For more than 40 years, the WUJS Israel program has empowered post-college age men and women to live, experience, and volunteer in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv. Participants grow personally and professionally, while making a difference in their jobs and communities.

Over those past four decades, more than 8,000 graduates have participated in WUJS. Current WUJS participant, Annie Harkavy, took the time to talk with Repair the World about her volunteer work with children at the Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv, and how service really runs in her family.

Can you tell me more about your background with service?
I grew up in Memphis, Tennessee and our JCC was a big part of our life. My parents were also really involved with the Jewish Federation. I first got involved with volunteering and group philanthropy around my bat mitzvah. Then in college at Indiana University I was in a Jewish sorority that did a lot of work with Sharsheret, and also involved in community service in a local hospital. We would go hang out with the kids at the hospital, and throughout the year we’d hold events and invite the kids to come to campus.

How did you find the WUJS program?
My aunt actually did it 30 years ago, so that’s how I first learned about it! My mom lives in Israel now and wanted me to come do something here after college. I knew I wanted to do hands-on work and get experience and stay in the field of medicine, which I studied in college. I also knew I wanted to work with kids. This program seemed to have all of those components.

What do you do there?
I work in the children’s emergency room, and basically do anything they tell me to do! I work on the patient charts, assist when nurses are drawing blood and spend time with the kids, comforting them when they’re sad. They laugh at my Hebrew and try to teach me.

How did you get so passionate about working with children?
I have always loved helping kids. Growing up I was a camp counselor and baby sat. With kids, and especially working in a hospital, every day is different and you really feel like you’re making a tangible difference. It’s hard work, but really satisfying.

Tell me more about the experience at WUJS – what’s it like?
It brings together a group of post college-age students to come and experience living in Israel. We live together an apartment complex in South Tel Aviv, and all work in different places. We have a travel day every week, and there are many different lectures, events, and leadership trainings that we’re able to take advantage of. Even though I am not getting paid for my work this year at the hospital, I don’t think about it that way. This is my chance to make a difference. I’m hoping to stick with volunteering here once a week, even when this year is over.