Like most Jewish twelve year olds, Ella Keinan weighed different options of how to celebrate her Bat Mitzvah. When discussing this with her parents, Ella came to the conclusion that she wanted to be involved in a volunteer project overseas. Ella’s father had recently met Sivan Ya’ari, Innovation: Africa’s Founder and CEO, and recommended the organization to Ella.
Innovation: Africa is a nonprofit organization that brings Israeli innovations to African villages. Their projects include bringing Israeli drip irrigation systems to Sub-Saharan Africa and solar power to medical clinics, schools, orphanages and water pumping systems. Ella was searching for an organization with a connection to Jewish values, as well as a volunteer experience in which she could be involved hands-on. Additionally, Ella’s family had just moved from Israel to New York, so she felt a strong connection to Innovation: Africa and its connection to Israel. Ella decided that, for her Bat Mitzvah project, she was going to visit a school / orphanage in Uganda and to donate the supplies they needed.
“I’ve always had the mindset to give back to the community,” Ella told us, “so I always pictured myself becoming involved in a service project for my Bat Mitzvah. I knew it would be an incredible experience. With the help of my parents, I went for it. It was a life-changing trip that taught me so much.”
Ella connected with a family friend who is a pharmacist in Greece. He agreed to donate medicine, which would allow kids at the school to receive anti-ringworm drugs and HIV testing.
Ella recalls that, when her family first arrived in Uganda, they visited Kampala for a day to purchase local products to donate. She explains that, Innovation: Africa had just brought solar power to the school, so they were planning to donate lights and computers.
Upon their arrival, the Keinan family toured the school and Ella met some of the children. The Keinan family soon realized that the orphans were sleeping directly on the ground. They decided to go shopping again to purchase mattresses, blankets and a few other necessities.
The following day, Ella hosted a workshop with some of the teachers and students. She shared some of her computer knowledge and they shared information about their community. “With the help of Innovation: Africa, I learned a lot about Ugandan culture,” she explains, “the trip was extremely rewarding and definitely helped me put things in perspective.”
“There is no reason to not get involved; Innovation: Africa is an amazing organization that really helped me throughout the process.”
Since her trip to Uganda, Ella interned at Innovation: Africa’s Israeli office for a month and, then again, for two weeks. At only thirteen years old, Ella has certainly made her mark and plans to continue to be involved with Innovation: Africa.