At a reception marking the Jewish New Year at 10 Downing Street, the Prime Minister has recognised Avi Dubiner, who has played a vital role in establishing ‘The GIFT Shabbat Walk’, an initiative motivating hundreds of young people in London to give up their time on the Jewish Sabbath by visiting people in hospitals, care homes, and other struggling families.
Since ‘The GIFT Shabbat Walk’ was set up at the end of 2015, Avi has been responsible for inspiring volunteers from across his community to complete over 22,000 individual visits to 20 hospitals and 62 care homes. Having started off with only a dozen walkers, there are now over 200 volunteers per week, and the idea has spread around the world. Avi aims to develop the initiative in Israel during his year abroad, which he is undertaking this year.
Avi is the latest recipient of the Points of Light award which recognises outstanding volunteers who are making a change in their community and inspiring others. Each day, someone, somewhere in the country is selected to receive the award to celebrate their remarkable achievements.
In a personal letter to Avi, Prime Minister Theresa May said:
“Your work helping to establish ‘The Shabbat Walk’ has inspired hundreds of people to visit hospitals, care homes, and struggling families. The scale of the initiative has been truly remarkable, totalling over 22,000 individual visits, and you should be very proud of what you have achieved. I wish you luck with your efforts to establish the project in Israel as it continues to spread around the world.”
Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis said:
“I speak often about the Jewish idea of ‘Achrayut’ – responsibility. In every aspect of our lives, we hear the call of Jewish responsibility to God, our families, our communities and to all of humanity. It is not always easy to rise to these responsibilities, particularly in a world where there is a trend for placing more emphasis on what is owed to us rather than what we can offer others. Yet it is clear that Avi Dubiner exemplifies Jewish responsibility and is a most deserving recipient of this prestigious award. Mazal Tov!”
Mike Freer, Avi’s local MP, said:
“I’m so pleased to hear that Avi’s work on establishing ‘The Shabbat Walk’ is being recognised with a Points of Light Award. Avi’s hard work is an example to us all and the size to which the organisation has now grown is a testament to his dedication and that of the young people who volunteer.”
Eliezer Gilbert, founder of the Shabbat Walk and representative of associated charity GIFT, said:
“We are delighted for Avi – he has demonstrated exceptional altruism and leadership skills in helping set up ‘The Shabbat Walk’ initiative. His ability to influence and activate young volunteers has led to over 750 teenagers volunteering in hospitals, care homes and disadvantaged families across the UK.”
Avi’s parents, Bernard and Hannah Dubiner, said:
“We are so proud of our son Avi for all that he has achieved and are delighted that the Prime Minister has recognised this.”
Avi said:
“I am so honoured to be recognised by the Prime Minister for the initiative and success of our project and hope that this incredible charity will be the start of something much bigger and better for future generations.”
“It has been amazing to see and experience the enthusiasm of our youth when it comes to helping others. Our charity is based on communication, effort and commitment in providing services to the poor, elderly, physically disadvantaged, lonely and the unwell. By combining all these qualities, we aim to help the youth in our community grow into special people for the future.”
Avi is the 775th winner of the Points of Light award, which has been developed in partnership with the hugely successful Points of Light programme in the USA. Over 5,000 Points of Light have been awarded in the USA, and both President George H. W. Bush and President Barack Obama have publicly supported the partnership with Points of Light UK. There is a similar cross-party approach to the UK programme and MPs from different parties often present their constituents with their Points of Light awards.
Regardless of whether it’s a doctor restoring local monuments in her free time, a father teaching young people life skills, or a local musician giving a voice to lonely people, the Points of Light award honours shining examples of volunteering across the UK.