn.”
Ani is one of the enthusiastic Project TEN volunteers in Durban, who will be concentrating initially on informal education.
Through the concept of tikkun olam (changing the world for the better), Project TEN operates in Oaxaca, Mexico; Gondar, Ethiopia; Winneba, Ghana; Namulanda, Uganda; Kibbutz Harduf, Israel; and now has its second contingent of volunteers in Durban.
Volunteers are in the 25-35 age group and come here for one, three or five months to promote sustainability and to initiate projects in three fields: informal education; public health and agriculture. At the same time, Project TEN fulfils the object of teaching Jewish leadership on the ground.
Natan Sharansky, chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel, told Project TEN organisers and participants in Durban last week that their work fitted perfectly into the Jewish Agency’s mission of building Jewish identity, fulfilling (Theodor) Herzl’s vision to be a partner in African emancipation and was the “perfect antidote to the disgraceful Racism Conference (in Durban) of 2001” which was aimed at delegitimising Israel and accelerated anti-Semitism.
“It empowers young Jewish adults both from Israel and the Diaspora to create change in vulnerable communities,” he said.
Micaela Browde, director of Project TEN, says: “Our long-term objectives in the field of education include leadership, academic success resulting in passing high school and being able to attend university through an exemption pass. This gives increased access to information and employment opportunities.
“We are currently working with a number of local NGOs in the field of education.”
The Durban projects include a school in Amaoti, an informal settlement in Durban North, where the volunteers are working towards establishing a youth movement. “The youth movement will follow a syllabus, teaching about community, responsibility, local heroes and personal strengths, among other things. Eventually, we aim for the youth to run this movement themselves.”
Tumaini, the second project, is a new and under-resourced community centre, which works with the local refugee youth, especially from Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. “We will also be running a women’s group, where they will come together weekly and work with our volunteers,” says Browde.
“In the long term, we hope to create a museum and information centre, where people who have recently fled their own countries for South Africa, will be able to meet others and gain information about important services in this country.
“Lastly, we aim to set up a computer lab and work with the women and youth on computer skills that could aid in employment opportunities.”
Project TEN also works with I Care – an NGO that works with street children. “The organisation works with young boys who have left their homes for various reasons and are living instead on the streets – begging for money and addicted to drugs.” The NGO starts with an outreach stage and moves on to the 12-step programme that treats drug addiction.
Ani is one of nine people in the Durban group made up of three men and six women volunteers.
Maor Kol (24) has been travelling the world since completing his army service three years ago.
He hails from Netanya and – like Ani – is planning to got to medical school on his return. “There are many ways in which Israel can help. I am very impressed with I Care, which has good results, Kol said. “I aim to make a difference,” he said.
Sharansky said that two cities, Entebbe in Uganda and Durban, resonated with him personally. “The Entebbe mission symbolised Jewish freedom for me.” A former Soviet Refusenik, Sharansky said when the Soviets came to arrest him there was a picture of Yonatan Netanyahu (commander of the Entebbe raid) on his wall.
To all the anti-Israel and anti-Semitic actions, “Project TEN is the perfect antidote as a response.”