Volunteer Year in the Community: Evaluation of Two Models of the Program: In the Arab and Druze Sectors

The program of Volunteer Year in the Community addresses young Arabs, Druze and secular and Orthodox Jews, aged 18-22 and exempt from military service. It serves as a framework for young people to contribute to their home communities, participate in a transitional program from high school to adulthood, and acquire tools for entering institutions of higher education and employment. It is implemented in a guided group framework and combines one year of community volunteer work and a course of study.

The program was implemented in 12 different frameworks (nine in the Arab sector and three in the Jewish sector). The study examined two models of the program, in a Druze village and an Arab city. In both models, almost all the participants were young women (about 20 in each). In the Druze community, they worked in volunteer frameworks in pre-defined positions whereas in the Arab city, they developed personal projects based on their interests and the needs of the placement organizations: e.g., computer courses for school parents or mentoring for children.

The data were collected between 2006 and 2008 from two sources: in-depth interviews with the local program directors, JDC-ELKA program coordinators and staff of the local services/organizations in which the young women volunteered; and questionnaires to, and focus groups with, the participants.

The report presents the main findings and insights into the implementation of the two models and relates to their similarities and differences: information on the frameworks absorbing the volunteers and the service recipients, the activities of the program and the difficulties that arose in implementation. The report also relates to issues concerning the further implementation of the program in the Arab and Druze sectors, and its improvement. In addition, the report presents the perspective of the participants and implementers on the contribution of the program to the participants.

The findings attest to the contribution of the program in preparing the young women for frameworks of further education and employment, both through specific preparation (e.g., courses for university entrance exams, conversational Hebrew in instruction and training, and in conversations and discussion of plans for the future) and by virtue of the experience of the participants in assuming positions in an organization. Additional perceived contributions of the program were a sense of self-empowerment and heightened civic awareness. Alongside the contributions, difficulties arose in both communities indicating insufficient preparation by the volunteer frameworks to activate the volunteers effectively.

The study findings were presented to the staff, local steering committees, and program directors at JDC-ELKA and contributed to improving the program and the examination of issues related to its overall development.

The program is implemented by JDC-ELKA, which conducted the study and assisted in its funding.

Citing suggestion: Sikron, L. & Kahan-Strawczynski, P. (2011). Volunteer Year in the Community: Evaluation of Two Models of the Program: In the Arab and Druze Sectors. RR-572-11. Myers-JDC-Brookdale Institute. (Hebrew)