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“Save the Best for Last”

May 27, 2015

Three weeks into the Mashav program, I must say that I have truly been enamored by the great lengths that Israel does to take care of her people, especially the disadvantaged youth. Schools, government agencies, NGOs, and even private businesses all collaborate to bring out the best even among their most troubled kids. We have been to places where we saw first-hand how young people’s lives are literally transferred from darkness to light.


One such place of transformation was “Kedma,” where I interviewed a student about what he thought was most unique about Kedma, to which he remarked, “They care about you. They really care about you.” World-renowned educator Prof. Bar Shalom explained that this “real care” is translated into concrete action including, among others: teachers spending extra hours for private lessons with struggling students; classes being taught using a cognitive behavioral framework (yes, teachers here use a lot of psychology); doing dialogue exercises on real issues like poverty, migrant-refugee families, etc; and even bravely rewriting “another history” to help students come to terms with their identity/ cultural issues. As a psychologist, I realized how reframing social schemas—especially so in the area of pedagogy—can sometimes be the key to unlocking students’ limitless potentials.


Another major highlight was our session with someone I’ll call “The Lifeguard’s Lifeguard,” Dr. Ariela Bairey ben Ishay. Oh, how we wished we could spend more than just 4 hours with her! I felt so refreshed and renewed after she imparted this nugget of wisdom: “Taking care of yourself is not self-indulgence” (Audre Lourde). Up to this point of the course, everything we’ve learned has been about how to better serve our youth clientele… or how to further make a difference in the organizations we worked for… or how to become more effective as professionals. And, yes, I will surely bring all these with me. But above all that I have so far learned, I found our time with Ariela most affirming because we also patiently took the time to assess ourselves, listen to our own concerns, discuss real work issues, and use practical strategies to keep ourselves going in the “life-saving business” we all find ourselves in. And I realize, what a precious experience it truly is when people just listen to you as you open and pour your heart out. This is the precious gift we give our youth—and this, too, was the very gift we experienced with Ariela—something which we don’t really often receive. And for this alone, I am truly very grateful… Because I will go back with a renewed strength and vigor—not just for work, but for life in general.


Many people say that we always “save the best for last.” But if this was how our second-to-the-last week looked, I can’t hardly wait for what else is in store for us as we end in the next few days. Thank you, Damian (and the whole A. Ofri Centre team), for this gift!

By Florence T. Ladion (Philippines)