Hi! My name is Natalie, and I’m from New York. For my entire life, my main passion was acting. But after my big break on Broadway, I traveled to Israel with Birthright and discovered my new purpose there. I made Aliyah and studied International Development at the Glocal Program at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, during which I also worked on an empowerment and education project with low-income youth in India. After graduation, I began working as an IsraAID Country Director – providing recovery programs after the wildfires in Fort McMurray, Canada, and then disaster response support and community development following a cyclone and volcanic eruption in Vanuatu.
Why do anything if it doesn’t have meaning? I want to get up in the morning and know that I’m contributing to the world. That’s at the core of being Jewish. We have a responsibility to make the world a better place.
Tell us about one of your most impactful projects in Vanuatu.
I arrived in Vanuatu one year after the country experienced a devastating cyclone, destroying much of the country’s infrastructure. Vanuatu is a country that is especially prone to natural disasters, and as a result, is often in a state of recovery. Among many of IsraAID’s projects, we focused on partnering with local communities to increase access to water. After all, water is life. On most of the islands, accessing clean water involved hiking extremely long distances to a natural spring. Along with the local community, our teams built gravity-fed water systems to bring these sources to the villages, as well as implemented rainwater harvesting and increased water storage capacity. Bringing clean water into remote villages impacted the communities in so many ways – especially the women and children who were tasked with fetching water each day.
What was it like working for an Israeli organization outside of Israel?
In Vanuatu, people love Israel. On the opposite end of the world, I was able to share Israel’s many layers and describe what it means to be a Jewish person living in Israel. When we held the handover ceremony for one of our water projects, representatives attended from the World Bank, the Ministry of Climate Change, and the Department of Water Resources. In the village center, the community leaders hung an Israeli flag beside the Vanuatu flag and the Province’s flag. Seeing those three flags side by side made me so proud. It reminded me that my connection to the Jewish people is rooted in my values – and those values are what brought me to Israel, to Vanuatu, and to that beautiful moment in time.