Updated: Nov 17
This week we interviewed Gili Singer, not only because her journey and experience are exciting and inspirational, but because she genuinely dances her way into people’s hearts.
She and her family were a foster family to three children, and after she grew up, she decided to volunteer in Zimbabwe and then at ASSAF in Israel.
What brought you to volunteering?
“I first decided to volunteer when I flew to Zimbabwe in 2016 to volunteer at orphanages, schools, and nursing homes. For a month, I would travel every morning for a full day of blessed, challenging, and exciting work with lovely children.
Their schools are very small, without electricity and made of mud. We helped them with activities with the children, built swings from the trees in the forest, played a lot of games, and mostly were very attentive to their needs.”It was not my first meeting with Africa, I have been dancing West African dances for many years, and in 2008 I flew to dance in Gambia and fell in love. Since then, I have returned several times, danced and toured Burkina Faso and Zanzibar.
When I returned from Zimbabwe, it was clear to me that I wanted to continue volunteering here in Israel. Then I found out about ASSAF, Aid Organization for Refugees. An incredible, important, and special place. I volunteered there for four years.”
Why did you decide to volunteer at ASSAF?
“It was a direct continuation for me from volunteering in Africa. Admittedly the work is different, but it felt connected.
ASSAF is a refugee aid organization, a non-governmental organization that employs dedicated people with a lot of passion for justice.
From the first meeting there, I knew that was where I wanted to be. I volunteered there for almost four years.
I understood the refugees’ situation in Israel and could not remain indifferent, the situation is difficult, and many refugees are in critical condition. They don’t receive a response from the country.
I saw the special connection that the refugees make with the volunteers, and it fascinated me— the ability to help each other in such a dedicated and caring way.”
What does regular volunteering look like?
“I volunteered for the ASSAF at the advocacy center and support once a week for five hours.
The Advocacy and Support Center provides support and assistance to individuals and families from the community of asylum seekers in complex social situations. The center produces and makes information available to asylum seekers regarding the rights and answers provided under the law in Israel and civil society organizations. It provides information and guidance on welfare, health, women's rights, education, status, dealing with the authorities, and the like.”
What are the challenges of being a volunteer?
“The main difficulty is exposure to harrowing stories and sad cases that applicants share.
Unfortunately, the asylum seekers had on their way to Israel and still have traumatic experiences that are very difficult to hear. There are not many organizations that take responsibility for them.”
What do you enjoy most about volunteering?
“All our successes, when women, men, children, and families come and say we have helped them feel better, which is the reason for our doing.
For example, a street dweller for whom proper housing is found, a battered woman who received protection, distribution of food, diapers, medicines, medical treatment, and more.”
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