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by Daundra Lewis

July 19th, 2017 I was feeling 22 and not just anywhere but in Israel. Last year during my 21st birthday I made a commitment to myself that I would be more positively selfish and focus more on my personal development and growth. This included living my dream of traveling to meet and connect with people of different cultural backgrounds around the world. Although I am not an archeologist major, I jumped on the opportunity to come to Israel to fulfill college credits and to join the community outreach program. Turning 22 in Israel was just a bonus and boy was it a big one.

Birthday Girl

My birthday celebration began at 12 am IST when I called my mother to let her know that it was officially my birthday in Israel. I then went to sleep to get a few hours of rest before having to get up to go to the archaeological site.

At 4:30am I woke up to get ready for the day. I got dressed, brushed my teeth, fixed my hair, and gave myself a pep talk to survive the day. I was so tired I almost forgot it was my birthday until I went outside to board the bus and Sarah, a peer from the Tel, began singing Happy Birthday. Everyone who was outside joined in and I was both surprised and joyful by the kindness so early in the morning. It was a really great start to the day. I worked on the Tel until breakfast and left to work my first day at the Conservation Center with my Community Outreach group. By this time it was officially 12 am in New Jersey. As I was preparing to leave for the conservation site I noticed I received a text message from my mother wishing me “Happy Birthday”. Reading her encouraging words was an energy booster for meeting the youth in the conservation project.

 

Milanna (right) and I (left)

Being able to connect with the kids for the first time was one of the best birthday gifts. One of the reasons I feel passionate about community outreach is because of how community outreach has played a significant role in my life. Being involved in youth projects within my community in Newark, New Jersey gave me a different perspective of the streets I grew up on. I can relate to how it feels for people to automatically have a negative connotation to a location they lack concrete knowledge on. Being involved as a youth also encourage me to work towards creating more opportunities for people within my community in the future.

Gaining exposure from other programs and expanding my knowledge of other cultures can lead to the future development of a diverse programs. Initially I wondered if the language barrier would make my relationship awkward with the students and it did at

Jake (left) and I (right)

first. But then our personalities began to click. Within 5 minutes of self-introduction it was announced it was my birthday, and the kids were excited and wished me “Happy Birthday”. This was my first interaction with the kids and they were so welcoming! One of our projects consisted of us making mortar and making a figure using the mortar. Milanna and Priel (girls who were part of the youth program) made me a cake out of mortar. Then Daniel and Milanna made Jake, my partner whose birthday was a day later, and I a sandwich with lit birthday candles. To top it off I receive a crown or flower wreath. I wasn’t sure how I would feel turning 22. However, after all the love and birthday wishes, I had absolutely no reason to not enjoy becoming a year older.

 

 

To end the day, I made yet another memory in Akko when I spent my birthday dinner at Abu Cristo with my new friend Jill who is also apart of the Tel Akko Program.Great food is always the best way to end the day.

As a child I often dreamed about the opportunity to travel. I used to watch planes takeoff from Newark Airport near my home. No longer do I have to imagine, because I made the dream come true. I couldn’t be any more grateful and joyful to meet new people in Israel and expand my knowledge of the culture. This is a great opportunity to grow as an individual and leader. I have already been introduced to a taste of simple acts of kindness, and the youth from the conservancy taught me that. I can only look forward to making someone feel as special they made me, a stranger, feel on their special day away from home. Cheers to new adventures, friends, and growth!

Daundra Lewis
About Daundra Lewis

1 Comment

  • Jennifer Munro
    2:47 PM - 10 August, 2017

    Wonderful blog post! Thanks so much D’aundra. Belated Happy Birthday xxx

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I’m Feeling 22