Project TEN: A world of volunteers, giving every day

Project TEN is an international development program run by The Jewish Agency for Israel that brings together Jewish young adults from around the world for volunteer work and cultural exchange with local communities. Programs are currently running in Ghana, Mexico, Uganda, South Africa, and Israel. Project TEN encourages participants to “be the change” and bring global Jewish activism to life.

In celebration of Giving Tuesday, we caught up with some young Project TEN volunteers to find out about their experiences. Meet Talia, Jessie, and Daniel. Perhaps they’ll inspire you to get involved:

1Talia Ditkoff

Age: 22
Project TEN location: Winneba, Ghana

Q: What convinced you to do a Project TEN program?

After being in University for four years, I strongly felt that I needed a change of scenery – a completely new place with its own people, culture and societal norms. My dream was to experience Africa. However, the idea of coming into a new place, making my mark, and then leaving wasn’t something that I wanted because it didn’t seem sufficient enough. Project TEN offers something different; the main focus is creating sustainable programs that will continue to flourish, and the community can continue to benefit from, even after we leave.

Q: How are you making a difference?

My personal projects include Health and I.C.T. (Information, Communication, and Technology). For I.C.T., we go to local schools each morning and bring with us six computers. We work either one-on-one with the students or in small groups of two or three. We teach basic Microsoft Word skills in the form of fun exercises and games. In many of these schools, the students learn a lot about the functions and various parts of computers but lack the access to one. Our program allows students to apply their hypothetical knowledge in a more practical way.

Q: What has been your favorite part of your experience?

One project I am working on with the health team involves going to church on Sundays. The adults in the community pick topics they would like to learn more about (such as specific and relevant diseases), and our health team works with a local nurse to do research and create presentations. Our first time going to church was such a special experience for me. We had to take our shoes off prior to entering as a sign of respect.

The moment we walked in, there was instant energy: music, people dressed in vibrant colors and beautifully patterned fabrics, and there were little pink, purple and white flags lining the ceiling. They were so welcoming to us. We introduced ourselves by saying our names, but they all wanted us to use our Ghanian names, which is according to the day of the week that you are born. So, in the middle of the church ceremony, they helped us figure out our Ghanian names, and then they jumped and sang when we reintroduced ourselves using those names.

Q: What was the most significant thing you learned?

The most significant thing I’ve learned, and am still learning, is that just because a culture is unfamiliar and different to your own, doesn’t mean that it is wrong in any way. Sometimes, it’s easy to judge things simply because they are different. Here I am learning to ask more questions and understand why things work the way they do, rather than offering different options.

2Jessie Garrison

Age: 19
Project TEN location: Uganda

Q: What convinced you to do a Project TEN program?

The main thing that convinced me to do this program was I love kids and I love teaching. I also had just graduated high school and wanted some real-life experience outside of the United States.

Q: How did you make a difference?

I made a difference by using skills that I have learned throughout my life and passed them down to my students, things like motivation, determination, and the value of education.

Q: What was your favorite part of your experience?

My favorite part of the experience was the personal growth that I gained, and seeing kids excel in their studies.

Q: What was the most significant thing you learned?

The most significant thing that I learned was the value of education, and the importance of meeting people’s basic needs. Also, how important it is to know that you can do anything if you put your mind to it.

3Daniel Abrams

Age: 26
Project TEN location: Harduf, Israel

Q: What convinced you to do a Project TEN program?

The emphasis the program has on coexistence, being in nature, and community life. Also the affordability of the program.

Q: How did you make a difference?

I volunteered at a Bedouin elementary school teaching English. My presence there seemed to make a big impact on the lives of the kids and teachers too.

Q: What was your favorite part of your experience?

Volunteering at the school and living communally.

Q: What was the most significant thing you learned?

Despite language barriers and cultural differences, people from completely different sides of the world can still make a deep connection on a human level with each other.

So, what are you waiting for? No doubt there is a Project TEN program for the young adult in your life.