Tag Archives: Refugees

Back to Work

As you can see from my previous post, last week was a week off for me. The week was filled with leisurely travel, relaxation, and celebration…. but as we know, all good things must come to an end, and such is the tale of my week vacation.

If it’s back to work I must go, then this was a perfect way to go back:

First, a field trip to the Biblical Zoo in Jerusalem with some of my refugee kids.  It might not exactly sound like work to you, but trust me…. a zoo filled with hundreds of crazy kids running around from animal to animal can drive you to the point where you’re ready to jump in with the lion and take your chances! (but we did have lots of fun too!)

Second, an afternoon in the park playing basketball.  I was finally able to hook up with one of our Professional Basketball Players in the Israeli league (we’ve been trying to put something together for a while now), where he could come down and play with the kids.  It was a huge success, and the kids absolutely LOVED him! The weather is finally nice enough again where we can resume our basketball outreach, and I honestly forgot how much I really do enjoy spending this time with the kids.

Overall, not too shabby for my first two days back after holiday! 

I’ve posted all the pictures from the Zoo field trip and our Afternoon of Basketball on our Shine Facebook Page…go check them out! 🙂

Who would’ve thunk it?!?

Since I moved down to the “Central Bus Station” area, everyone always asks me if I feel safe there…. to which I usually reply, “I haven’t had any problems.” I’ve been told to be careful because of all the “Africans” living there and all the violence they cause. But as I said before, “I haven’t had any problems……..


…… and it wasn’t caused by the refugees.

As I got off the bus this morning, I was suddenly caught in an unexpected downpour.  I had no umbrella or protection, so I stood under a building to attempt to wait it out.  It didn’t quite work as planned.

About 5 minutes into waiting, one of the drugged-out prostitues (who was walking down the middle of the street, oblivious to the rain) approached me in the nook of my shelter.  She started rambling on about this and that and nothing she said made any sense.  She did manage to ask me why I was standing there and I told her because of the rain. She didn’t quite get it.

What happened next was pretty crazy, but considering her state of mind, probably not so much in her world.  She grabbed my arm like she wanted me to go with her.  I told her no, that I was staying there and she got furious. She started screaming at me (in jibberish) which was getting on my nerves, so I decided to just brave the rain and make a run for it.

When I went to leave she grabbed my hair and yanked me back. (Literally I flew back, and luckily I didn’t fall).  I  turned around and told her to stop. At that very moment a guy who was across the street ran over and pulled her away from me.  He told me to just go…. so I did.

I heard her start to yell at him, but he was much bigger than both of us, so I’m pretty sure it didn’t fase him at all.

As I ran the rest of the way home, I thought to myself, “Everyone is always worried that I’ll be attacked by some drunk guy down here, yet it ends up being a high prostitute.” Who would’ve thunk it?!?

Well, certainly not me! (though after volunteering at the shelter, I should have imagined it: those girls are intensely violent.)

I’ll admit that I was a bit shaken up when I finally got home, and I just kept thinking, “what if that guy hadn’t come? what would I have had to do if she didn’t leave me alone?”

Thankfully, I didn’t have to find out, and I really hope that I don’t either. What a morning!

A Blessing to Bless Others

I seriously can’t believe its already November 1st! NOVEMBER! Not only where did this past month go, but where did the YEAR go?!?  But, the fact remains that yes… it’s already holiday season.

Holiday season in Israel isn’t exactly like Holiday season in the rest of the world….

…but, thanks to Help-Portrait, its starting to feel a little like holiday season to me.  Last year was the first year for Help-Portrait Tel Aviv, and it turned out to be such a blessing.  This year, I’m expecting nothing less.

IN FACT, I’m expecting so much more!  Last night I had a meeting with Professional Fashion Photographer, David Kutcher, who will be taking all our portraits this year.  To say that I’m excited about this, is an understatement… I’m THRILLED!

Not only is he a FANTASTIC photographer, but he’s going to bring an entire studio with him to set up in my place.


