"As a Big Brother, I found a way to communicate with my 'little brother' Lior and he opened up. I felt that I was really a role model for him." |
Fleeing famine-wracked Ethiopia in 1980 to come to Israel, Daniel Bachta (25) was born in a Sudanese refugee camp. Daniel is named after the Israeli agent who clandestinely assisted the family in Sudan to board the plane that took them to Israel.
Today Daniel lives in Kiryat Gat with his parents and seven siblings. Although his family's financial situation is difficult, his parents emphasized the importance of education. Daniel was an excellent student. In the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), he rose to division commander of the elite Golani infantry unit.
After the army, Daniel enrolled in the pre-academic preparatory program at the Ashkelon Academic College, which is affiliated with Bar Ilan University. He received financial aid from the Student Authority with support from the Jewish Agency for Israel. "It would have been very difficult for me to learn if I didn't have this assistance," Daniel adds.
During his year at Ashkelon College, Daniel participated in an innovative Big Brother/Sister and Roots Program for the Ethiopian community. Supported by the Jewish Agency, Big Brother was established seven years ago in Ashkelon at the initiative of a local resident.
Daniel was matched with Lior, a young Israeli native boy born to Ethiopian immigrants. Twice a week, Daniel and Lior enjoyed trips and activities together. Daniel patiently helped Lior with homework. "As a Big Brother, I found a way to communicate with Lior and he opened up. I felt that I was really a role model for him." Daniel's own role model is his older sister, now completing her law degree, who spent three weeks in New York as part of an Israel advocacy program. "I learned a lot from her on how to be a big brother to Lior."
Plans are underway to expand the Big Brother program to other absorption centers across Israel.