By Kayci Merritté, Yahel Social Change Program alumna
If I had to choose two words to describe my eight-and-a-half months in Ramat Eliyahu, they would be ‘challenging’ and ‘rewarding’:
I moved somewhere completely new.
I learned a language starting from the very basics.
I lived and worked with people who were once near strangers.
I determined the best ways to interact with a new community.
I became immersed in the reality of Israel.
I heard political opinions that spanned a line significantly longer than I thought possible.
“Every day in Israel I learned something new about what it means for an individual or a group to enter into a new country and culture.”
With every challenge, I learned something, and in most cases, many things. I gained so much from my encounters in Ramat Eliyahu and in Israel, and I know that if I had moved through my time there smoothly and easily, I would have left with considerably less knowledge and experience. My time in Israel was challenging, and because of that, I gained so much.
After my Masa Israel experience, I returned to my hometown of St. Louis to serve as an AmeriCorps member assisting in refugee resettlement. Once-a-week I pick up new arrivals from all of the world – Congo, Iraq, Cuba, the list goes on – from the airport and bring them to their new homes. Throughout the rest of my week, I help these new residents of my city access the medical care that they need.
Me and my friend Larry with our freshly-baked challah
I’m not sure I would have applied for this position if it were not for my experiences in Ramat Eliyahu. Every day in Israel I learned something new about what it means for an individual or a group to enter into a new country and culture. Now, these ideas and experiences regularly support me in my work.
During her time on the Yahel Social Change Program, Kayci worked at Tebeka: Justice and Equality for Ethiopian Israelis, a legal aid organization that serves the Ethiopian-Israeli community. She also volunteered in local schools and in an arts workshop.
Are you inspired by Kayci’s story? Learn more about the Yahel Social Change Program.