And after all… the purpose of being blessed is to in turn to bless others, and I KNOW that his work will do just that!

Can’t Wait!

Monday Nights are for Basketball

I am getting ready to branch out and start something new.  Next Monday will be the first day of an Outreach I’m putting together for all the refugee kids in the South Tel Aviv area…. Monday Night Basketball.

There is a huge park in our area where ALL the refugees hang out, and it also has basketball courts. I have a couple of friends helping me out, and I’m pretty excited to see how it all unfolds.  At the same time, I’m a little nervous too.

I have no idea how the turnout will be or how the kids will respond.  I’m hoping that we will have lots of kids show up, but there’s just no telling if that will happen.

So here’s my request: Could you all just say a little prayer for this new adventure?

* An awesome turnout.

* Safety.

* Communication. I’m the only one who speaks Hebrew out of the group, so it might be a bit challenging for me at times.

* Open Doors. I’m really hoping that this outreach will open doors for future endeavors.

* Fun. Overall, I just want to bring some fun and enjoyment into these little lives.

A True Meaning of Hospitality

Yesterday I went to the house of one of the refugee girls, who I am working with, to speak to her parents.  Her dad is Ethiopian and her mom is Eritrean.  I originally went to make plans as to what time I will pick up Rivkah each morning, but I ended up staying for much longer…

…They live in a TINY 2 room apartment, all 6 of them.  There are 4 children, all under the age of 10.  Rivkah is the 2nd oldest at 7. She has an older brother, 10 yrs old, a younger one, 4 yr. old and a 6 month old baby sister.  And they all live in that 2 room apartment.

One room consists of 2 beds and a couch with a couple plastic chairs while the other has 2 more beds, leading into the kitchen (which is technically the same room).  There is a ridiculously small bathroom, which they all must share. There is no art on the walls, no decorations brightening the place, and certainly no “extras” as we all tend to have in our lives. They are all ‘refugee status’, but haven’t been given work visas yet.  This is the main concern of her dad, as he cannot provide for his family.  Looking around, my heart is breaking, but I must remain positive for them all.  They are beyond poor, not even having diapers for the baby.

YET, the first thing Rivkah’s mom did when I entered her place was offer me coffee.  She barely has enough food in the house to feed her 4 children, but she is concerned about my well-being and me feeling welcomed.  At this point I was almost in tears, thinking about this gesture of hospitality.

As I left their humble abode, I will admit I felt ashamed, angry, and sad. Ashamed for all the times I complained about where I live, what I don’t have, and how difficult life can be. Angry at how society perceives the African Refugees in Israel and how they are treated on a daily basis. And Sad because of the situation, not only that they were in, but for the other 20,000+ families who were in the same boat.

What I walked away with yesterday was this: It doesn’t matter how much you have or don’t have.  It doesn’t matter how much money is in your pocket or in your bank account.  It’s not about what car you drive or the size of your house.

It’s all about how you treat others.  Years from now the details of their apartment will probably be forgotten, but I will never forget how I was treated and welcomed by them.

A lesson I need to constantly remind myself of….

Calling All Music Lovers!

Do you love music???

Do you love kids???

Are you looking for a simple, wonderful way to help a refugee child this summer in a way which will bring music into her life??

Head on over HERE to the Shine Website to find out how YOU can help in the most practical way.

This summer sounds of music will be filling South Tel Aviv!!

Finding a Needle in a Haystack

I have to be completely honest…. I’m frustrated!

I’ve been spending time looking at places for the youth center, but to be quite honest its been torture.  I haven’t found one single place that I would even consider, yet alone want to live in as well.  Today I even went inside a place with no floors… NO FLOORS!  There were just piles of dirt all around, and I’m talking about the 3rd floor no less.

After seeing this place, and being horrified by the thought of living there, it struck me…. There are thousands of people living there right now. Most of them are refugees and foreign workers, who can’t afford NOT to live in places without floors.  They do not have the luxury of saying ‘NO’ when they are given a place like that.  And it humbled me.

