Eight students from Uganda reside at Elrom farm and reside in the Kibbutz. These eight students have forged a strong relationship with one of the farm’s employees who has practically adopted them into the family.
Ronen Refaely from Kibbutz Elrom has developed a strong kinship with the Ugandan students. It started with small things, helping them occasionally when they needed assistance reaching the doctor, or giving them a ride somewhere. After become better acquainted they approached him and asked him for advice on travelling routes in Israel ad Refaely, instead of giving them a map, decided to invite them along with his family.
The students have so far visited Akko, Haifa, the Bahai Gardens, they have trekked the Banias river route with him and traveled to Mt. Hermon to play in the snow. They also join him and his family every week as they visit the Kinnneret (the Sea of Galilee) with his family.
In fact, this expanded family travels with two cars, one large one with Refaely and the students and another for the rest of the family.
Over time the entire family has grown close to the students, so much so that his eight year old daughter almost refused to visit her grandparents in Denmark recently, for fear that she would miss time with the students who will soon be leaving. To compensate she prepared a small gift for each of them, a small painted stone, with a personally dedicated picture.
“The students are amazing people, very gentle, very intelligent and amazing workers. My young daughter feels as though she has eight older brothers. We get from them probably more than we give. I don’t feel as though I’m making an effort because they are amazing people and I enjoy their company. It doesn’t feel like giving, it feels like receiving.”
A conversation with Francis, one of the Ugandan students reveals a similar picture: “Apart from working with him he is like a father and friend to us. He has done a lot of good. He makes sure we have what we need, takes us to the hospital if we need it. He’s taken us to Akko, the Bahai temple, the Kinneret and more. One cannot describe him, he is a good ma. I could call him my father, my brother, everything. Also the family is very nice, his wife, the kids are lovely. When we are around them we feel at home.
We wanted to find a way to show how grateful we are, not just to him but the entire community at Elrom. They show you love, you feel like you are with your own family. So we thought maybe we can do something traditional for Shavuot. The traditional Ugandan dance is not easy, but we planned and worked on it and we did something and they joined and it was great.”
It is truly heartwarming to hear such stories that really embody the greatest success in terms of forging inter-cultural relationships between the students and their hosts in Israel. Without giving it thought, from the natural instinct of love and friendship, both parties have become the truest and best Ambassadors of Good Will for their countries and have opened the door for continued learning and cooperation.
In the near future Refaely and the eight Ugandan students plan a trip to the closest paintball arena and in September they will be returning to their home country and hope to keep in touch. There is already talk about a reciprocal visit to Uganda and one of the students is actually staying in Israel for another two years to continue his studies in Sustainability in the Arava campus Ktora.
We wish them all a successful graduation from the Agrostudies program and that they may continue enjoying these friendship for many years to come.