April 25, 2007 / 7 Iyar 5767
I recently received a moving letter from a mother in Eilat whose son, a primary school student, is in the Jewish Agency's Youth Futures program. As I read her words, my heart was filled with joy and pride over the process that her son went through in the course of the program. From an intelligent boy who suffers from learning disabilities, stopped believing in himself, and nearly ended his studies due to his inability to find his place in the framework of school, he was transformed – with the help of the “Trustee” who was assigned to him as part of Youth Futures – into a high achieving academic student. He simultaneously experienced a significant improvement in his self-esteem, self-confidence, and development of social skills.
This mother spared no words of praise about the project, and concluded her letter by saying, “I thank you for the idea for the project, which indeed opened up my child’s future, and I hope that many more children will benefit from it.”
I called Dudu, the boy’s Trustee, in order to personally applaud his vital contribution that so significantly altered the trajectory of one boy’s life, in which he helped reveal and actualize the boy’s hidden potential, and found him an academic and social niche within the school system and society. In the course of our conversation, I discovered a charming young man, steadfast and dedicated to the mission of Youth Futures. He is one of hundreds of Trustees who dedicate years of their young lives to social change in Israel via educational work.
Given the situation in which every third child in Israel is living beneath the poverty line, more than 350,000 children are physically and emotionally at-risk, and a large portion of these children are concentrated in Israel’s social and geographic periphery, the Youth Futures program is an innovative and unique model for addressing these issues. Youth Futures is an all-inclusive, long-term program that provides personal attention to kids at-risk by actualizing each child’s hidden potential, developing self-esteem and self-confidence, instilling social and academic skills, and nurturing each child’s individual points of strength.
Today, more than 5,000 children are integrated in this program, in twenty-two settlements in the Galilee and the Negev, which will be expanded to fifty-two settlements by 2010. The Trustees are a living example for the children, constituting the “significant adult” in their lives, providing a personal model with meticulous and unique work that is suited to each child, and forming a substantial corps of assistance within the educational and welfare systems, and within the child’s family.
Although the program is aimed at primary school students, participants continue to benefit from attention and educational assistance throughout the years of their schooling through the upper grades, up until their draft into the IDF. They receive support and tools for personal empowerment, reinforcement of study skills, cultivation of athletic, artistic, and science abilities, and more.
Youth Futures is one of the Jewish Agency’s flagship programs, made possible as a result of our wonderful partnership with many Jewish communities around the world, who have been recruited to the cause of making social change in Israel by giving kids a chance – especially those from the periphery, whose life and family circumstances do not enable them to achieve the maximum that they deserve.
This is a wonderful opportunity for me, on the eve of the 59th Independence Day of the State of Israel, to highlight and express gratitude and appreciation to the Jewish communities around the world who are committed to partnership with us through this special program. I would like to thank you for your many contributions, for without your generosity and dedication to the children of Israel, we would not be able to fulfill this vital mission.