Our Second Home

Amos Schonfield, UK
Interviewed and written by Natalia Czarkowska
(Kaplan Fellow @Yesod, Cohort I)

“Our Second Home (OSH)”,is a UK-based residential summer camp aiming to empower and develop young refugees and asylum seekers, founded by Amos Schonfield in the summer of 2018. Amos himself got his start as a madrich and then national Director of the Masorti youth movement, Noam, in the UK. He was used to running summer camps and working with young people. “Being in these summer camps, and these nurturing communities of people who share your values, share your outlook on life was transformative for me and for my friends. And I know that it had a huge impact on my own personal development, my Jewish identity and my commitment to social justice.” Amos decided to take these lessons and apply them to the most desperate of populations; teenage refugees. The idea took quite a long time to grow. For over a year he just thought about it. Later he talked about it to friends and other people but it took time for the idea to slowly grow until it became impossible to ignore. Finally Amos felt he had to do something about it. He teamed up with a friend and they developed a proposal and figured out how to start a summer camp.

Most of the people involved in “OSH” are connected to the Masorti youth movement. When the project got serious the movement agreed to provide Amos with legal support as a registered charity. “Masorti Judaism and Noam sort of own “Our Second Home” until it can become an independent entity” – he explains. To raise the funds Amos and his team did also a huge amount of crowd-funding. Amos’s friend ran a marathon for “OSH”. The team created a wish list on Amazon. Instead of sending money people would buy sponges, washing up liquid, rice. All the things that were needed to run a camp was bought by friends. “My parent’s living room was full of boxes from Amazon, because everyone kept sending stuff.” – he said.

Over the course of the year they managed to put together the first summer camp which was held in August 2018. The participants were 25 boys from 8 different countries, aged 14-18. There were activities focused on identity, leadership skills, citizenship and empowerment, plus plenty of fun and reflection time. The goal of the project is to create the system that develops the leaders and builds communities and to go from just being a camp to be a movement. The kids who came last summer, are still supported and trained by “OSH”.  In the next two years, they will become the leaders of their own communities. As Amos says, “I am taking something that feels very Jewish and bringing it to the refugee community. I am taking a model that has inspired and changed the life of hundreds of thousands of Jews in the UK and I show that we can take and put a different soul a different linchpin into it and create something new. For me there is Yiddishkeit in all this”.

The path that started for Amos in his Mum’s kitchen a few years ago has led Amos in new directions. He is currently studying for a Masters in Migration Studies at Oxford. – “It is important for us to understand how to talk about migration. What impacts the decision to migrate? What impacts a migrants’ ability to integrate? I am now surrounded by amazing and genius people who share with me their ideas and thoughts on how “Our Second Home” can develop. I hope that “OSH” can become my job for the next 10, 20, 30 years. My dream is to have one of the first people we employ be a refuge. So that we could really practice what we preach which is to build leadership and capabilities in these refugees’ communities.”

For more information about Our Second Home, see here.