Never underestimate the resilience of young people," said Paramus resident Jeremy Borovitz, a 19-year-old sophomore at the University of Michigan who participated in "Leading Up North" along with seven other students from his college.
Borovitz told The Jewish Standard that not only does he and those he worked with in Israel plan to return to the country in May to continue the rebuilding effort, but they are determined to bring along with them the money needed to do the work.
Borovitz’s busload of 4′ students was sent to Kiryat Shemona, a town on the Lebanese border that came under heavy fire during the summer’s war with Hezbollah. According to Borovitz, "a thousand katyusha rockets bombarded the town, hitting every third resident directly or with flying debris."
A group of about ‘0 volunteers, including Borovitz, was assigned the task of painting a bomb shelter and fence at Metzudot, a school for fourth- to sixth-graders. Although the visitors were told that they would not interact much with the ’00 or so local schoolchildren, "a relationship evolved," said Borovitz, noting that "several kids joined us in painting the bomb shelter." And what began as a white room "became something beautiful, with flowers and trees, a nice place to be."
"By helping to paint the shelter, I think the children will be more at ease the next time they’re forced to take refuge there," he said.
Said Borovitz, "with limited skills, we could only do so much," but he added that he was gratified to hear from the school principal and from some parents that the visitors had a "positive and uplifting" effect on the children they met. "We hung out with them at recess and taught them some English," he said, describing how he had given one 11-year-old boy his Jets hat and received a small present in return.
"His parents thanked me for improving the boy’s mood," said Borovitz. "I never had such a nice feeling. It’s one of the best trips I’ve ever been on, and it was hard to leave." He said that all the volunteers including those in the other group, who painted low-income housing "also really feel that they made a difference."
While in Kiryat Shemona, Borovitz and his team learned that the library at the school had been destroyed during one of the bombings. "It was more than just a library," said Borovitz. "It was a place of refuge where the kids could hang out."
"We found out from the principal that it will take $75,000 to rebuild it," he said. "So we had some discussions and decided to bring this back to our campuses and home communities."
Said Borovitz, "The ” kids who volunteered with me at this school have made a commitment to raise $75,000 over the next five months and then go back in May and do the dirty work ourselves." Reaching about a dozen campuses, the students are already planning fund-raising events, raffles, and appeals to donors, he said. "And we’ll be able to tell them exactly what they’re giving money for," he added, "books, shelves, couches they’ll know where it’s going."
Borovitz said he "won’t rest" until the money has been raised. "We developed a real relationship with the kids, relationships that forced us to ask the question, ‘What more can we do?’"