Students Shine Their Light for Eight Days

December 6, 2012

During the eight days of Operation Pillar of Defense, many BGU students made it a point to stay in Beer-Sheva and volunteer in the community.

“From the different conversations I had with people, it appeared that there was a need for activities for the children and support for all the residents,” says Sheni Berger, a student coordinator of BGU's Lillian and Larry Goodman Open Apartments Program.

Sheni, and fellow Open Apartments students, worked with BGU's Student Association and the One Heart Organization to arrange for 20-30 students to volunteer for eight hours each day. The volunteers facilitated activities and helped children with their homework .

Toys, arts and crafts materials, board games and food were donated by public schools, private citizens and the Beer-Sheva municipality.

The students also took a proactive role in improving the conditions of the public bomb shelters in Beer-Sheva's impoverished Gimmel and Dalet neighborhoods.

“In some of the shelters there was no equipment; some didn’t even have running water. Together with the residents we turned to several different authorities and dozens of volunteers to get them cleaned up,” says Sheni.

Students from another community outreach organization, Tor HaMidbar, went out to assess the needs of the residents of the Dalet neighborhood.

According to Tom Yogev, the Student Association's volunteer coordinator, the Tor HaMidbar students went door-to-door to check on elderly residents to be sure that they had enough food and medications.

They distributed 1,000 flashlights to people whose buildings didn't have lights in the stairwells so that they would be able to find their way safely to a shelter.

“We connected students to volunteer opportunities in hostels and apartments for the mentally challenged and those with special needs, set up children’s activities in shelters for battered women (the students even slept with the children at night), and organized children’s activities in the local absorption centers. They even created a special kindergarten in Meitar for children of Soroka staff," says Tom.

Sheni is proud of her involvement, but sees that the students also got back as much as they gave.

"Special ties were created between the volunteers and the children. The children received close and personal attention in playing, painting and watching movies and from the different activities, allowing them if even for a short time to forget about the security situation."

“Together with the residents we had the privilege of meeting some amazing people who only want to give. The volunteers came back every day and gave strength and light to everyone – children, parents and everyone in the neighborhood,” says Sheni.