Way better than I thought
It all started with a friend mentioning that there are volunteer opportunities in Israel. When I found ALEH through VOIS and first got an email from Simon from Jerusalem Israel! I was so excited to have received an email from such a city with such ancient biblical history. Also it felt a bit strange to Skype with someone from such an ancient city were camels and donkeys roamed the streets in ancient times.The journey to get my volunteer visa, at first was a bit overwhelming, but Simon assured me and made it very easy and clear. He helped me step by step through the process. Which was not difficult. The timing of receiving my visa was divinely inspired. Because I bought my ticket in faith before I got approved. Also my temporary job that I had, the contract expired three days before I left for Israel. So I truly believe in Devine intervention; the door to go to Israel opened at just the right time. I don’t believe in coincidence.
When I first came to Israel I was a tourist with some old church friends from around the world. So I got to enjoy the beautiful sights and biblical archaeology. Which being a christian, really interested me. It was a lifelong dream for me to see the holy land. And I’m so happy and thankful for the experience. Now whenever I study the bible or hear a sermon at church or a hymn about a place in Israel, I can now say I’ve been there! Or I now have a real picture in my mind of what it really looks like.
But I didn’t realize until I actually started volunteering at ALEH that it was going to be way better than I thought!
But as much as a blessing as going to all those amazing sights and biblical archaeological sites. My experience coming to ALEH tops all of them combined! I honestly thought going to help the disabled residents of ALEH would be a nice thing to do. But I didn’t realize until I actually started volunteering at ALEH that it was going to be WAY BETTER THAN I THOUGHT! The first day I got there, I was a bit nervous as at any new place. But the staff and caregivers assured me and made my transition and my first few days very easy. Peter Paul is a great trainer, as is Borris, I was able to speak to Borris a bit in Polish which was fun. Nathan’s peaceful happy attitude and love for the residents, really was a great example to me I truly believe he should really be recognized, for his genuine love and care of the residents, he became like a brother to me while there. He spoke very good English so we were able to communicate very well. Suzie spoke Spanish which I also speak. It was nice to be able to communicate with her. She was like a genuine mother to the residents. Yet very professional. Cece the house mother was amazing. I asked her if she can adopt me as her house mother while I was in Israel. She said the more the better! Her professional yet positive loving motherly care is one to be recognized.
After a week as I got to know the personality of the residents. It was then that I realized just how much I loved volunteering at ALEH. I worked in house 15 its an all boys/mens home. I learned just how precious it is to work with these residents, yes they all have unique disabilities, and challenges in life. But we become instant best of friends and I didn’t just feel like we were friends but family.
Now I went to ALEH thinking that I would be a blessing to the residents. And yes I believe I was. But the longer I volunteered there the more I realized that they were more of a blessing to me, than I was to them. A few examples.
Borris is a resident in house 15 he is wheelchair bound and cant eat on his own. But he likes to get outside to get some fresh air. Being a hot summer I was only allowed to take him out for short strolls. But on those walks to the pond or waterfall I saw just how much he enjoyed watching the simple flowers or butterflies or leaves blowing in the beautiful Israel summer breeze. I learned through Borris how to enjoy the beautiful simple things in life.
Then there is Alon, who loves when the one who helps him eat sings to him. And just how excited he would get to hear me sing to him. Now I sure don’t have a good singing voice. But Alon sure thought I did. He helped me overcome my self conscious shyness and just have fun. I never really danced in my life. But dancing with the residents just made their day. And as I learned to let go of my fears and just have fun I learned to have more simple genuine fun in life.
There’s Shy who is also wheelchair bound. Be he has the most joyous smile. There’s Chen who sometimes would only want me to assist him at mealtime. He helped me feel good knowing that he was my friend and he liked my companionship. His genuine smile will be one I will never forget. There’s Ira. Who faces many difficult health challenges daily. At first I never saw him smile. Then one-day at mealtime as I was assisting him. I decided to play some music from my phones music playlist. He started smiling like I never saw him smile before. His smile made my day! There’s Raz who is wheelchair bound and has a very difficult time using his arms and hands. But one day I was spending time with him. Suddenly he slowly slowly reached over and just gently grabbed and held my hand for a long time. It was such a special moment for me. And the joy on his face though he has so many difficult challenges, his joy, will be my example to follow when I face difficult challenges in my life. Back here in San Diego California life can be hectic and stressful and challenging. But when life gets tough I remember that smile and simple genuine joy on Raz’s face. Lior became an instant brother to me. There are so many more residents of who I believe GOD used to bless me with and help me to be a better person.
Not only me, but as I talked with the other volunteers and as we exchanged funny stories. We all agreed just how much of a blessing it is to be with the residents. I met many bene sherutz and shinshins many who served at ALEH for a year or two. Many said “I am such a different person than who I was when I first came to ALEH” I feel the same way. It is my hope and prayer to come back to ALEH in the future if the Lord opens up the way. To come back to ALEH for a year. I also hope this short essay will encourage others to join the ALEH family. Whether by becoming a volunteer, or through regular financial donations. Or how ever you feel led to help. ALEH is truly a special place.
Sincerely Lazarus Stefko
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