It all started about a year ago. I received another one of those emails calling Jerusalemites to invest some of their time in order to promote an idea or another. Naturally, I ignored the email completely. Why was this interesting to me? What do I have to do with social activism and volunteering just because of some pretentious headline?
A few days later I went over the email again and something bothered me. I asked myself- why not? What do I have to lose from trying to do something for my community and going out of my comfort zone? It seemed that something inside me changed a little after receiving that email.
I started to think what attracts young Jerusalemites like myself and others I know. I sent a few half-baked ideas to the person who sent me the email, a Jerusalemite social activist from the top shelf who’d be terribly embarrassed if I mention her name, so I’ll just call her M. M was really excited by my idea but immediately grounded me. I especially remember her directing question: “all of these ideas are great, but what interests you most? What is your passion?” I think that it was one of the most important questions that can be asked in the world of social activism- but I’ll get back to that later.
When I finally realized what idea I found most interesting, I started reaching out to people I know and asking them if they would be willing to join and help. I have to admit it was a little weird and embarrassing at first, but to my surprise and delight the responses were great and heartwarming.
The end of this initial process, which took about two weeks (because I woke up at the last second) was that M, another activist from the Open House and I produced an international spoken word event in the city center with over 100 people in attendance. Among the performers were leading spoken word artists, as well as artists from the Open House, the Armenian Quarter and from the refugee community. The experience was extremely educational and inspiring, but it was working together that was key and to the success of the event. Without the email from M, the idea that popped into my head, and the connection to the rest of the partners it would all have stayed within the realms of theory.
Let me fast forward a year. A few weeks ago I got to take part in my fourth event promoting tolerance in civil society in Jerusalem. What started as a Spoken Word event in closed quarters soon went out into the open, and became a much deeper process. I decided to focus on the field of mental health. I personally know a few people dealing with mental health issues so I wanted to channel my energies towards that.
I had the privilege of taking part in the establishment and implementation of “The Team of Souls”. The team, which was still new in Jerusalem, was constructed from various treatment organizations, an organization for promoting tolerance in Jerusalem, social activists like myself and is constantly growing with more members joining each day. We deal with issues of mental health from the place of face to face meetings and creativity, instead of just dealing with stigma and disabilities.
So where is this all going?
During our last staff meeting we decided to hold several cultural events along with unofficial gatherings in order to bring people together. In the beginning of January we’ll present our model to a regional forum to show that there are things that can be done differently. Following that we’ll hold an event with the purpose of expanding the staff as well as hear from people in various fields how we can go forward. There is no doubt that people are starting to think differently about mental health issues due to the efforts of the staff, and even if the reality won’t change overnight, we got the ball rolling.
I really hope that our action will bring about change, even if just a small one. It’s clear to me that these things take time, effort and thinking out of the box. But if there’s anything I learned from this amazing process, they are:
- Always check where your passion is, what drives you and fulfils you. Usually, the minute I’m “living” a project or certain content things work out for the better and reality tends to cooperate a little more.
- Cooperation- even if you or someone else has an exceptionally creative idea- without partners, without learning and without working together for a cause (even if you don’t agree on everything) chances are that the project will stay in your brain.
- Next time you get a weird email- open it. You can never know what your next dreams are made of. I hope to continue my journey of doing good both for me and for those surrounding me, no matter how hard it is to put one foot in front of the other.
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