Every year, JVP Community works with approximately 50 year of service volunteers and in an attempt to examine the impact the Year of Service (YoS) had on the former volunteers, the organization turned to the Zofnat Institute for Organizational Research and Consulting to conduct such survey. Ever since 2003, 280 year of service volunteers have volunteered in our organization during academic years. Zofnat thoroughly examined 179 former volunteers (Shinshinim) and assessed the impact that the YoS had on them.

 

Following, some of the data gathered among 64% of the former volunteers. It is worth highlighting that such response rate indicates a high level of commitment to the organization JVP Community – Bakehila, indicating a sense of gratitude.

 

The fact that JVP-Community is located in Jerusalem played a significant role in the decision of 30% of respondents. Among the reasons why they chose Jerusalem, its uniqueness and complexities can be mentioned as well as the fact that Jerusalem is an interesting city which can provide the "big city" experience (different from Tel Aviv, for instance).

 

Despite the initial interest of 30% of the volunteers in coming to the city, their attachment to Jerusalem grew stronger during the Year of Service. 84% of the former Shinshinim reported they would like to return and live in the city, thus demonstrating that Jerusalem played a crucial role in their YoS experience. Key people in JVP-Community often encouraged volunteers to explore Jerusalem physically, socially, and culturally. Another influential factor in their sense of attachment was the educational program they participated in on Tuesdays (to be examined later on).

 

In relation to social involvement, 93% of the former volunteers stated that the voluntary work during the YoS was meaningful to them. 84% say that they finished the year wishing to continue their social involvement after their military/civilian service. In other words, the Year of Service has succeeded in fostering a strong wish for social involvement in a great majority of volunteers.

 

As for choice of university studies, some participants reported to have an initial inclination towards working in formal or informal education, and that the YoS helped in re-affirming such inclination.

 

Among other modes of impact that the YoS had on former Shinshinim, it could be mentioned:

1) A sense of being more mature and more empowered in handling new situations/ social environments, especially in the first period of the military service.

2) Increased self-confidence and improved skills in training/educating various groups.

3) Increased knowledge and often a more complex perspective about the Israeli society in general, and Jerusalem in particular.

 

 

Impact of the Educational Program on Tuesdays

Most of the former volunteers interviewed mentioned the tremendous impact of the educational program held weekly on Tuesdays, in a welcoming facility in the center of the city. This "educational day" affected the volunteers in two major ways: first, it strengthened their attachement to the city. Second, it provided them with a deeper undersating and a broader perspective of their voluntary work.

 

The educational program enabled the former volunteers getting to know aspects of Jerusalem that were more attractive and welcoming than the neighborhoods they lived and volunteered in provided them; it also served as an opportunity to meet and interact with volutneers from other neighborhoods; it meant an opporunity to learn out of sheer curiosity, and provided a broader perspective about social invovlement and about their role in soceity, thus providing a conceptual framework for their voluntary work  In addition, the Educational Tuesday made volunteers feel they were being taken care of.

 

Considerations in Returning to Live in Jerusalem

To large or very large extent, 50% of the respondents, that is to say 90 volunteers, wish to be part of a strong and young generation coming to live in Jerusalem. As previously stated,  because of their love to Jerusalem, personal attachment to the city is the most important consideration in volunteers' decision-making about returning to live here. Other considerations are educational opporunities, followed by employment opportunites. Social motivation should not be disregared.

 

To conclude, the Year of Service was a meaningful and influential experience for the vast majority of the volunteers. Almost all of them became personally and strongly attached to the city. This sense of attachment was particularly fostered by the actual experience of physically living in the city and by the educational program on Tuesdays.

 

Due to the fact that most of them feel connected to the city, returning to live in Jerusalem would be determined by the following factors, by order of importance: higher education opportunities; employment opportunities, and social connections.

 

There seems to be a critical mass of former volunteers who were deeply affected by their experience, and who show a strong wish to return to live in Jerusalem. This group could definitely serve as the seed of a "Returning Alumni  Program". Such program does not necessarily have to consist of a big group of people, but to committed people eager to "do something" and who are preferably social leaders. As one of the interviewed former Shinshin put it: "JVP-Community should find the people who are interested in taking part and figure it out with them"