Tell us a little about Livnot.
Laurie: Livnot is an Israel Experience Program for young Jewish adults aged 21 – 30. The programs range from one week to four weeks and involve participants in a wide range of volunteering experiences in the city (Tzfat, a northern Israeli community). Volunteer work includes renovating homes of elderly and disabled residents, environmental projects, working in the educational facilities of the city, helping in soup kitchens and clothing banks, visiting the Old Age home and the children’s ward of the hospital, assisting the municipality, organizing projects at the Absorption Center for new Ethiopian immigrants and more.
The volunteer component of Livnot allows the program to accept individual volunteers as well. Although Livnot cannot guarantee campus facilities for individual volunteers, due to regularly-scheduled programs, it can offer to coordinate an individual’s volunteering in both Tzfat and Jerusalem.
How did you get involved in the volunteer industry?
Laurie: The Livnot program began in 1980 when participants came to Tzfat to dig out the 500-year-old homes and buildings of 16th century Tzfat. These rooms have become the dorm rooms of the campus and further excavations are continuing, in which volunteers participate.
During this period, the municipality and other social service organizations in the city began to turn to Livnot whenever there was a need for assistance in the community. Slowly, the community service aspect of the program became an important aspect of the program.
What makes Livnot unique?
Laurie: Volunteering with Livnot is not solely an experience of working. The program stresses Jewish Service Learning, meaning that part of the volunteer experience includes learning about the Jewish traditions regarding charity, lovingkindness, community and responsibility.
In your experience, what characteristics make a good international volunteer?
Laurie: For Livnot, a good participant is one who is open to new experiences, ideas and activities. Livnot makes every effort to ensure that the volunteers enjoy their time at Livnot and try to create volunteer work which is meaningful and interesting.
If a volunteer is uncomfortable doing physical work, even though the other members of the group may be working together, Livnot will organize a non-physical activity (old age home, library) for the person who wants to try something different.
How do you ensure your programs are sustainable and mutually beneficial for you, the community, and the volunteers?
Laurie: Livnot works with a number of partner organizations and foundations which help to subsidize the program for the volunteers (which, for program participants, include room and board). The actually volunteer work that Livnot participants do is coordinated with local social services, welfare agencies, non-profits and municipal agencies.