Volunteer Sarapage Podolsky has been instrumental in helping Kulanu’s communities and their members gain technological skills that have connected them to the rest of the world. Read how Sarapage has made a difference!
Sarapage Podolsky first discovered Kulanu when her family was looking to donate Judaica items that had belonged to her grand-uncle when he passed away. The family wanted to make sure that his tefillin, tallit, and other pieces would be put to good use, and Kulanu found them a new home in an isolated community in El Salvador. Sarapage started to donate to Kulanu after this first encounter but wanted to find a way to contribute on a more personal level. In 2014, she wrote to Harriet Bograd, president of Kulanu, from her home in Israel and asked about volunteer opportunities.
When Harriet discovered Sarapage’s technical expertise—she holds a degree in electrical engineering and worked in the hi-tech industry—a perfect match was made that would change the way Kulanu communities functioned from then on. Sarapage was excited to find a way to take her skills to communities around the world, wherein many of the Jewish communities that Kulanu supports there are great needs for better technology.
Sarapage writes: “For many of the Kulanu communities, internet access has been very limited; individuals had to travel long distances to use internet cafés for a few minutes. It has been my privilege to work with many of the communities to determine their technical needs and offer solutions. Some communities need devices with large screens that everybody can gather around for a Skype lesson with a rabbi. Other communities need a device that is as small as possible so that it can be carried to a charging location. Many of the communities have unreliable power, so battery life is of utmost importance. In some cases, the internet will be used by one device in the community, and in other communities, everybody will share from one wifi hotspot. I consider these factors, and many others, each time I make a recommendation for a device or internet plan.”
Thanks to Sarapage’s efforts, Kulanu and our partner communities have been able to use technology as a key communication and education tool. Communities are now able to access online learning materials, which has led us to revamp our website’s Online Jewish Resources page to assist communities in finding the information that they need to live Jewishly. We regularly receive photo updates from community leaders around the globe sharing their progress and stories with us. Being able to receive high-quality pictures and frequent updates is important for our outreach; we share these on
social media and email to our many supporters to demonstrate that donations go to good use and reach the communities who need them.
Sarapage has seen transformations in the eight communities where she has been the key player in providing internet access:
“It really excites me to see the impact that internet connection has had on these communities. I’ve been sung to over Skype by Kenyan youth who didn’t have access to Skype before. Many of the communities have been able to start their own GoFundMe campaigns to raise money for community needs outside of Kulanu’s scope. The Tikvat Israel community opened a small internet café in their synagogue. Community leaders are able to more quickly respond to emails from outside organizations that Kulanu has partnered them with, or that they have found on their own. I see many individuals with thriving Facebook pages making connections with friends from around the world. I am so proud to have played a part in enabling the global connectivity and technological learning of these communities.”
We are also delighted to see individuals developing new technical skills under Sarapage’s guidance. Some have learned to use spreadsheets for budgeting.
Harriet Bograd, Kulanu’s president, affirms Sarapage’s transformational role in Kualnu’s work with technology in our communities: “Over the years, my delight in Sarapage’s contribution has grown and grown. She helps assess each community’s resources and needs, helps shop for just the right device for each situation, helps communities assess how much internet service they are likely to need, or when solar power might be appropriate. Introducing technology to communities that are new to it and that have limited electricity can be very challenging. Kulanu is so proud to be able to introduce new communities to Sarapage to help them get started, and to introduce more advanced computer users to her for more advanced help. Sarapage approaches each person she helps with patience and respect and adjusts to each person’s skills in English, computers, spreadsheets, and budgeting, and she communicates with people using whatever technology is comfortable and available to them, making her broad experience invaluable.”
Technological improvements can touch all areas of an isolated Jewish community’s life, from ritual practice to business management. It also helps the Kulanu office to spread the word about our work and about the self-driven efforts of communities. Thanks to Sarapage, our online network has been enriched!