Students from Hebrew University in Jerusalem volunteer every week at Giveret im Salim ("The Woman with Shopping Baskets"), a unique project that was developed six years ago by a student leader as part of Hillel at Hebrew U’s Initiative Center. Volunteers come to the Machane Yehuda marketplace to help the elderly carry their heavy bags to bus stops or to their homes. As "payment," the senior shares a personal story or gives a piece of life advice.
For some of the elderly, this program comes full circle. "All my life I have lived near Machane Yehuda and as a child I used to sit on my balcony and look for buyers in the market,” shares Jordana, a Jerusalem resident born in 1948. “As soon as I would see someone who needed help I would quickly run down to help carry their baskets. Seeing the program, "The Lady with the Baskets" brings back beautiful memories of my childhood."
The students also appreciate the encounter. “For a few minutes I have direct contact with a stranger without fear and without all the distractions of technology,” said Chaya Ticker, a student volunteer. “Those few minutes contain real conversation. It is so Israeli.”
A team of volunteers ran the 5K in the Jerusalem Marathon this March, wearing brightly-colored shirts advertising the Giveret im Salim project. "We made a lot of noise, so people noticed us,” said Gilad Atlacevitz, student volunteer and member of the inaugural Hillel International Student Cabinet. The group was so enthusiastic that they were even invited to come on stage at the post-marathon concert.
As for the advice? "When your hand is open to others, God also fills it for you," shares one shopper. Dealing with hard times? Another shopper shares, "when sadness falls upon you, smile and your smile will also radiate inside of you."
Visit Hillel Israel’s website to learn more about Hillel at Hebrew U’s Initiative Center.