Michael Symons wanted to change his path in life. “I felt like I was sleepwalking,” he says. “I was looking for more meaning.” Then Michael discovered Project TEN, the Jewish Agency for Israel’s (JAFI) volunteer program that sends Jews around the world to make a real impact in developing communities. Project TEN “is an opportunity to work with people who need others, and that’s magical to me,” Michael continues.

With our focus on inspiring tikkun olam, the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia partners with JAFI on Project TEN, sometimes called the “Jewish Peace Corps.” Project TEN offers one- to five-month opportunities for people ages 20-35 in Ghana, Mexico, Ethiopia, Uganda, South Africa and Israel. Each program revolves around informal education, sustainable agriculture or public health. For example, you might work with orphaned children in Gondar, Ethiopia; develop a community poultry farm in Winneba, Ghana; or install water filters in Oaxaca, Mexico. No matter the emphasis, each experience combines volunteer work with service-learning in the fields of international development, culture, identity and Jewish activism.

While working at Kibbutz Harduf in northern Israel, Michael and his cohort now teach English to Arab-Bedouin children, work with older adults and people living with disabilities, and contribute to the sustainability of the kibbutz. Project TEN volunteers also attend seminars and gain hands-on education. For Michael, one of the greatest bonuses was developing an international community of friends. “We’re all learning from each other, from different sentiments and attitudes,” he says.

Project TEN recently celebrated its fifth year and 1,300th volunteer, each of whom has helped improve the world — and also found their personal worlds expanded. After volunteering in Mexico, volunteer Gal Komem sums up the impact: “Now I feel as a ‘resident of the world.’”

For more information or to enroll in Project TEN’s next opportunities for Jewish activism, click here.

Photo courtesy of the Jewish Agency for Israel