This is why I must find a suitable place for the center.  I’m determined to make this place a beautiful respite for these kids…. a place to get away from what they experience day to day…. a place they can feel comfortable and at home in.

And though its frustrating and painful, looking and dump after dump, I have to keep on looking.  I have to believe that somewhere out there there IS a Needle in a Haystack!  I just need the endurance to find it.

Hats on or off?!?

Yesterday during Food Distribution I had a strange little conversation (a term I use very lightly) with a 10-year old boy who likes to come “help” everyday.  He is a a refugee from Eritrea, but likes to hang out with us as much as possible.  Anyways, it was super cold outside, so I was all bundled up…..hat, scarf, gloves etc. which led to our stimulating conversation… (Mind you, I am translating as best as can be done, as the conversation was in Hebrew)

E: Why are you wearing a hat?

Me: Because its cold outside.

E: You like hats?

Me: Yes. I like them.

E: But girls shouldn’t wear hats. It’s not right.

Me: Why not?

E: Its just not good.

Me: But, why not?

E: Only boys wear hats.

Me: Then what can I do? Its cold out.

(to which he just looked at me for a few seconds and shrugged his shoulders with a “what are you talking about” look)

E: Its just not good.

Me: But, why not?

E: Its just not good.

Me: Hmmmmm.

Communication at its finest there!

Two very odd peas in a pod

One of the biggest issues the refugees I work with face is not being able to find jobs.  With the economy as it is (and I know this is a problem many people face today) not being permitted to work (no work visa) makes it even more difficult for them to support themselves and their families.

The other day I was riding my bus to school in the morning and I saw a woman that comes to the Food Distribution each week.  I smiled and waved at her; she smiled and waved back, acknowledging my presence on the bus.

After a few stops people got off, so I went back and stood next to where she was sitting. We greeted each other and I asked her what she was doing all the way on the north side of the city.  She told me she found a job for the week, cleaning a house in Ramat Aviv.  I was so excited to hear she found some work, even if it was only for a week.  We then continued to converse in our broken Hebrew until we arrived at the University and I got off.

The funny thing, throughout the ride, was the way people were looking at us.  I can only image what we looked like: two very odd peas in a pod… one American girl and one Eritrean refugee speaking in a language that is neither their own.

But for me it was comfort.

Though the differences were clear and obvious to most, for me they didn’t exist on that ride:  There were no color differences…. no boundary or origin differences…. no language differences… no status differences….

There were only two friends… talking about life, family, jobs, etc. on a bus in the morning hours of the day.

And I jumped off that bus happy…..

Because, this is what makes everything else WORTH it all!

Help-Portrait Tel Aviv Faces

Yesterday was the big day!  It went really well; we had lots of help and gave away clothes, toys, food, and of course pictures! We didn’t have as many people come as I had hoped, but the ones we had turned out wonderful!  It wasn’t about numbers, but what we did with the ones we had.

Off all the people who came we had 7 different countries represented: Eritrea, The Congo, Nigeria, Sudan, Israel, Ethiopia and Turkey. There are so many AMAZING photos to choose from, and its difficult not to post them all, but I will just share a couple of my favorites:

(and I had to get a picture with this little guy and his mom!)

(to see the whole collection, click here)

Help-Portrait Tel Aviv

I am super excited about an excursion I am putting together for this Friday, 11.12.09.  It’s actually a world-wide outreach happening on 12.12, but since 12.12 is Shabbat here, I need to do it one day early.

Help-Portrait is a way to give back to the community via photo’s.  To make a long explanation short, photographers will be offering their services free of charge to those in need.  We will be creating portraits as keepsakes for families who might not be able to afford professional pictures at all.

How am I getting involved???? I have decided to put together Help-Portrait Tel Aviv for the Sudanese/Eritrean Refugees who I work with.  Most of them have NO pictures what-so-ever of themselves and their families… and this is an excellent opportunity to give them this gift for the holidays.  I have been recruiting like crazy: volunteers to help out on Friday to come and give of their time and services.  We will also be providing gifts for the children, cookies, coffee, tea etc. A time to let them know that we love them and value them.

