It is not often that a school trip offers the opportunity for profound reflection, but this is something that JFS continuously endeavours to achieve. This ethos is embodied by the annual trip to Odessa, the beating heart of the Ukrainian Jewry, where participants from Year 13 are able to assist in three homes for homeless, abandoned and abused Jewish children, run by the charity Tikva. This year’s first group of students on the scheme recently returned, replete with enduring memories of the young lives they were able to enhance through their visit.
The tip is organised by JIEP and enables students to volunteer in three care homes, for infants, boys and girls respectively. In a city that suffers from extreme poverty, children are often abandoned and forced to live in abhorrent conditions, sometimes drawn to alcohol and drugs. Tikva not only provides a home for these children, but also an education and a pulsating social atmosphere. Students were given the chance to volunteer with the charity, forming lasting friendships with children who have experienced great turmoil in their lives. They also spent Shabbat at these homes, an experience that strengthened the sense of Jewish identity that is so deeply embedded within this visit, also acting as an affecting reminder of how the Jewish populace has been slowly reinvigorated following the turmoil of pogroms and genocide.
Our volunteers returned home, overjoyed with their rewarding experiences. In particular, Jonny (a participant) thought that “the vibrancy of the Jewish community in Odessa was amazing”. He added that it was “deeply touching to view such spirit in the community after the horrors of the Holocaust”. We hope that Tikva continues to dramatically improve the lives of suffering children and our Year 13 students are incredibly thankful for the chance to contribute to this effort.
Jack Prevezer 13AB