By Rolene Marks
For many young Israelis, service to others is part of their DNA. In fact, Israel is renowned for its incredible spirit of volunteerism and you would be hard pressed to find anyone who doesn’t give of their time and energy in some form or another. Also part of the Israeli culture is compulsory service in the army and for many finishing their time in uniform, the question remains – what do you do when you finish serving your country? The solution is simple. You take what you have experienced and learnt, and serve communities around the world.
This is what many who have served their compulsory time in the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) do once their service is over. A year of travel and exploration is just what is needed after three years of compulsory service for males and two to three years for females. After stringent routines and following orders, losing yourself amongst the wonders of the world is a welcome respite.
Many escape to the serene hills and mountains of Nepal, or to the exotic jungles of South America and Ashrams of India to explore new territories and cultures and fall in love with the people they meet.
Travelling to far off destinations where many of the inhabitants live below the poverty line or in areas where they are disadvantaged has an impact on the lives of these former soldiers who want to share their knowledge and expertise and uplift the people that they meet.
This is where Heroes for Life is making a significant difference.
Heroes for Life is an extraordinary organization that has a simple vision – to turn Israel into a superpower of helping developing countries, notably of running volunteer humanitarian projects in four different countries across the world. They want to help others through Tikkun Olam (fixing the world) and strengthen the image of Israel and the IDF around the world.
Heroes for Life, was founded in 2013 by three IDF officers who had served in the same elite unit. Like most soldiers, they travelled once they had completed their army service. After witnessing the gross poverty in some of the countries that they visited, they decided to start an organization founded on a very simple principle – help make the world a better place.
And so far, they are exceeding expectations!
From Gondar in Ethiopia to Buenos Aires in Argentina, Israel’s finest sons and daughters are fulfilling a different kind of mission – Tikkun Olam. The aim was to initially start off with four countries but this has expanded rapidly and they are now improving lives in six. In September 2018, Heroes for Life began to work with blind and mute children in Mexico, helping to teach English, math and basic life skills, like personal hygiene. A similar project already exists in Kathmandu, Nepal.
Mission In Life
Back in 2015, Heroes for Life inaugurated a project in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Every December, volunteers travel to the slums of San Fernando in Buenos Aires. Volunteering lasts for two weeks and is focused on educational activities with children from the slum. Volunteers engage in renovation and painting projects that are planned and executed by the delegation (for example the delegation of 2015, built a dining room for the children of the neighbourhood) and teaching children a variety of classes such as English, math, music, life values and principles and personal hygiene. This is similar to what Heroes for Life have done in Mumbai, India. Volunteers also repaired a shelter-residence in 2018 in Guatemala City, Guatemala.
These soldiers do not expect ‘thank-you’s’ and recognition – the work and happy faces is all the reward that they need but their projects have caught the interest of the global media. Heroes for Life has been featured in the media from Argentina to the Arab world proving that the ethos of the IDF which is to respect human life is a message that transcends borders.
For these everyday heroes, it looks like it is mission accomplished.
For more information about Heroes for Life visit: http://hfl.org.il/en/
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