FAQs

Why do you work in the developing world? There are so many poor and disadvantaged people in Israel. They should come first.
This is the classic question that almost everybody who comes to volunteer on Tevel b’Tzedek hears at least once. There are many ways to answer this question. Here are a few: a) “The poor of your city come first” when all else is equal. But not all is equal. In the developing world, people are struggling for survival- for basic nutrition, health care, and sanitation. b) The reason that “the poor of your city came first” is because in Talmudic times the city was the basic economic and political unit–thus we had a responsibility for those who lived in the same system that we did. But today the economy is globalized. Everything we wear or use or eat comes from somewhere else- often the developing world. So do the caregivers taking care of our grandparents and the people picking the vegetables we eat. Is it right that everything should be globalized except for ethical responsibility? c) Caring and responsibility are not a zero sum game. That’s Tevel also runs social action programs in Israel together with our alumni.
Why did you choose to work in Nepal or Burundi of all places?
We aren’t focused solely on Nepal and Burundi, we aim to help marginalized people wherever we are most needed. We started in Nepal because when Tevel’s founding director, Micha Odenheimer, first visited Nepal, he was struck with the dire poverty of the country, and the number of Israeli and Jewish tourists visiting it every year. Many of the young backpackers expressed a desire to do something to help the impoverished nation, but didn’t have a venue through which to do so. Micha’s dialogue with them led to the birth of the idea for Tevel b’Tzedek.

When it came to actually implementing the program, other locations were considered as well. Nepal was chosen for the following reasons:
1. There is great need in Nepal.
2. Many Israelis and Jewish backpackers visit Nepal, making it a natural place for them to volunteer.
3. Nepal is an extremely safe and non-violent nation that is open and welcoming to Westerners.
4. Operational costs are low in Nepal allowing the organization to utilize the majority of its funds to the benefit of the communities with which it works.

In 2014 Tevel expanded to Africa, where we began working in Burundi, an extremely small and poor country in East Africa, adjacent to Rwanda, due to the great need there.

How has the earthquake affected volunteer programs?
Due to the earthquake the four month Tevel Community program is on hold. Additionally, living conditions were affected by the earthquake, with decreased access to electricity in some areas. Some host families live in temporary shelters, meaning some volunteers may stay in temporary shelters with the families.  
How can I contribute to post-earthquake work with short-term volunteering?
While working in a post-disaster area is not simple, there are many ways to make a meaningful contribution. New volunteers bring new ideas and new energy and add a great deal to the work of our year-round staff. Your experiences, ideas, energy, and fresh perspective can make all the difference. If you are committed to doing meaningful work and flexible about doing what is truly needed as well as flexible about living conditions then you are well equipped to contribute to our work.    
There are so many volunteer programs. What makes Tevel different?
It’s true that there are a lot of volunteer programs, but the majority are actually placement services that outsource the most important part of their programs (the volunteering) to other organizations. Therefore they don’t really have any control over the type of experience the volunteer will have. Many of the host organizations see the volunteers as a venue for fundraising, and “amusing” them as part of the deal. Volunteers often leave feeling frustrated with their experience. Placement organizations cannot create long-term intervention plans in the community, or any type of sustainability, as any progress that a volunteer makes usually falls apart when he/she leaves.

Tevel uses an in-house model that is led by our local staff who stay in communities for 3-4 years and ensures the quality and sustainability of the projects. Our international volunteers supplement the work of the local staff with their enthusiasm and special skills. For example, a local youth worker is in charge of every youth group. It  is that person who creates the ongoing rapport with the children and maintains the framework for weekly meetings for the duration of our intervention in the community. When a volunteer with a special skill, for example a photographer, comes in, he or she may lead the youth in several sessions on photography. However when he or she leaves, the youth group continues to meet and move forward in the long-term plan led by the local staff member.

This method allows each volunteer to utilize his or her skills and be part of the big picture of what Tevel is trying to achieve in the community. The community itself enjoys the interaction and the skills of the volunteers without the detrimental dynamic of volunteers starting projects only to have them fall apart after they leave.

What exactly do you do in the communities?
The roots of poverty are complex, and there are no “quick fixes”. Therefore we work on strengthening the communities in a holistic manner, focusing on agriculture, education, women’s empowerment, youth and public health. Read more about our model here.
Can I really do anything significant as a volunteer from another country?
Sure you can. In Tevel you won’t be on your own. You will be working with our talented local staff, within existing community frameworks that we run such as farmer’s groups, women’s groups, youth groups and teacher’s clubs. You will work with the Nepali staff to find the best ways to use your skills to enhance and expand the ongoing activity.
How will I communicate?
With the exception of the Exchange for Change program, all of our programs include language study in the orientation. You won’t become fluent, but you will learn basic vocabulary that will allow you to conduct basic communication.

Likewise, our local staff will be with you at all volunteer activities and help translate and facilitate your interaction with the community members.

Lastly, not all communication is verbal. Remember to smile!

Who is eligible to volunteer?
It depends on the program. Exchange for Change, our one-month program is open to all motivated backpackers over age 20 who are in good health. Tevel Community is open to candidates over age 20 who have either completed a BA or army/national service. The selection process for the program is more rigorous, and only 1 candidate in every 4-5 is selected to participate. Since it is a group program, the considerations are not only the merit of the individual candidate, but also the make-up of the group as we aim to create a balance with regards to gender, professional background, age and personal characteristics.

