When 17-year-old Elizabeth Henderson boarded an airplane this summer for her first-ever international flight, she did not know she would come back to Houston a month later ready to change the world.
But Henderson, a resident of the predominately African-American community of Sunnyside, returned from her trip to Israel more culturally aware and determined to apply what she had learned overseas.
The Worthing HS senior was one of only 10 teens selected to travel to the cities of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa, and Eilat this summer through the Mickey Leland Kibbutzim Internship. Over the course of her trip, Henderson experienced life on a kibbutz (a collective community in Israel traditionally based on agriculture), volunteered at a local community center, and hiked to the top of the Masada plateau to see the sun rise over the Dead Sea.
“My trip to Israel was life-changing,” said Henderson. “I took so many things for granted before this trip, including air-conditioning, water, food, and education.”
Henderson and her group visited a tomato farm, where they picked tomatoes for an hour. This experience inspired her to think about starting a small organization or community service project in her own community.
“The organization started small, with tomatoes to feed about 50 families, and through the support of other organizations, scientists, and researchers, they had an opportunity to grow to feed over 50,000 families a year,” said Henderson. “I look at my community of Sunnyside and see that there is a need for a lot of improvement.”
The late Congressman Mickey Leland and his close friends J. Kent Friedman and Vic Samuels of Houston founded the Mickey Leland Kibbutzim Internship Program in 1980. Leland traveled to Israel in 1979.