Shortly after Rachel Reynolds ’07 graduated from Sweet Briar last spring, she left for Israel to volunteer with Tikun Olam, a community service organization based in Tel Aviv.
The program brings Jewish, English-speaking young adults to Israel where, after six weeks of living on a kibbutz, they spend eight to 10 months volunteering, traveling and taking classes.
Over the past several months, Reynolds has worked in various capacities — in a Jewish elementary school, with Muslim Arab children in an after-school program and, her favorite assignment, with an English-language book club for Christian Arab children.
There’s one problem, however: The book club is short on age- and subject-appropriate books. “Whoever is in charge of buying books seems to have missed the memo that nine-year-old Arabic speakers in foreign countries do not want to read the latest biography on Truman or an encyclopedia of American geography,” Reynolds said.
In an attempt to round up some books, Reynolds sent a message via Facebook to her friends in the States, including Sweet Briar’s chaplain’s office. Chaplain Adam White responded, saying he and the Sweet Spirits — a community service group that works out of the chaplain’s office — would help.
On Dec. 12, a box of children’s books was shipped from Sweet Briar to Tikun Olam. The books are not only a tool to help the needy and bridge the socio-ethnic divide created by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, White said, but a way for the Sweet Spirits to accomplish their mission.
“The project is of value to the Sweet Spirits because it holds the promise of healing and reconciliation between people — that’s what we’re all about. In addition, sharing our resources is a living expression of our love toward global neighbors, the kind of love which is central to a meaningful spiritual life.”
Reynolds, who was a Sweet Spirit last year, said she was “proud, but not at all surprised by the generosity coming from the chaplain’s office and their efforts to help us out.”
For others who would like to help, Reynolds said children’s books in English and English learning materials are still needed. “The books should be in the late pre-school through kindergarten age range, and no Dr. Seuss or other rhyming books as those are very difficult for non-English speakers to understand,” she said.
As for what she will do after her year with Tikun Olam is over, Reynolds — who tossed around the idea of volunteering for the Israeli military — plans to attend law school in the United States.
“I love this country, its people and living here, but I am an American and I ultimately belong back home,” she said. “I have applied to law schools in America and I will know in the next few months where I will be next fall. And failing these reasons to leave, I need to pay a visit to SBC, which I miss dearly.”
For more information on donating books to Tikun Olam, Reynolds can be reached via Facebook or firstname.lastname@example.org.