Akimiel Imri was born and raised in the city of Dimona in Israel. Prior to reaching 8th grade, he had never been out the city alone and did not speak the local language of Hebrew. Living in a closed community, yet not being able to speak Hebrew, Akimiel says that he felt that he was missing something, that there was more to life than what he already knew.
“When I started the 8th grade and the offer came through the school to join a youth programme – I jumped at it. At the time I had no idea just how much this would influence my life and shape me to become the proud young Hebrew son that I am today. And even today I strongly believe it’s one, if not the BEST decisions I have ever made.
“I started the Award as a kid at the bronze level of the Award, not speaking Hebrew. Starting school was a new chapter in life for me and I was scared, nervous, shy and insecure. I had no self-identity. The Award took us all over the country for seminars and trips. On this journey with the Award I felt confident and I was no longer the boy from an unknown city with a strange name to pronounce who did not speak Hebrew. The Award is one of the first multi-cultural programmes of its kind which allowed me to feel comfortable in my own skin.
“I became so comfortable that I found myself speaking of and teaching my culture in the language I was still learning. Only then did I felt safe getting on the bus alone and riding to the last stop because the Award showed me how much I loved to travel. Suddenly I had access to the whole world and I could spend a life time seeing it. When I’m on the road I forget about my problems and I’m just free.
“Because of the Award, I am now a proud Hebrew boy from אות הנוער who speaks good Hebrew and is no longer afraid to speak before a large crowd or to speak of his culture. The Award taught me to accept and respect other people and cultures which in turn taught me the power and importance of my own.
I learned that I am unique and that I can believe in myself. I learned about leadership and entrepreneurship.
“In fact, after the entrepreneurship seminar I attended through the Award, I was given an opportunity to run a project of my choosing with funding. I opened a natural hair salon using the same skills the Award had taught me. When I graduated Gold I wanted to give back to the Award after all it had given me.
I am now an Award Leader. I became the one taking kids all over the country teaching peace love and acceptance. Teaching children how to respect other culture.
“I became the person who created a safe space where little boys and girls felt comfortable in their own skin so that they would speak their minds and become the best version of themselves. It was then when I decided that giving is my greatest gift which I probably learned through the voluntary service section of the Award. I started the award at the bottom of my class barely passing some subjects not even speaking the language. But with the help of the Award, I now know “when you believe in yourself you will be surprised by what you can do”.
“In short, the Award has taught me self-control, self-respect, confidence, leadership, and determination. If I could go back in time to my 14-year-old self I wouldn’t tell him a thing because I know that he will make the right decision. I like the way things turned out and I would describe the Award as an adventurous path where you learn to use tools that you didn’t know were in your toolbox.”