I’m Jordana and I’m 17 years old. I am studying geography, biology and chemistry for A Level and hoping to study geography at university.
In February last year, I went to Moldova with World Jewish Relief to have a look at the projects they are running in the country and meeting some of the people they support.
The whole experience was so eye opening and it was truly devastating to learn that there is still such extreme levels of poverty in Europe. One home visit really resonated with me. Olga Filipenko is in her early 20s and her daughter, Darya, is 5 years old. They live in a small village just outside Beltsy. Their house only had two rooms. In one room the walls were brightly painted but were crumbling, and the tiles on the floor were barely still intact. We all crammed into the other tiny room, which had the boiler in.
This was where Olga, Darya, Olga’s father and Olga’s uncle all slept. Olga talked about how hard things have been, that because they are Jewish, others families in the village are not very welcoming. Darya is going to a school in the neighbouring village but doesn’t have many local friends. Olga is lonely and spends the days cooking and cleaning.
Recently, they got accepted for the home repairs project, that World Jewish Relief runs in the area and slowly the rooms are being repaired. Heating will be in both rooms, so that Olga and Darya can have some space to themselves.
What moved me the most about this visit was Olga seemed to have little hope about her own future but she was desperate to try and improve Darya’s. I was 16 at the time, I could not imagine having a child and being in the position Olga was. She was so polite and gracious, but you could see the sadness and exhaustion in her eyes. We brought bags of groceries and some colouring books and sweets for Darya. Darya began jumping around on the bed with excitement; she kept grabbing my hand, trying to communicate her appreciation for the gifts, even with the language barrier.
Throughout our visit, everyone was incredibly gracious and appreciative of everything that was being done for them. They kept thanking me saying how much it meant to them that someone so far away cared enough about them to be supporting them. The hospitability of every person we visited was astounding. They had baked for us, tidied their homes and were so happy to have visitors. These people had nothing, yet they had gone to such effort when meeting complete strangers.
Visiting the Heseds and the support centres in Kishinev made me feel really connected to the Jewish community in Moldova. Women were being empowered, people were learning skills to get a stable job, children were making friends and everyone was connecting with their Jewish identities. The whole trip showed me that the work World Jewish Relief does can really transform people’s lives and create long term change that rewrites their futures for the better.
A year and a half on, I decided to do two weeks work experience with World Jewish Relief, spending time with the Programming, Fundraising and Communications teams. As I am hoping to study geography at university and I am particularly interested in development and effective methods of aid distribution.
For me, this work experience was perfect; working with the different teams meant I was able to see the full cycle, from raising funds to changing lives. The range of tasks was really stimulating, from reading case studies about elderly in the former Soviet Union and documents analysing the most sustainable way to support farmers in Rwanda, to making a video about the Jewish values of World Jewish Relief and coming up with new ideas for their social media strategy, it is fair to say I have learnt enormous amounts.
I can wholeheartedly recommend doing work experience with World Jewish Relief. Everyone is so welcoming and friendly, always there to answer questions. They genuinely want you to get as much out of it as you can and communicate to you the passion they have about what they do.
The working environment is so different to school and a completely different skill set is required, there is no one telling you exactly what to do every step of the way. You have to use your initiative to do the best job you can and being in such a welcoming environment, like World Jewish Relief, makes the whole experience really enjoyable. It makes it easy to understand why World Jewish Relief is so good at what they do. Every single person works so hard and is completely committed to those they help, their motivation and focus is inspiring.
The support World Jewish Relief gives on such a large scale is inspiring; they are empowering people to empower themselves. It is something that makes me proud to be Jewish, that we are supporting other Jews, non-Jews and anyone in crisis. It is about an ethos of support, a duty to care and a passion to make lives better.
If you or someone you know is interested in doing experience with us, please feel free to contact us