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When Israel met Mumbai!

Tuesday, September 08, 2015
By Priyanka Bhatt

Somewhere in western Santacruz on a scorching afternoon in Mumbai, to most Mumbaikars it might seem like a bunch of foreigners preparing a garden, painting, or being surrounded by kids of municipal school. These are volunteers, from Israel, here to tell children of India the tales of their country and teach them to dream big. They are seen cleaning the garden and treating like it was their own, which is a beautiful sight in itself.

In  Israel, it is mandatory for the youth to go through military training- girls for two years and boys for three. After which, they head out for a vacation to explore the world. A group of about 20 young Israelis from the 'Fighters for Life' (FFL) organization from Israel, are in Mumbai for 10 days beginning August 31, 2015 to volunteer with a group of school children between 5 and 11 years of age. The volunteers in the FFL are between the ages of 20 to 25, from Israel. This volunteering is part of their trip to India. They are teaching the children of Hindi, Marathi, and Urdu medium municipal schools– English, basic math, music, the anatomy of the human body, self-defence, first aid, and hygiene. In addition to their workshops with the children, the volunteers also spend some time painting the compound wall of a local municipal school. They also created a mini basketball court for the little ones to play.

This is a joint initiative between the FFL and Triratna Prerana Mandal – a community organisation involved in sanitation, education and environmnetal awareness in the slum areas of Mumbai. This is the second year of this program in India, and the aim of these organisations is to try to continue the process of good work initiated last year with success. Gur Aryhe David, 25, is heading the group of backpackers who want to explore India, its culture and also give to the society. “We do not want to just tour the country, but also help the children. We teach them how to dream big, and set higher goals in life,” he said. FFL is so popular with the children, that they cannot wait for their workshops with them after school. Their enthusiasm is evident the moment they enter the little hall and want to begin the fun and games. Aditi, one of the kids present in the workshop, said that she wanted the backpackers to stay longer, “I love being here every evening,” she said.

Shiri, one of the volunteers feels elated to be in India. “I think that the kids are amazing, and we have started to bond with them. Initially, it was a little difficult because of language barriers, but now we love to teach and spend time with them,” she said. The volunteers are here without any financial support from any trusts and are entirely dedicated to make the place better.

The amount of dedication from these volunteers is so contagious, anyone who meets them would want to join them in their initiative. For them, giving is the best form of expressing themselves. “All of us love to come here. Not just the children, but we love the food, the culture and how warmly people welcome us. It is so refreshing that we want to come here each year,” Gur expressed. After volunteering in Mumbai, the group will split to various parts of India to travel and explore Indian culture.

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