Rachel Allen (2014-15)

Rachel Allen, from Northern California, is a participant on our Joint MA track with the Hebrew University. She is spending her year interning at Mesila while completing an MA in Non-Profit Management. After completing the program, Rachel returned to the San Francisco, and got a job as the West Coast Program Coordinator at the Shalom Hartman Institute.


Oy, have I been busy! With school, my internship, my program and trying to maintain a life on top of it, I feel like the only reason I come back to the apartment is to sleep.


I love my grad program and find the classes to be very interesting and stimulating. Here is my class list:

  • Internship Workshop
  • Leadership and Social Responsibility
  • The Third Sector and Civil Society
  • Project Workshop
  • Organizational Theory for Non-Profits
  • Philanthropy and Civil Society
  • Researching Nonprofits
  • NGO Finances



It’s eight classes in two days. On Monday we start at 12:30 pm and are done at 6:00 pm and on Wednesdays we start at 10:30 am and finish at 8:00 pm with only 30 minutes breaks between each classes. Cap on either end of that over a two hour commute one way and it makes for some long, exhausting days. Each class assigns a lot of weekly reading and small papers as well. It’s proving a challenge to stay on top of it all.


On Sunday and Tuesday, I am at my internship. I intern at Mesila which is an NGO located in South Tel Aviv, where most of the refugee and asylum seeker community has settled. Most of the community fled from Sudan and Eritrea, walked through the Sinai Desert seeking safety in Israel. Mesila seeks to aid the children of this community. The parents work long, hard hours away from home. Because they are considered illegal, they are often exploited and paid very, low wages. They need a place to keep their children, so the community response to this has been the creation of around 70 illegal “babysitters”. What these places look like, generally, is an unventilated, small apartment that is filled with cribs. There are up to 30 children with one caregiver who only has time to look after their basic needs. There are no enrichment or development activities given to the children. All they do is eat and sleep for up to 12 hours a day. Some children get so bored, they start digging holes in the wall. They are starved of human affection and touch. It’s really heartbreaking.


Mesila seeks to address the phenomena on three levels; the individual level, the community level and the policy level. They put social workers and therapists into the babysitters to try to improve the settings for the children and also to identify the at-risk children and get them into a better environment. For instance, one social worker saw a three year old child who was not walking, only crawling. She got her to a doctor immediately and as it turns out, the child’s leg had been broken for several days and no one noticed or thought to take her in. At the community level, Mesila tries to partner with community leaders and parents through various programs and sessions, to give them them the tools and knowledge so they may advocate for a better environment for their children. Lastly, at the policy level, Mesila is trying to spread awareness of the issue and pressure the government to take notice of the phenomena and create some reforms.


The babysitters is just the main issue that Mesila is trying to change. They offer such a broad range of services to help combat other risks that a child from this community may be exposed to, such as violence and sexual abuse.


If you would like to read more about the organization, the issue as well as see some pictures, check out this website.


My internship is working with the fundraising department. I just helped complete a grant application to the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees), which was a lot of work but was rewarding.


Something a little lighter
My Tuesdays look like this: I go to my internship from the morning to the late afternoon, then a cafe to read and study and finally to an Ulpan class (where I learn conversational Hebrew). I don’t get home till around ten in the evening.


One Tuesday evening, my roommate and I had just finished our readings and we were gathering our stuff to walk to Ulpan when we realized we were a little early. We decided to walk to the beach to bury our feet in the sand for a few minutes to kill some time.


I have a tendency to focus on how I’m feeling right in the moment, like how tired I am or how overwhelmed I am feeling at the amount of things I am committed to in my life, that it’s sometimes hard to stop and pull myself out of it to look at the bigger picture and also notice nice moments in life.


The few minutes on the beach, I was suddenly able to do just that. I realized that I spent my morning writing a grant to the United Nations to bring in the much needed funds that would directly improve the life of a child, then I studied in an artsy cafe in the heart of Tel Aviv, and suddenly found myself on the beach looking at the beautifully lit, old city of Jaffa against the dark night sky and listening to the crashing of the waves on the quiet beach before I was about to head to Ulpan where I would discuss interesting subjects in Hebrew with people from all over the world. That was probably the longest run on sentence I have ever written but my point is, although I often get bogged down by normal life things (like I’m sure we all do), I’m really happy with what I am doing on a day to day basis and I’m writing it down here so that tomorrow when I forget, you guys can remind me! :)


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