The Tevel Fellowship targets young professionals, ages 25-35 who have a degree and/or significant professional experience in one of the following fields: agriculture, health, education or media. Applicants should be in good health, and extremely committed.

How do I apply?
To apply to any of our volunteer programs, click here
Is it possible to volunteer at dates other than the official program dates?
Unfortunately, no. We want to ensure that every volunteer is properly prepared and trained before coming to a community, and also that each person has a clear plan for his or her volunteering. Therefore a lot of planning goes into each and every program, and we can’t accept volunteers outside of the planned dates.
What is a typical day like?
Each day is different, so it’s very hard to give an example of what a day is like. A lot of your time will be devoted to household tasks that don’t exist at home- for example bringing water from a common tap, growing your food in the kitchen garden, preparing food on a small burner or walking for an hour or more to buy supplies.

If you are working in education, you might spend a day doing teacher’s training, or helping the the school set up an early childhood classroom appropriate for the needs of that age group. If you are working in agriculture, you might participate in a training session where farmers learn new agriculture techniques, and then help individual farmers implement those techniques on their own land. If you are working with women’s groups you might help the local staff prepare and run a program on nutrition or family planning.

Since there is no electricity, days usually start and end early with the sunrise and sunset…..

What does the orientation program include?
The orientation includes studies on various subjects such as social justice in the Jewish tradition, globalization and third and first world relationships, as well as studying Nepali culture and society. Additionally, the orientation includes lessons in the local language, tours and meetings with political and social leaders in the country. For more information on the orientation and other educational programming, click here.
Why does Tevel include Jewish studies and keep a Jewish atmosphere during the program?
Tevel is dedicated to basic Jewish values such as social justice and helping the needy, and sees the Jewish tradition and sources as the inspiration for our activity. That’s why the programs include open and pluralistic Jewish texts study and discussion of core issues that are relevant to social activism. We look at Judaism from an intellectual and philosophical perspective and respect all levels of observance.
I'm orthodox. Will I be comfortable on the program?
We want the program to be comfortable for people from a variety of Jewish backgrounds, including orthodox. We do this by keeping Shabbat in most public areas of the big house, and all kitchens are strictly vegetarian. However people are free to do as they like in their own rooms as long as they are considerate of the other participants, and the computer room is open to those who want to use it at all times.
Why do most of the programs cost money? Shouldn't volunteering be free?
As a volunteer, you incur costs- for example for your training, housing, transportation and meals. Tevel subsidizes the majority of those costs for you on all of the programs.

Volunteers who commit for a longer period of time and are more qualified, for example on the Tevel Fellowship program, or agriculture experts on the Tevel Community program, receive a higher subsidy that covers the majority of their costs. The participants in other programs usually pay for their flights, visa, health insurance, and any incidental personal expenses during the course of the program. Volunteers are also responsible for their own recreational traveling. Tevel covers the cost of the training and educational programs, the local staff and other related expenses. For specific details about what is and isn’t included in each program, visit the program page.

This division allows us to keep costs to the volunteers comparatively low, but still leaves significant organizational funding to invest in infrastructure in the communities where we work.

What happens if I get sick? Is medical care available?
Before leaving for the program, volunteers must go to the doctor and get all necessary vaccinations. If you have a chronic medical condition, you should bring medication with you and arrange for insurance to cover your condition.

Excellent western hospitals exist in the capital cities, where volunteers can get medical care when necessary. As a rule, various physical hazards do exist so it is critical that volunteers abide by the organization’s instructions on medical safety matters such as safe water and travel.

Most volunteers do have stomach problems while volunteering, but while uncomfortable, they aren’t life threatening and are part of life in the developing world.

What about medical emergencies?
All volunteers must have rescue and evacuation insurance. In cases of emergency, a helicopter or jeep will be sent to bring you to the nearest hospital.
What are living conditions like?
VERY, VERY basic. In the big house in Kathmandu there are western facilities such as running hot water, electricity, western toilets and wi-fi. However in the villages you will be living like the villagers- in a mud brick house with no running water, no electricity, no internet (except via cellphone) and squat toilets in outhouses. Click here for more information.
Can I travel in the country while on the program?
You’re in the country to make a contribution. Therefore you won’t have time to travel to other areas of the country during the program*. If you are interested in traveling, we recommend staying in the country after the program and traveling then.

* The Tevel Fellowship has vacations twice during the year in which participants can travel.

My family wants to come visit me. Can they stay with me and volunteer while they're here? Can I have time off to spend with them?
Before planning a trip, it’s important that your family understand that you will be very busy and you won’t have time off to spend with them. The volunteer accommodations are very small, so we usually can’t accommodate guests,

We suggest that you contact the Tevel staff who can recommend alternative accommodations and help you and your family plan their visit in the optimal way.

Where does Tevel get its funding?
We are funded by a variety of large and small foundations and private donors who believe in the Jewish people’s commitment to the developing world. For a list of our funders, click here.
What will I gain from volunteering?
Your main motivation for participating in a Tevel program should be a true and deep desire to help others. However from years of experience we have also seen that the volunteer experience is life-changing for most participants. You will learn new skills, meet new friends and have experiences that will stay with you for the rest of your life. Check out these movies to hear alumni talking about the impact of the experience on their lives.