Karen is a dedicated volunteer who has been working with our Gamani program for the past two years.
At age 24, Karen knows the importance of giving back to others. She wanted to find a place where she could share her time, and see the impact her involvement had on others. Karen found this opportunity with the Larger Than Life Gam’ani program, a program for 9th-12th grade Israeli teens with cancer.
“I have never been sick like the teens in this program, and when I joined as a volunteer, I came to the group with a strong sense of sympathy. Quickly, though, I realized that there was no space for sympathy. I expected the main question coming from the teens to be ‘Why me? Why did this happen to me?’ but this was not the case. In the first activity I participated, I met a young woman who had received her diagnosis only a month prior to the event, and this question did not arise at all.
“From their stories, I learned that the teens were able to come to terms with their condition rather quickly, and were brave enough to deal with it and understand they needed to move forward. What I did learn, is that these teenagers are very capable of supporting one another. It comes to them naturally, and they are able to support their peers without any sense of judgement.
“Before even knowing one another, teens would approach others to offer to help carry their bags, or walk beside them if they’re with a walker. If a teen is sitting alone, another teen joins them. If a teen cannot stand up to dance, others gather to dance around them.
“My role as a counselor is different for each participant. If a teen is more introverted, I connect with them and introduce them to others; they take it from there and form more, strong friendships.
“From my time with Gam’ani, I have seen beautiful friendships being formed. At our last summer program, I witnessed teens depart the camp in tears, as they had formed very special relationships with other teens who understood the challenges they’re going through.
“If I meet a girl who is having a hard time dealing with her hair loss, I do my best to empower her and rebuild her self confidence. With time, we eventually see the teens removing their hats, headwraps, and wigs, as they feel comfortable in the community they’re in.
“Many of the teens’ illnesses lead to physical disabilities which prevent them from partaking in activities other teens get to enjoy. My role as a counselor is to highlight their progress and all they’ve achieved in their fight against their disease, to help them conquer another obstacle, and to encourage them to keep fighting.”
Almost every month for the past two years, Karen has taken time off work and her studies to volunteer with the Gam’ani program.
As far as she’s concerned, the time she gives to the teens is rather time she is enjoying for herself, as activities with the teens fulfill her and bring her strong feelings of love and joy.
“Working with Gam’ani is addictive. Every day I volunteer, I’m looking forward to meeting another incredible teen. I want to get to know them, to understand them, and to learn who they are, and to find how I, as the counselor, can make them stronger.”