Five Christian volunteers braved the heat and threat of Qassam rockets last week to help renovate an activities center for grandmothers in Sderot.
The center itself, operated by Simi and Haim Malka, parents of Sderot’s deputy mayor Oren Malka, shows scars of a previous rocket that landed nearby some time ago. The volunteers scraped, primed, and painted the exterior of the center to an almost brand-new appearance.
What’s unique about these Christian volunteers is that they already volunteer here in Israel at Bridges for Peace (BFP), a Christian organization dedicated to building relationships and understanding between Christians and Jews.
Trystan Tregenza, 26, from Penzance, Cornwall, said, “It was a great insight into Sderot, my first visit to the town. There was loads of stuff we could have done, but we wanted to do some manual labor. It was nice to do something for the elderly.”
Trystan Tregenza at work
Tregenza is the project manager for Touching Hearts and Lives, a program established by BFP after the Second Lebanon War. The program takes BFP volunteers and sends them out into different communities to volunteer in areas of greatest need. Since its inception the program has worked on some 14 projects, including fruit and egg harvesting in Avivim, building a garden at a school in Bet Shemesh, and much more.
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Another BFP volunteer at the Sderot project was Bill Stevens, 64, from Topeka, Kansas. Also in his first visit to Sderot, Stevens said, “It was very different from what I expected. It was good to get out and do things for people in need.”
Stevens is the director of the BFP Israel Operations Center and runs perhaps the largest food bank in Jerusalem. Each month, according to Stevens, some 50 tons of food is given to help feed around 19,000 needy people in 13 different cities, including Sderot. BFP’s Christian volunteers purchase, sort, load, and deliver packages of food to each of the locations, and the entire operation is funded by charitable donations from Christians worldwide.
The painting done at the activities center in Sderot was coordinated through the Sderot Volunteer’s Center, known as Beit Hametnadev.
Dror Marsha, co-coordinator for the center, said that some 500 people have volunteered in Sderot in the past year, including Israelis and foreigners. He also said that volunteers in the past year had helped to renovate each of the city’s 22 municipal bomb shelters, an unfortunate part of everyday life in Sderot.
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