"I truly fell in love with the country": Partnering with the Ethiopian community, globally and locally
After finishing law school at Bar Ilan University, Esther Hindin, an Olah Hadashah originally from West Orange, New Jersey, decided she wanted to take a year to explore and pursue her interests in international development.
Esther recalls that her desire to volunteer started from a young age; her first experience was in high school, when she volunteered in Ghana for seven weeks. Esther describes this as an eye-opening time which shaped her future endeavors.
During her summer visits to Israel, Esther also became very connected to Ethiopian Jewry. She volunteered with Ethiopian immigrants in Kiryat Gat, and helped them adjust to the Israeli lifestyle. Esther explains she formed strong bonds with some individuals, and this helped her elaborate on her meaning of Jewish identity as well as understand Ethiopian culture and society.
Esther began researching organizations which aligned with her dream of working with developing communities and cultivating lasting relationships and connection to Jewish values. She found NALA Foundation, an organization that works to fight infectious diseases through commitment to Tikkun Olam. Her involvement with NALA Foundation began as a three-month-long volunteer trip in Ethiopia.
Esther explains that even though she worked with Ethiopian immigrants in Israel, she didn’t fully understand them, and that volunteering with NALA Foundation made her experiences come full circle and fit together. “My time in Ethiopia really exposed me to and immersed me in their culture. I understood things that prior to my trip I had no idea existed,” Esther explains.
“With every passing day I was exposed to an infinite amount of the richness of the culture and the people who make it such. I can speak about the generous hospitality of the people with whom I came into contact with, regardless of socioeconomic status, background or religion; the overwhelming feeling that everyone is family and must look out for one another; the deep respect attributed to elders; the palpable pride for one’s own culture and endless other lessons personally learned and hopefully adopted.”
Esther and her team began working on a program that worked with various communities to combine mass drug distribution with health education, a system of sustainability that the NALA Foundation strictly abides by.
Their mission is always to work with local communities to decide on the most efficient and effective way to improve quality of life within the community. Esther explained that if you don’t properly educate individuals, they are at high risk to become infected again. In Ethiopian culture, women are very influential in society, so the team she was working with began collaborating with various women’s groups, in hopes to reach the community as a whole.
In Ethiopian culture, women are very influential in society, so the team she was working with began collaborating with various women’s groups, in hopes to reach the community as a whole.
After her three months, NALA Foundation asked Esther to return to Ethiopia as a Educational Coordinator and Assistant Project Manager. Esther describes what really made her involvement with NALA Foundation so special is their interest in their volunteers’ insights and their dedication to taking initiative.
To Esther, the appeal of working with NALA Foundation was the independence they gave to volunteers, and the ability of volunteers to utilize their individual skills to creatively implement projects within the framework of NALA. When Esther extended her trip, she worked with her team to change the structure of their program. Together, they created a workshop for the women to further cultivate relationships. She stayed in Ethiopia for an additional four months before returning to Israel. Inspired and transformed by the time she spent in Ethiopia, she is now working with NALA Foundation to plan their next volunteer cohort.
“As in-depth as one can describe a new culture from his or her experience, there are just things you need to see with your own eyes and experience yourself in order to truly grasp their full beauty. I cannot speak about all the places in the world but my experience in Ethiopia was incredible. I truly fell in love with the country.”