Focal Point Recap

On October 14th-15th, we at Shalom Corps were part in organizing the Focal Point 2020 Conference. We joined OLAM to partner with them on their yearly conference centered around helping Jews engaged in global service, international development, and humanitarian aid to help each  other improve their methods of assisting the world’s most vulnerable individuals.
This year the conference was affected by COVID-19, much like many other conferences throughout the globe were, and as such the conference was centered around how to continue serving the developing world and face global challenges in the age of face-masks and closed skies.
In our plenary session, “Pause With Purpose: The Future of Impactful Global Service”, our CFO, Aviva, was moderating a discussion about how to take advantage of the current pause in global service programs to reevaluate and build new models that are more ethical, sustainable, and meaningful for volunteers and local community members alike. More than 100 people came to watch the online, hour-and-a-half presentation.
The prestigious panel included a Global Ambassador, Educational Director, Communications Manager, anda Global Service Director and it discussed how to design global service programs to ensure greater alignments and ultimately result in a greater impact. The keynote began with a brief introduction of the panel members and the role that global service plays in their lives. Ruth Messinger said “the point of service is not just to have something to check off on a college application”, service of any kind teaches you about the world you live in, and the changes that have to be made in the world to make it more equitable. Next, the panel approached learning from the lens of a volunteer. Mayan Gafin, an educational volunteer, talked about her experiences as an 18-year-old student volunteering in Uganda and her journey of creating change. Mayan explains one of the most important things you must realize before taking a journey to volunteer is why you are taking this journey, why does the community needs you, and understand what you mean to the community in need. After this discussion, Yonatan Bram Global service director touched on the subject of the importance of local partnerships and the importance of their relationships with volunteers. Lastly, Annie Levy educational director spoke about expectations for learning in an educational curriculum. Annie goes on to explain the problems of volunteer programs not expressing direct expectations to their volunteers and how they aren’t fully transparent with participants and the community as a whole. When problems like this occur it will result in participants thinking about what they are doing the volunteering when in reality it really isn’t. In closing, the plenary explored very important and relevant topics to any person that is thinking about taking the next steps into a global service initiative during this pandemic.
Check out the full plenary video here.