Eye-Opening: Project TEN Volunteering | The Jewish AgencyEye-Opening and Meaningful: Volunteering with Project TEN
Annamarie with a horse on the kibbutz

Eye-Opening and Meaningful: Volunteering with Project TEN

Eye-Opening and Meaningful: Volunteering with Project TEN
When the coronavirus shut things down in her field, it gave Annamarie a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to go volunteer in Israel without setting back her career

Hailing from Austin, Texas, Annamarie, 24, moved to LA after graduating from the University of Michigan with a degree in acting. She had always been interested in serving in the peace corps but as an actress and accomplished cello player, Annamarie could never commit the length of time needed to participate as it would set back her career. Then the coronavirus pandemic hit the US in 2020 and majorly shut down the acting industry.
Annamarie working with the horses while volunteering with Project TEN | Photo provided by Annamarie

With such a lull, Annamarie faced a decision: stay in the US and wait it out or take a risk and do something different. She chose to take a risk.

“After going on a Tagilt Birthright trip a year and a half ago, I fell in love with Israel. I’d expected to have a good time and enjoy it but didn’t expect such a deep connection to the country, people, culture… when I got back to the States, I knew I wanted to return to Israel at some point. And then when Covid happened, I thought it’d be a good opportunity to do that,” said Annamarie. “That led me to Project TEN in Israel.”

Annamarie volunteered for five months at the Project TEN Center adjacent to Kibbutz Harduf in the Lower Galilee. Because of the coronavirus, things were a bit different; Annamarie and her fellow participants still taught English to those in Harduf and in the neighboring Arab village but they spent significantly more time working on the Kibbutz and gardening, doing social activities, and working in the stables.

“While the coronavirus definitely affected my experience, work still happened, we still had an impact. The Kibbutz is so insular that we were still able to do a lot,” recounted Annamarie. “It was such a blessing to be there during the pandemic; there’s nowhere else I’d have rather been.”

As part of their volunteering experience, participants worked in the stables alongside adults with special needs who live in Beit Elisha, a rehabilitative community nearby. For Annamarie, that was one of her favorite parts. And despite speaking very little Hebrew, she was thrilled she was able to really form a remarkable bond with some of the adults with special needs she worked with — so much so that it was hard for both them and her to say goodbye.

“That’s the amazing thing that sets Project TEN apart. Because not only do volunteers get something out of the experience but the community also really benefits,” said Annamarie. “Project TEN creates a breeding ground for conversation and learning; there’s an ability to connect with people different than you. And the work Project TEN does around the world seems to really spread cooperation and communication.”

When Israel announced they were closing the skies in January 2021 to slow the spread of new variants of the coronavirus, Annamarie had a week left with Project TEN. Not knowing how long flights would be suspended, she got a last-minute ticket out of Israel, cutting her time slightly short. While sad she had to return to the States early, Annamarie now is trying to figure out how to honor her time with Project TEN and lead a life that prioritizes what she learned there while still having a career she loves.

“It was without a doubt the most beautiful, challenging, incredible five months of my life. I learned so much about Israel, Jewish culture and faith… it was truly eye-opening,” shared Annamarie. “The work being done there is so meaningful. You can’t leave Project TEN not changed; you can’t just revert back to the life you used to live before. I left a better person and I’ll carry that experience with me forever.”


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