A group of students from Escola ORT Brazil travelled to Israel in July as their reward for winning this year’s World ORT Taub Young Entrepreneurship Program (YEP) for students in the southern hemisphere.
The team from Rio de Janeiro joined students from Israel, Ukraine, Britain and the U.S. for an ‘Apprentice’-style entrepreneurial challenge over the course of a week at World ORT’s flagship Kfar Silver Youth Village.
Students were tasked with creating a solution to boost mental health support for thousands of teenage volunteers in Israel.
The program was designed in collaboration with Magen David Adom UK (MDA UK) and included activities to develop entrepreneurship, reasoning, critical thinking, storytelling, design thinking and much more. Working in teams, participants learned the art of design thinking, market research and pitching.
Speakers throughout the program included Daniel Burger and Joshua Diamond, Chief Executive and Fundraising Manager of MDA UK; Yoni Cohen, Head of Production at mental health platform JAAQ; and Cassy Martell and George Sanders, co-founders of AzuraMinds – a group which specializes in mental health and wellbeing in the workplace.
The group attended design thinking workshops and practical experience sessions, gaining entrepreneurial tips from leading tech organizations. The institutions included Appleseeds, an Israeli nonprofit promoting digital equality, and Tel Aviv University Ventures Capital, a finance group affiliated with the university.
The students also had a session with ORT UK Chair Annette Kurer, and clinician feedback sessions from AzuraMinds. In addition, they conducted vital market research with teenage volunteers at the MDA Bloomberg Centre.
At the end of the week, the five teams pitched their concepts to MDA UK. The presentations were impressive; each offered solutions to streamline existing services and offerings. This included creating fully-equipped and usable spaces for volunteers and staff through a holistic approach, upgraded apps to support the well-being of volunteers and their families, therapeutic support through art, animals and music and a mentoring program with ex-volunteers.
Arthur Toscano, a Brazilian student, said: “It started with us winning YEP 2022, after working really hard, staying at school to work during our holidays, but it was worth it. The whole experience was just unreal, it took some time to sink in.
“The people were great – I thought I would just get along and hang out with the other Brazilians, but that wasn’t the case. I had fun with multiple people from the UK, Israel and Ukraine, some of them I still talk to. The opportunity to present our ideas to MDA and, on top of that, for them to care and be interested in not just watching but implementing them surpassed my expectations. I loved it and would definitely do it again.”
The Brazilian group won the competition in 2022 after designing an app which helps improve the well-being of cancer patients. Their ‘COM VC’ (‘with you’) online platform works to connect specialist psychologists with patients, promotes health, and provides a range of comforting aids for the sick.
Juliana Scliar, another member of the winning Brazilian team, said: “Staying at the Kfar Silver Youth Village with 20 other people my age, with different cultures and backgrounds, added a lot to my maturing as a person. I’m sure I’ll carry the friendships I made there for the rest of my life. It was so light and natural that even being in a ‘competition’ and working on our projects, the feeling wasn’t of work, but of fun.”
The four Brazilian students had an opportunity to close the experience with a tour of Jerusalem’s Old City.
Gaynor Collins, Education Project Manager at World ORT, said: “It was incredible to see how the students used their knowledge and experience from their studies in the YEP program and were able to apply these skills so successfully when working with students from other countries.
“Their expertise shone through and the ORT Brazil students really stood out as team leaders. It was also amazing to see the friendships that ORT Brazil made with the other students. “
Already back in Brazil, one of the students, Clarice Sa, is now using her accomplishments, skills and experiences to help support and teach this year’s Brazil YEP team.