How can you help???? I need your prayers on Friday!!! I have literally put this thing together in less than a week, and its starting to crunch down on me.  The weather is calling for rain, and that will just complicate it even more.  I want this to be a blessing to them, but also not a burden to us.

Take a look... Here is the promo video from Help-Portrait, giving a background on how this all started:

A few other links you might want to check out:

The official Help-Portrait Tel Aviv group website

The facebook event I created

Can’t wait to see some smiling faces!

I’m not the only one…

I’m getting anxious with my youth center plans, and I have a feeling I’m not the only one.  Though its not official, and most people here don’t have a clue of what I’m about to embark upon, I think the feeling of something new must be brewing in the air.

Lately at the Food Distribution more and more kids have been coming, not just to pick up food for their moms, but to stay and chat (and sometimes help out!).  Last night we were graced with the presence of our two little “translators”, a term and position they have appointed themselves.  Since most of the mothers only speak Arabic, and I only speak Hebrew, they like to be the ones to communicate all the in’s and out’s of the procedures.  It’s very cute, actually.

They sooooo need this youth center, to have a place to go.  I’m getting excited about the vision I have, and this week I will be looking at some potential buildings for the site.  In the meantime you can see my adorable, little helpers for yourselves.  These girls are two reasons why I am passionate about future plans…..


Sometimes I’m left speechless….

I had no idea when I wrote the following status for fb, what was about to unfold:

Does anyone have/know of a WII system and games that can be donated 4 a new youth ministry in Israel? This would be a HUGE blessing!!!

I hadn’t gotten any replies, and I honestly just put it out there in the social media world, “just in case”.  

And then I got the email.

It was from a friend I had graduated with, and quite honestly, had not seen since graduation day back in 1993. (Yep, a looooooooooong time ago.)  He told me he didn’t have a WII to give, but he would like to start a fundraiser in order to purchase one. Not only start a fundraiser, but spread the word, buy the complete set (with as many games as possible) AND ship it to me.  

My mind was completely blown by that email!

Here was someone who I haven’t even seen or really spoken to in 15 or so years…yet he was willing to put all this time and effort into pouring out for kids he has never even seen or met.  He was willing to go the extra mile, all for a cause I believe in.  

Like I said, sometimes I’m left speechless.

Below is the link for the fundraising site to purchase a WII console and games for the youth ministry I will be soon starting with the Sudanese Refugee Children.  Please consider donating, even if its just a small amount, for this cause.  Our target goal is $500, but I am hoping to surpass even that!  And I must end by saying, “Thanks so much Chris, for showing what God’s love looks like in a tangible way.  I am truly humbled and honored to know you!”


Sudanese Refugees Update

I have been writing about my work with the Sudanese Refugees, and the problems they have been encountering with the government. (I also mentioned it in last month’s newsletter as a prayer request.)  Their status in TA has been big news the past few weeks here as well, even making it to the front page of The Jerusalem Post.  

A couple days before the Aug. 1st deadline of deporting them out of TA, the Israeli government made a statement, postponing the deportation until a further date. There had been an outcry among the people here on their behalf, especially regarding the children who were born in Israel, therefore becoming Israeli citizens.  I was actually surprised to see such an outpouring of support for the Sudanese, when there has been such mumbling about them even being here.

That being said, this was only a temporary decision, and the future of the Sudanese in TA is yet to be seen; but, I know for all the families we work with, they are extremely relieved and happy.  They can once again walk the streets without fear of being picked up and imprisoned or sent to another city (for now).

World Refugee Day

Today, June 20th, is World Refugee Day.  My heart breaks for refugees all over the world, who are growing in number each day.  There are literally millions of people living as refugees in other countries, far from family and loved ones or even separated from their families entirely.  There is so much more we can be doing for these people, and educating ourselves about the problem is the first step.  Please take just a moment out of your day to say a prayer for them and check out the UN Refugee site for more information. It only takes a small, kind gesture of love to change a life.

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