Last week, two project managers from Merage Foundation Israel (MFI) made their first visit to the United States. Hila Sulimany and Sigal Cohen Afriat spent four days visiting Consolidated Investment Group and Merage Foundations. They presented to their colleagues here on the happenings in Israel and spent time with our associates to learn more about each entities work. Hila and Sigal took time out of their busy schedules to answer a few questions about their trip here:
What is Merage Foundation Israel (MFI)?
Merage Foundation has been operating in Israel for more than twenty years (since 1997). The fund’s activities began on behalf of the new immigrants from Iran, and over the years the activities has been expanded for the benefit of all Iranian community.
Next, the Merage Foundation Israel is expanding with new programs for all the Israeli society, with the goal of influencing Israeli society and to be productive citizens. In addition, there is a Wings program for lone soldiers, a program that has been operating for more than 12 years. The programs are intended for young people from around the world who come to Israel to serve in the Israeli army.
What program do you work with and what is your role?
I’m Hila Sulimany, and I’m a Project Manager for Merage Foundation Israel. I oversee the Wings program, which is the lone soldier’s organization in Israel. I also manage the marketing and social media activities for MFI, including websites, Facebook, etc. Additionally, I serve as the voice for MFI in various community meetings and in Knesset, which is the Israeli Parliament.
I’m Sigal Cohen Afriat and I’m also a Project Manager for MFI. I oversee the Iranian Women Leaders and their activities within the community. I also work with senior citizens through a program focused on technology, called Connected. This allows the older population to learn how to use everyday devices, such as smart phones, that they would otherwise not know how to operate. Lastly, I’m also involved with soldiers who are on reserve in Israel, helping them stay connected with their community and connecting them to necessary resources.
With this being your first trip to the United States, was there anything about our culture or way of life that was different than you had anticipated?
For both of us, it was the first trip to the United States. We loved the calm life here in the U.S. In Israel, life is more stressful and there is a feeling that you are rushing all the time so that you don’t miss anything.
What was the most fun activity and why?
We loved the visit to Denver Botanic Gardens. The place is amazing, and for the first time, we were exposed to the activity of the Jonathan Merage Foundation in the U.S. Thanks to Sue Renner for guiding us around the gardens and exposing us to a “new world”.
What was your biggest take-away? What did you learn about CIG or Merage Foundations that you didn’t know before?
Throughout our years with Merage Foundation Israel, we heard a lot about the workings of CIG and the people who work in the company. But, this was the first time we realized how extensive the work was. We also learned more about the philanthropic activities being done in the U.S. and learned a great deal about how to find a solution for every need, turning a dream into a reality that helps thousands of people. The most important thing we took with us to Israel is the feeling that everything is possible because we have a talented team with us.
Was there anything you learned while you were here that you will implement in your own programming?
Of course! We learned, first of all, how in each of our programs it is important to develop the vision not only about the specific population that we want to influence and that we want to help, but also to see how we can improve people living in their environment. In addition, we understood how each time we reach the goal we set for ourselves, we need to think higher and not be afraid to set goals that at first seem to us a bit difficult to achieve. We must first set the goal before us, and then we will find the way to reach it successfully.