Beginnings of AHI
In January 2004, the heart of our work began with visits to 38 Holocaust Survivors living in the Negev. We brought them Welcome Bags filled with gifts and practical items, flowers for their birthdays, small gifts from visitors, and we continued our visitation on a weekly basis. We started our Adopt a Survivor program, which connects giving, loving families from many different countries with Holocaust Survivors. Our newsletter began December 2003, before we even arrived in Israel.
Visiting Holocaust Survivors
After one year our visitation to Holocaust Survivors almost doubled to include 72 people. Making trips to the USA to talk about the Holocaust Survivors of Israel and their living and economic situations became a constant in the years to come. Educating the public of their present day living circumstances following the horrors of WWII is a vital part of Abundant Hope International. We also began a food voucher program giving “coupons” of 50 shekels to each Survivor with whom we were working.
Realizing our need to establish a base of operations, our search began for housing. In spring of 2006 we arranged the use of one room in Akko to use for guest and volunteer lodging. Shortly after, the Survivor Association in Rishon le Zion asked us to visit Survivors and assist them as well, instantly adding 224 Survivors to our growing list of those we consider to be our friends.
The Work Expands and Grows
By spring of 2007 we established Beit Shalom in Akko, a fascinating city and the world’s oldest seaport. Here we set up an office, storage for donated items, we held gatherings and provided lodging for both guests and volunteers. At this time visitations expanded to include Holocaust Survivors in Akko. Working with the social services we added Akko and a few Survivors in nearby communities to our food voucher program.
Next was a new program of birthday and anniversary card distribution to include every Survivor on our lists, which now included over 600 names. Our birthday flower distribution is added to cities as funding allows, which means that not all of our Survivors yet receive these floral birthday acknowledgement.
AHI Volunteer Program
As we continued our awareness education through speaking about the Holocaust Survivors in both Israel and the USA, we discovered an increased desire among our hearers to join us in Israel. Our official Volunteer Program was born out of this desire.
The arrival of 2008 saw Beit Shalom constantly busy with guests and community involvement. The number of volunteers from various countries increased dramatically. We connected with the main leaders of the Holocaust associations in various cities to begin working together. Several of our volunteers continued identification of Holocaust Survivors in Akko while others offered their professional services such as medical pedicures, free haircuts, massages and various other personal services. While on a speaking tour in the USA about Holocaust Survivors, we established a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization in the USA named Abundant Hope International. With this new step, opportunities in Israel and all over the world began to appear allowing AHI to expand into other cities for visitation and food vouchers. Israeli citizens began volunteering with us, which fulfills one of our objectives – to involve Israeli citizens and facilitate the opportunity to assist their own people.
Working with Israel’s Department of Welfare
During 2010 we were invited by the Israeli Department of Welfare to take part in their own volunteer program. Through their generosity we received two social worker students from Germany who joined us for 3 months. It was a tremendous feeling to know we could introduce young people from the country where the Holocaust originated to the Survivors of the atrocity that happened during the days of their grandparents. Not only did the Survivors benefit from this opportunity, but the students discovered a personalized history of which they had no prior knowledge.
AHI Adoption Program
Our Adoption Program was growing quickly now, as we topped 200 Survivors adopted and receiving communication from their “new” families from around the world. Following this, we discovered there was a need to facilitate adoptive families that wanted to visit with “their” Holocaust Survivors. This opened up a new relationship as those who were writing and those being written to were now able to see each other face-to-face.
Our services to the Holocaust Survivors also increased to include assistance with translation when applying for compensation, running errands and musical concerts. We even began to bring musicians to the homes of those no longer able to leave their houses. It was wonderful to bring live music to these special people. We were privileged to see smiles and joy on the faces of each Survivor who received this special attention.
Voluntourism Arrives to AHI
Unexpectedly, something new came to us. Tour groups begin visiting Beit Shalom to hear about the Holocaust Survivor program. Voluntourism was added into the stable of programs at AHI. Along with the increase in volunteers came an increase in our Holocaust Survivor program.
Working in tandem with Gita Koifman, Survivor and director of many of the Holocaust Survivor Associations in Israel, allowed her to see our desire to honor her own people. Through this friendship she continues to direct us to the Survivors with the most needs.
