By Sarah Brownlee, Mitzvah Corps Israel 2017 Participant
This weekend, we volunteered for Bina, working and playing with kids from a local daycare center. We walked them to a nearby park and played for hours. The kids were adorable. It was fun, and I think we all learned a lot from the experience. I, for one, learned that mahel means fast.
This experience also forced me to think about my own life. These kids are the children of refugees from Sudan and Eritrea, and they don’t have very much. Their parents work 14 hours a day. They have clothes, but they don’t match. They have holes in their sleeves and socks. There were close to 60 kids in one room of the daycare, with one woman in charge of all of them. Sometimes volunteers come and help care for them, but when there are no volunteers, they stay in their room and aren’t able to do much. The caretaker, Grace, isn’t able to give every kid attention beyond feeding them and changing diapers. The center is unauthorized, but very needed.
After we played, we walked the kids back to the center. On the walk, I held hands with two girls, Fatiwa and Yossan. In between pointing out the colors of doors and signs, Fatiwa asked, “Are you coming back tomorrow?” I wish I could have said yes. We watched the kids go back into their overcrowded daycare center. Some ran, some hugged us, and a few of the younger kids cried when we let go of their hands.
And then we got on our roomy, air-conditioned bus to go see more of Tel Aviv and eat a big lunch. On the ride to Rabin Square, I reflected on the events of the day. These kids are so full of energy and light, and it isn’t fair that they have nowhere to go but these overcrowded daycare centers. It isn’t fair that their parents have to work so much. It isn’t fair that many of us get to experience life without these hardships. Our parents may work a lot, but not in exhausting factory jobs that pay under the table. We may have gone to daycares, but we went to nicer ones with resources that allowed for activities and games.
It’s easy to appreciate how fortunate we are at times like this, when the contrasts are right in front of us, but it’s important that we recognize our privilege the rest of the time, that we don’t lose sight of it even after the experience has passed.