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Chairman's Message 212

Impact 

As I write this, just prior to the magazine's going to print, I, like so many of us, am preoccupied with the human tragedy taking place in Ukraine. The ramifications of what is happening and the long-term effect on world stability are unimaginable and deeply concerning. We can but look on as helpless spectators, unable to influence events or calm our fears for the future. But we are not entirely helpless to provide support.

Israel anticipates many new arrivals from Ukraine, and it is here that we, together with ESRA, can play a role to welcome and help settle the olim and refugees who have been driven from their homes. At ESRA's initiative we have joined together with our friends in Telfed and AACI to create a body of English-speakers in Israel, united in the endeavor to help where we can. As the situation remains fluid, ESRA will be continually reassessing as to where we can have the most impact and provide comfort to our new friends and neighbors.

Impact is my chosen key word. It is the headline of my message, and not by coincidence, it is the title of ESRA's most recent annual report, ESRA Impact Report 2021. I am proud that once again the document reports a year of successes. Elsewhere in this ESRA Magazine you will find details with a QR code and link enabling you to access and read the full report. However, I would like to highlight here a few of our major achievements.

2021 was a special year for ESRA as we spread our wings both locally and globally. Within Israel, our flagship Students Build a Community (SBC) project was introduced into new areas of the country, while on the world stage we became an international volunteering platform enabling people from anywhere to connect to life in Israel and even to have a direct impact on its wellbeing through the English Tutoring Program (ETP).

The expanded SBC project now operates in four cities (Netanya, Akko, Rishon LeZion, Tel Aviv), with seven different local projects in all, involving 60 students, 240 schoolchildren and their families. The project provides financially stressed students with housing in disadvantaged neighborhoods where, in turn, they each mentor a small group of local academically struggling schoolchildren and evolve into social activists as well as an integral part of the community.

Over the 16 years of successfully operating the SBC project, ESRA has developed specialized knowhow and capabilities and has identified SBC as an area of opportunity where we are uniquely positioned to assist. It is ESRA's understanding that the SBC program is greatly needed in many cities in Israel. We therefore intend to focus on gradually expanding the number of areas of SBC operation in the future.

ESRA's slogan, "volunteering for the community", has proven itself in the past year. Our largest and most rewarding volunteering opportunity, English Tutoring Program (ETP), has become a ground-breaking success, now involving over 900 regularly participating volunteers in Israel and abroad. ETP is an important educational program, run in partnership with the Ministry of Education, which actively promotes the three ETP programs ESRA has developed.

The original ETP involves, where possible, ESRA volunteer tutors going into schools and tutoring schoolchildren with the guidance of their English teacher. The second is Chat Away, an after-school Zoom program in which tutors work one-on-one with schoolchildren to help them advance their spoken English. Teacher Chat is the third and newest addition to ETP. It is a unique volunteer online program for non-native speaking English teachers to help enhance their oral English proficiency. We are proud that volunteer participation in the program has doubled since 2020.

Other projects and volunteer activities support the English-speaking community. During the hours of lockdown, ESRA's impact was felt by more than 250 social activities, often organized through our wonderfully energetic branch committees. Professional counselors train volunteers to help those who have suffered personal bereavement or other loss, while Befrienders connect with those who are housebound, offering warm and practical support.

Please make a note for your diary. ESRA's Annual General Meeting will be held on June 15, 2022. Further details will be available nearer the time, and all members are most welcome to attend.

Pesach is almost upon us. It is a festival about reliving memories and retelling stories, a unique festival that touches all our senses, conducted and celebrated at home and with family. This Pesach, let us think about our contribution to our local and national communities, about looking after the needy and the strangers among us. Again, my thoughts return to the suffering in Ukraine.

May I take this last opportunity before the holiday season, to wish all readers, volunteers and supporters of ESRA, together with our wonderful donors, a Chag Pesach Sameach.

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Saturday, 25 June 2022

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