SoJust Spotlight: Alison Uliss '12

Jan. 14, 2013

With the SoJust Leadership Forum just around the corner, read the short interview below with recent Brandeis alum Alison Ulis '12 to learn more about her volunteer work with Ma’ase Olam, one of the organizations attending the forum, and why working with youth is important to her.

ulissWhat drew you to volunteer with Ma'ase Olam?

The program’s emphasis on doing different kinds of service work, not just teaching. I also really liked the idea of having leadership training, ulpan, learning about Israel, and a built-in Israeli peer group. It seemed like a real-life, non-touristy experience of Israel.

Can you describe what you do in Israel Service Fellows?

We do service work in Akko and with the Druze in northern Israel to learn about the living situation in the peripheral areas of Israel. I volunteer at several different placements, including:

  • Miftan school, a vocational school in Akko where kids learn different trades, such as jewelry-making, hair-styling, fixing computers, and baking
  • Yarka, where I lead an art appreciation club in the Druze village
  • Gordon School, where I run after-school enrichment in an elementary school in Akko

We also have weekly leadership training sessions and educational learning with our Israeli peer group.

Where does your interest in working with young people stem from?

There is a quote, “The child is the father of man,” which means that a person’s childhood affects whom that person becomes as an adult. Not every child is fortunate enough to come from a happy, safe, and well-off family, so those children need to know that there are people in the world who care about them, no matter who they are or where they come from.

How has living in Akko impacted your experience so far?

I never thought in my life that I would be living in Akko. I didn’t choose to do Israel Service Fellows because it was in Akko. I first chose Israel Service Fellows, and as a result of that I am living here. The first reaction I received from people after telling them I was going to live in Akko was, “Isn’t there a prison?” or, “Don’t Arabs live there, too?” It’s definitely not like living in Jerusalem, but Akko has its perks, like the Promenade that runs along the Mediterranean Sea. Living in Akko has made me realize just how important it is to me to live in a close-knit, Jewish community.

Was there any part of your volunteering that particularly inspired you?

I came to Israel to practice art in some capacity. I was ready for the Druze to embrace my ideas, but they weren’t exactly excited about having art as a club option. I was feeling really badly about it, but I did an activity that broadened their horizons of what art is. The next time I came to the village, one of my students told me that he had been waiting to come back all week for my art club. It’s moments like those that make you realize that you can make a change.

About Alison: Alison attended Brandeis University and studied Psychology and Studio Art in the hopes of becoming an art therapist. She has previous experience volunteering with underprivileged children, children with special needs, and the elderly.

About Ma'ase Olam: Ma'ase Olam's Israel Service Fellows program is a joint 10-month service-learning program for college graduates and Israelis ages 21-30 where fellows volunteer with at-risk youth in a variety of informal educational placements. Ma’ase Olam is currently accepting applicants for this coming program year. If you’re interested in volunteering in Israel next year, visit http://olam.maase.org.il/ to learn more, or contact North American Manager Mollie Breger at maaseolam@gmail.com.