HALIFAX — Since he became program director of IsraAID in July 2011, Navonel (Voni) Glick has supervised planning and implementation of humanitarian projects in Japan, south Sudan, Jordan, South Korea, Haiti, Kenya, the Philippines and the United States. He’s been emergency response leader in the latter four.
However, he spent the week of March 3, spreading the word about IsraAID in Eastern Canada, speaking to university and community groups in Fredericton (University of New Brunswick), Sackville N.B. (Mount Allison University), Wolfville N.S. (Acadia University), Halifax (Dalhousie and Saint Mary’s universities) and St. John’s Nfld. (Memorial). He concluded a Canadian swing with a couple of days in Toronto last week before returning to his Tel Aviv base.
“IsraAID is an apolitical, non-profit organization, existing without any government funding. It was founded in 2001 and registered in 2007 to respond to crises at major humanitarian disasters,” he said in a Halifax interview.
IsraAID’s main fields of expertise are capacity building in mental health care, responses to gender-based violence, youth empowerment, and professional training. It has operated in 22 countries
“We’re supported mostly by the Jewish federations of Canada, specifically Toronto, but also receive funding from other federations in North America, plus private and family foundations and corporate sponsors,” Glick said.
“Our annual budget is about $1.5 million, a very low percentage of which goes to administration and the rest to programming and development.”
Glick, 27, is a dual Canadian-Israeli citizen and speaks four languages – Hebrew, English, French and Nepalese). He was born in Israel but has lived in France and India, studied at McGill University in Montreal, and worked for four years in Nepal with Tevel B’Tzedek, an Israeli development organization, prior to starting with IsraAID.
“I was drawn back to Israel to IsraAID to help others in this world,” he said. “As program director, I co-ordinate projects, work with our country directors [where a disaster has happened] and oversee budgeting and accounts. When something happens, though, I’m usually first out, along with our medical team.”
The first few days are critical when a disaster occurs, he stressed. “We’re usually there in three to four days, but we want to advance that to one or two because those days are crucial. From each disaster, we appeal to our donors for funds and need to ensure we have enough to get started immediately, rather than waiting even an extra day or two.”
He said people in stricken nations are aware Israel is participating in a meaningful way.
“Only in Jordan, have we kept a lower profile because we’re assisting Syrian refugees there. Jordan knows about us, but the Syrians don’t, because we’re concerned they might be targeted for receiving food and supplies from Israel.”
He said most countries respect IsraAID, because they recognize the Jewish state as a success story that built itself and is trying to help them re-build.
Glick spent a week in Haiti prior to his Atlantic Canada speaking tour, reviewing what IsraAID is doing in the earthquake-ravaged country.
“We were there [in 2010] more quickly than many other countries, setting up schools, rehab clinics, trauma centres, and eventually doing long-term community development that’s still going on.”
He said agriculture has been a major initiative, bringing Israeli technology and expertise in drip irrigation to encourage more efficient use of water for farm growth. “We’ve trained farmers, set them up with buyers for their product, and they are now close to independence.”
Glick said he’s satisfied and privileged to work in this field and “humbled by the people in meet in these countries.
“Disasters bring out the best and worst in people. You see the high of incredible selflessness and willingness to help and then the low of pain and desperation. It’s a constant emotional up and down, with no end to the ‘coulda, woulda, shoulda’ questions you ask yourself.”