Tuesday, September 30, 2014

IDF Soldiers, “Fighters for Life,” volunteer teaching Krav Maga in Mumbai

Fifteen soldiers spent two weeks volunteering in a community center catering to underprivileged children of Mumbai in September, thanks to the coordinating efforts of GPM and the Israel Consulate in Mumbai. The soldiers, men and women who recently completed combat duty with the Israel Defense Forces, spent ten days in Santa Cruz, Mumbai, teaching Krav Maga, First Aid, English and other empowering coursesto disadvantaged children in the neighborhood. The group, called “Fighters for Life”, worked in conjunction with the socio-humanitarian service organization in Mumbai called Triranta Prerana Mandal, and also utilized their time painting and offering light external repairs to the local community center building.

“Fighters for Life” was formed earlier this year by Captain Gilli Cohen who had been listening to many of his soldiers discussing their plans for travel after the army. The soldiers expressed interest in doing something meaningful while backpacking overseas – and he decided to take action. He met with people, formed a committee, and opened a Facebook group which quickly garnered over 4,000 members. Finally Gilli contacted GPM for assistance, as well as the Israeli Consulate in Mumbai, and all together they formulated a plan and launched their project.

The cohort of Fighters for Life, consisting of fifteen soldiers and officers from many sections of the IDF called themselves “Team Pomerantz” in memory of the late Staff Sgt. Daniel Pomerantz who was killed in the Gaza war in July.

GPM staffer, David Ramrajkar, was happy to assist in group logistics while they were in Mumbai."The Israelis were so nice and professional in teaching their classes, I really enjoyed spending time with them."

A highlight of the experience was the two weekends the group spent with the Jewish community of Mumbai. The group taught self defense to the community's youth and adults at the Mumbai JCC, taught about Israel, learned about India's Jewry and shared in fascinating cultural exchanges.

IDF General (res.) Eliezer Shkedi, who now serves as the the Board President of Fighters for Life, met with GPM Founding Director Jacob Sztokman and commented on this endeavor. “It’s so nice to see such a large group of socially-minded young people, who want to include a meaningful volunteer experience as part of their travels.” 

Gilli was happy to share his thoughts and impressions at the completion of his time in Mumbai. "We were so amazed by the help we received from GPM and inspired by what they are doing with children in the slums of Mumbai. While we volunteered, we learned a lot, gave of ourselves wholeheartedly and have been changed forever."

Teaching about human anatomy

Class on hygiene and health

Part of the painting and gardening project at the community center

Understanding the challenges of life in the slums with Gabriel Project Mumbai

With the Jewish community at the Mumbai JCC

Some media attention

Painting outside walls of the community center

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