By Sunny Marshansky, ESRA CEO

Thank you Merle and Terry for your inspiring leadership and full support in enabling ESRA to evolve and grow from strength to strength, promising its continuity and building its next generation of leadership, membership, donors, and volunteers. As you said Terry, it isn't all roses and sunshine, but together, we do our best to rise to the challenges. We are led by ESRA’s values of humanity, creativity, and professionalism.

ESRA's Growth Strategy is based on 5 stages that started in 2018. 

The first stage was to implement infrastructure and platforms for the support of change and growth. The steps that were taken included consolidating and uniting offices, shifting to a more sophisticated data management system, automating processes and developing platforms for online activities and services, as well as revamping the ESRA secondhand shops, which was done recently, turning them into a social space and welcoming teenagers who volunteer as part of their high school volunteering requirements. These teens have become part of the team, along with special needs people, scholarship students, and ESRA volunteers, all exposed to and demonstrating the values of giving, recycling, and equality.

The second stage was to prepare and grow the human resources required for such a huge task. We welcomed new volunteers from a variety of age groups and professional backgrounds while investing in training and support for our valuable existing volunteers. ESRA also moved to outsourced bookkeeping, saving on Admin, and recently started to use an external service for fundraising and digital marketing.

The third stage was to position ourselves to receive governmental recognition and support. As Terry said, now that we received this from the Ministry of Immigration and Absorption, as well as the Ministry of Education, our next goal is to receive recognition and support from the Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs, and Social Services.

The fourth stage was raising the effectiveness of our work to maximize ESRA’s social impact, such as by implementing evaluation and measurement of all ESRA’s work and activities. This led to our receipt of the Midot Seal of Effectiveness. 

Stage 5 is to grow and expand ESRA's activities in aiding the integration of English-speaking Olim, from different age groups and in different stages of their Aliyah process, while working toward bridging equity gaps in Israel’s geo-social periphery. 

Through this infrastructure, and aided by ESRA’s excellent teams, we are expanding and increasing the number of our volunteers and of those benefitting from their activities while raising the impact and effectiveness of all that we do.

All the above has established ESRA as key player in the world of Aliya and Education. Just recently, ESRA was proud to have been chosen to present "Innovation in Education" to the OECD at the International Convention of the Israel Ministry of Education. ESRA's two new and unique online ETP programs, Chat Away led by Helen Osimo, and Teacher Chat led by Rosalind Jacobs, succeeded in eliminating geographic and sector boundaries, while facilitating a streamlined process of implementation, overcoming bureaucratic and logistic challenges. The result is that ESRA's online ETP programs show proven success in improving English oral proficiency for students and non-native English-speaking teachers. 

Another outcome is that ESRA has become a global volunteering platform, with an international cadre of volunteers, and partnering with organizations such as the JCC Association of North America and the JVN in the UK, welcoming people worldwide to connect with life in Israel.

We are proud of our achievements, but well aware that there is much still to do and in the upcoming year we will focus on 3 main goals: 

- First, to provide more services and support, that personal touch that Merle spoke about, to our members and volunteers.

- Our second goal for the coming year will be to continue to consolidate the changes and growth achieved so far.

- The third main goal for the coming year is to expand ESRA’s education projects helping to bridge equity gaps.

To conclude, I would like to second Terry’s thank you to ESRA’s teams of volunteers and staff because without them none of the achievements could have happened.

I can’t even start to describe the tremendous amount of effort, professionalism, and dedication invested in making it all possible.

I see many of you on my screen and would like you to know, that your kind hearts, creativity, support, and dedication to help others, are what drives me forward. Every day.

Thank you!