gap year in israel

Gila Cherny

Hi everyone, my name is Gila Cherny, I’m an Aardvark alumni from Perth, Western Australia and I did the program in 2019! I lived in Tel-Aviv during my time on aardvark and I did my internship at Beit Dror! Beit Dror is an LGBTQ+ shelter for teenagers under the age of 18 who need somewhere to stay out of home. Many of them are there for different reasons, and the staff aims to work with the families and help the person move back home, or find them other longer-term living arrangements until they can get on their own feet! This work was really important to me as I’m a huge advocate for LGBTQ+ rights and I wanted to be able to help in a meaningful area. I went to the shelter 4 mornings a week, where I helped shop, cook, clean and hang out with the kids. We would walk down to the shuk and get any food that we needed, organise the next meal, do some general tidying of the shelter and then find activities to do for the kids who weren’t at school that day. It was a great opportunity for me to practice my Hebrew too, because most of the kids didn’t speak English. Although I did work that was sometimes tiring, I had such an amazing experience. Everyone there welcomed me like family, I learnt so much about the reality of not being accepted by those around you and I truly feel like doing the menial tasks made a huge difference by taking some of the weight off the teens living there. I would love to one day set up a similar shelter all the way back in Western Australia, and at the moment I’m studying Psychology with the intention of working specifically with LGBTQ+ patients as my area of specialty. The experience definitely reminded me how lucky I am to be surrounded by people who love me and accept me, and I’m so grateful I had the chance to show the teenagers there that they do have people supporting them, even if it seems insignificant.

Noa Shagan

Hi! My name is Noa Shagan and I am an Aardvark alumni from Melbourne, Australia and I did the program in 2018. I spent my semester in the amazing city of Tel Aviv and I also did my internship at Beit Dror. When choosing an internship program I knew I wanted to do something that felt meaningful. When I saw that there was an option to explore and choose my own internship, I took the opportunity and decided to research organisations in Israel that were making an impact on the community. When I saw Beit Dror and read about the organisation I knew it was the right fit. Living in Australia and being a part of the LGBTQ+ community I have always felt privileged to be able to live in an accepting environment and known that it was not the same way for everyone. This is why having the chance to give back to the community and be able to directly support LGBTQ+ teenagers meant a lot to me. During my time at Beit Dror I spent mornings and afternoons doing general housework which included helping with laundry, cleaning, cooking and stocking the pantry. Once that was finished I had the opportunity to spend time with the teenagers who weren’t at school that day, providing general support and company through playing games, making art or sitting and chatting in the garden. No matter what the task was I was grateful to be making some kind of impact, whether it was by making colourful posters for the hostel, or going out ice skating with the teenagers. I had an incredible time at Beit Dror and it is definitely an experience that I will never forget. The staff are some of the kindest, most hard working people I’ve met and the teenagers taught me a lot about resilience and being proud of who you are. I came back home feeling both lucky and determined to keep making a difference in the lives of at risk LGBTQ+ members. I am currently studying psychology and hope to continue my journey and support many more LGBTQ+ members in need.