Community Engagement Unit

נעמה אייד בוהדנה

Naama Ayad-Buhadana
Director of the Community Engagement Unit

Sapir's Community Engagement Unit, established in 2002, runs under the auspices of the Dean of Students Office. It realizes the College's commitment to Israeli society, the Western Negev and the residents of the Gaza Envelope.  The Unit is the longest running student volunteer program in Israel; and it has won multiple awards including the Council for Higher Education's Prize. As one of first successful student volunteer programs, many other colleges and universities have adopted our model.

The Community Engagement Unit leverages the expertise generated by an academic institution together with the strengths and needs of local communities together with social entrepreneurship initiatives. Our volunteers provide a supportive network to integrate and promote diverse populations, impacting Israeli society. Active volunteers receive a scholarship.

The Unit operates over 30 community projects that address a range of social issues and ages, including: at risk adolescents; people with disabilities; senior citizens; Holocaust survivors; Red Army veterans; longtime residents; and new immigrants. In addition, students operate programs that promote healthy lifestyles, community empowerment and capacity building programs. They also volunteer in local initiatives that offer access and knowledge of social rights to underserved populations throughout the south, from Ashkelon to Beer Sheva.

Highlights include:

Dear to Us: Seniors & Holocaust Survivors Project

Students matched with lonely seniors, meet regularly for social interaction. They share stories and life lessons. The students gain a unique insight of their elderly person's early life, survival, immigration and pioneering activities in Israel.
Ofri Salmon is a student volunteer. In her words:
 "I had wonderful weekly home visits and participated in special group events with a smart and funny woman who has become my honorary grandmother. Her special smile lights up every encounter, over time she became comfortable to ask me for things that she needed.  We learned from each other, she shared with me wisdom from her rich life experience; and I updated her on current trends. I am so happy that I participated in this project. I plan to continue to keep in touch with my new grandmother".

Our partners include the Jewish Community Foundation of Metro West and the Welfare Departments of Sderot municipality and the S'dot Negev, Merhavim and Sha'ar HaNegev Regional Councils.

Kanfei Yona Program: Exposing the Narratives and Heroes of the Ethiopian Aliyah

This unique project, named in honor of one of the pioneers of the Ethiopian aliyah (immigration), Yona Bogale. Sapir students meet with their own parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles to listen and document their elders' aliyah stories. Hodaya Mokariya is a project coordinator. In her words:
"My parents' response the day they received their 'Book', recording their aliyah journey was: 'You fulfilled our dream, thank you'. This Book has become a symbol of memory, respect and pride. Documenting their story was an opportunity for me to stop for a moment and listen. I am grateful for the privilege to reflect their pain, hardship and happiness. After waiting for more than thirty years, my parents know that their story and heroism will be passed on, fulfilling their dream that they have not been forgotten".

Our partners include: The Kanfei Yona Project, Startup for Success Beersheva, Mifal Hapayis, The Gruss Fund, Women's Amutot Initiative- Greater Miami Jewish Federation, Samis Foundation, and The Kadoorie Charitable Foundation

Sderock- a Teen Music Club

This special music imitative offers teens a place to develop and experience music, producing performances for the community. Sderock provides a platform to acquire social skills such as: listening, respect and tolerance, as well as values of giving back to the community. Creating music offers participating youth experiences of success, which strengthen their self-esteem and confidence in a warm and supportive environment. It encourages normative habits, provides opportunities to regain trust, enabling them to re-integrate into educational settings.

Partners: Sderot Welfare Department