Vee are the People: Meet Keren Sade
Matan Buganim
February 11, 2021

In recent years, she has worked with victims of prostitution and drug abuse. Nowadays, she works as Street Project Manager in the Izhar program and as a Night Patrol Manager of the "Street Address" program.

In this week's interview, we talked with Keren Sade about working with volunteers to find hope in seemingly hopeless situations.

Can you tell us a bit about the Izhar Program?

"The Izhar program is an initiative of the Ministry of Health and the Anti-Drugs Authority to minimize damage in society. We have no admission requirements, and the drug addicts don't have to want to go into rehab or even identify. We are willing to be with the person in his place and with what he is ready to reveal."

What does minimizing damage means?

"Minimizing damage includes distributing clean syringes, contraception, and spirits to help disinfect after injecting.

We provide them with containers to put their substances separately. If one person is infected with AIDS, they all get infected. That's why it's vital for the Ministry for Public Health. It goes beyond the drug-addicts lives and is about containing diseases in society as a whole.

The way I see it, giving them syringes and contraceptives is our way of getting in faster. Giving them something allows us to create a dialogue around it, and through this connection and trust, we accompany them wherever they want.

Our job is to see them not as drug addicts or as women in prostitution - but as human beings. The chemistry at the end is person-to-person, and each volunteer gets connected with different kinds of people. There are amazing processes, even in very short periods.

We even distribute cat food since we have seen them feed the stray cats so that they won't be buying it from the money of prostitution. There is a lot of humanity in this place. We celebrate their birthdays on the street. It's not me. I have a perfect team of volunteers."

What is your role in Izhar Program?

"I'm in charge of the Street Tours' volunteers and accompany them as they work with women in prostitution. I'm also developing this field and assisting the women. I guide the volunteers on how to properly engage, what's right to do and see the big picture.

Besides providing professional guidance, I am also rebuilding the infrastructure, and I would like to expand it to allow volunteering as mentors and facilitate locating units."

What brought you to Izhar?

"I worked at Slait and Elem. I worked in the world of women in prostitution, and it seems like a natural step. Izhar gave me the option to move from instructor to coordinator, gave me the professional jump.

A training position means to be more in the field, and it has its benefits. But at some point, you want to move forward. Here I can develop things, guide the volunteers. I'm still in the field because I accompany them on tours, but I spend less time with the women. The volunteers are at the front of the stage for me. I am behind the scenes."

What do you love about your job?

"I love mentoring others. While it is good for me to have enough experience to teach others, I will never know everything. I am constantly evolving here, and that's what is most important for me. I will always choose my roles according to what will develop me. I can go with my vision here. We started with three tours, today we have five tours, and we have expanded the arenas."

What are the challenges of working with volunteers?

"In the end, managing volunteers is like managing a team of employees. It's work requirements, but with volunteers, it's different. Not difficult, just different. They are not my employees. They come for a certain range of hours, and that's it. There is a lot of frustration among drug addicts and women in prostitution, and there are not many solutions to these populations. It's a lot of rejection and a lot of checking boundaries. I'm not working with the drug addicts. I'm working with the volunteers, so they will know how to work with them."

How do you keep your volunteers happy and motivated?

"First of all - I see them. I know what's going on in their lives. They don't just volunteer for one day and disappear. we celebrate birthdays together. They always know what's going on. I give them a monthly summary once a month. They are within a professional framework."

Has working in the organization changed you?

"Working with people suffering from such sexual trauma that still exists changes the way you see the world. There are things today that I will be afraid to do because I am more aware of the consequences. I understand that the world is not a good place, and my choice is not to close my eyes. On the other hand, it has also made me a person with much more compassion. It changes you. No doubt it does."

It's a tough field. What motivates you?

"I got to see the processes of people who came out of this world and live a normal life. It's awfully hard to get out of the world of prostitution and drugs, to process the amount of poison they go through. We don't meet many so-called successes. I know it exists. I am 6-7 years in the field, so I saw these changes. It taught me that it exists and that success is not a rehab or a normative life. Hearing about someone who no longer stands here every night. Hearing about people who have chosen or succeeded, who are no longer part of this world, for me, it's worth it. Most of them don't get out of it."

What tips can you give to other coordinators?

"Putting boundaries for yourself. It's hard to find a place for yourself and close the door after a long day, but otherwise, there are a lot of guilt feelings. Although I'm still learning, I know how to find a place for myself as well. I know how to enjoy life, even though I work so hard."

Tell about an event that moved while working in the program

"I knew someone for six years, and everyone kept telling me she would die soon. Today, she is not dead, and she is no longer in prostitution. It taught me not to determine. Understand that there is hope. It can happen. Even if it takes six years, it can happen. It's not a specific event, but it's a specific someone that I really liked. Someone who taught me not to say there is no chance. It guides you out of despair because, again, it's terribly despairing. Seeing processes takes time. It's a matter of years. Being in the same field for a long time allowed me to see these places as well."

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