We have also been privileged to have the services of a professional videographer. In a very short time he videotaped 100 Holocaust Survivors telling their own story. As he edits and prepares these tapes, each Survivor receives a copy. Though many Survivors have had their war account taped through other organizations, we are finding as they age they are remembering not less, but more. They are desperate to make sure no one forgets what happened and that they themselves are remembered.
As with any organization that experiences growth, evaluations of current work and resulting changes must be made for continued success and fulfillment of goals. Our first decision, after consulting with the Survivor heads, was to change our approach on food voucher distribution and establish a Survivor Emergency Fund. Finding the needs of the Survivors varied, instead of a blanket approach, we now evaluate each one to establish their personal needs. We have been gratified to see our decision was a good one.
Education is Critical
One of our highlights was being able to speak in USA public schools and an invitation to speak in Canada. It was great to see how the students were fascinated to hear stories of what people their ages went through, and survived. We impressed upon them the importance of accepting the responsibility of remembering the Holocaust, so it is not repeated.
By early 2012, AHI recognized the need to establish a base of operations in the center of Israel. Working solely from our northern location meant daily trips of sometimes over 3 hours one way. In May of that same year we rented an apartment in Rishon le Zion and called it Beit Tikva, House of Hope. We soon discovered providing volunteer housing in central Israel created an open door for so much more…
The first of the teams from Finland began coming to volunteer and we started our program of renovation and repairs in Holocaust Survivor homes. Volunteers from Holland, USA, Canada, South Africa, Norway and Australia quickly became involved in our many new projects. Besides volunteer and guest lodging, Beit Tikva was used for events such as concerts and luncheons and distribution of food vouchers. AHI joined with Ruth Fazal, concert violinist, to play for Holocaust Survivors in concerts and in private, as Ruth was able to reach into their very souls with her music.
Beit Shalom Moves and New Programs Begin
In summer of 2012 AHI moved Beit Shalom to a larger house in Akko to increase volunteer lodging and to be closer to the Survivor’s homes. It is well situated for all needs and just perfect for the Survivors to come have coffee, attend a barbecue or attend a concert. The possibilities are endless.
The Heirloom Project is one of our newest, supplying Holocaust Survivors with handmade items to replace those lost in the war, now allowing them to pass these onto their children and grandchildren.
With an outreach that has grown to include over ten countries, our adoption program now has 300 Holocaust Survivors adopted since we first connected Survivors with new families.
In May of 2012, after two years of continuing close friendships with the Survivors in the Rishon le Zion area, Beit Tikva was closed. God was ahead of us by providing others nearby who could continue to visit and He had much more in store for us to do!
We continued and increased our Holocaust education awareness with two speaking tours in the USA alone during the first half of 2013. In the summer a speaking tour to Finland was successfully completed. During the tour there was teaching on the Holocaust, information about the Survivors living in Israel and encouragement to volunteers to join. In May 2014 education and speaking continued in areas surrounding Toronto, Canada and continued down through Pennsylvania and Florida.
We have new projects on the horizon, one of which is Survival Packs for the Survivors for the next war and the soup project through partnership with Food for Israel.
Something very exciting for AHI is the addition of our new Administrator of Operations in Israel, Yonatan. We look forward to his skills and wisdom benefiting the Holocaust Survivors in Israel as we fulfill the goals of AHI together.
And, our newsletter continues, giving information on Volunteers, Israel, AHI news and the Survivors’ daily lives. The heartbreak of their past is still alive in them today and as we open our hearts to them with no expectations, we have been privileged to see relief and joy on their faces in response.
We Welcome Your Volunteering and Acts of Kindness
We have much planned to bring honor and assistance to the Holocaust Survivors of Israel. Their time is short and we must work quickly. Keep coming back to learn more. Won’t you consider joining us? You could have a part in relieving them of night terrors and crippling memories during the final years of these traumatized people.
All of this is God’s work as we join together to transform the lives of these precious Survivors. We have helped many, but we need donations to continue our work, and to continue our growth. We aim to assist every Holocaust Survivor who needs our help. We need the donations of people like you. And, we need gifts, small or large, to pass out to our Holocaust Survivors. We need volunteers. The Survivors need you.
Without the partnerships we have established over the years, with both individuals and organizations, the light we see in the Survivors’ faces would not be there today. We cherish each and every gift of time and love and financial commitment we have received through your generous hearts.
You Can Help …
Please help us continue our work. Become a volunteer, donate, or supply gifts to people who have very little…. The Survivors are dying one every thirty minutes. Their time is short. Don’t wait until it is too late…