Written by Nikki Avershal, from Ashkelon
Nikki is one of several young adults involved in the Otzma volunteer program. Nikki is staying in Ashkelon this month.
Otzmanikim Michael Schwartz, Jeremy Zola and Whitney Frost volunteer twice a week with the Ashkelon Sports Department. The department is host to a variety of sports clubs and activities for kids of all ages living in Ashkelon.
Michael and Jeremy work together with Sergio, the team’s head coach to run drills and practices for the players ages seven to nine. Both having played soccer recreationally for most of their lives it didn’t take long for the two of them to feel comfortable and have fun with the boys.
“We help the coaches out. When we’re around they can give more individualized attention to the kids, we hand out soccer balls, we keep the kids focused” says Michael.
But aside from helping to keep the thirty energetic boys in check, Michael and Jeremy are there to be positive role models for the children. “We are thrilled to have them here, it means a lot that they take time to help our kids”, says Adi, the father of one of the boys. Adi also told me that the Ashkelon Sports Department provides equally sufficient programs for a third of the cost compared to the other Private Sports Departments in Ashkelon. Soccer is offered two times a week for up to ten months a year.
Whitney works with two separate girls basketball teams. A team for 5th and 6th graders and a team for 8th-10th graders. Similar to the work the Jeremy and Michael do she runs drills and practices with the girls making sure to use a very “hands-on” approach. “They really look up to me, not only because I’m American or because I am a good [basketball] player, they really respect that I’m there to volunteer with them. They like that I want to be a part of their community”
For Whitney and both Michael and Jeremy the language barrier is not an issue. Although both their Hebrew and the children’s English are certainly limited, it is apparent that movement is a universal language.