July 12, 2007 / 26 Tammuz 5767
Although Asya Epstein grew up in Canada, she always harbored a strong connection to Israel. To foster this connection firsthand and to contribute something to the country she considered “home,” Asya traveled to Israel and joined the Magen David Adom Ambulance Volunteer Program, a course sponsored by the Jewish Agency and its partners that trains university students from around the world to save lives, respond to those in distress and provide additional emergency services in times of crisis. In addition to providing the residents of Israel with much needed support, the program connects participants to Israel on the deepest level which directly strengthens their Jewish identity in profound and life-changing ways.
“Working on an ambulance made me appreciate my life...A good part of the perspective I currently hold on my life was formed by my MDA Volunteer Ambulance Program experience. I figured out so much about the world, about life and about myself that I don’t even know where to begin explaining how great an experience it is.”
Each summer, more than 200 students participate in the MDA Ambulance Volunteer Program during which they attend an intensive training program and spend 200 hours riding on ambulances and providing emergency services in the ensuing 5-6 weeks. Asya, now 20, completed the program two years ago. During her service, she responded to calls including suicide attempts, an abandoned baby and drug overdoses. Despite these difficult circumstances, Asya reflects fondly on her experience and recognizes the impact that it had on her life. “My MDA summer was the closest I had ever felt to being a real part of Israeli society,” says Asya.
This summer, Asya returned to Israel to participate in the MDA instructor training program. She is now teaching new volunteers the same training course that she took two years ago. Now a third year student of molecular genetics and microbiology at the University of Toronto, Asya also credits the program for helping her to make sense of her life. “Thanks to the program, I remembered why I went into science and why I like medicine,” she says.
With your help, the Jewish Agency can continue to run programs such at the MDA Ambulance Volunteer Program that provide vital emergency services to Israeli society and afford students the opportunity to understand themselves and their Jewish identity in a most comprehensive way. Says Asya, “When you put on that uniform it transforms you. In the end MDA comes to represent you. It makes you realize who you are.” To learn more about how you can help, click here.
If you or someone you know is interested in joining this program, please click here.