It has always been a Youth Futures dream to operate in the capital city of Israel, and also the poorest one, with extreme social conditions and challenges. The diversity of its population and its history has contributed to making Jerusalem one of the most special cities on earth, with a large population of children.
The Jewish Federation of Los Angeles has decided to take a part in making a change in some of these children's lives, together with the JVP Foundation's "Bekehila" program. The Youth Futures program and Bekehila were blended together in order to utilize the JVP program's experience in working with families and children in Jerusalem, while adding the unique element of the Youth Futures Trustees to the mix.
The program will work with 150 children in two neighborhoods - Gilo, which is sporadically attacked by gunfire and stabbings by neighboring Arab villages, and Katamonim, which is situated very low on the socio-economic scale.
Youth Futures in Jerusalem began operation in September with the selection of Liat Riff as Youth Futures Manager. The program worked hard to recruit Trustees for the program, since the cost of living in the capital is much higher than in the peripheral regions, but the cadre that was eventually recruited is motivated and eager to get started. The Trustees have already begun their training process, while the schools are putting together the lists of the children they will work with.
Horfeish is a small village - population 6,000. However, its needs are great, especially as one of the main Druze settlements in the north.
Mr. Dov Lautman, Mr. Warren Eisenberg from Central New Jersey, and Mr. Alan Slifka, are partnering, together with the Jewish Federation of MetroWest and the Jewish Agency, in operating a Youth Futures program in the village, with the ideological view of developing Israel's entire periphery together with the Zionist Druze citizens. Mr. Eisenberg is already a full partner in operating the program in Arad, and the MetroWest Federation is one of the first to support the Youth Futures program, and are partnering in Ofakim and Merhavim regional council.
Areen Shannan, a local young woman who studied both Education and Sociology and a is social worker by profession, has been selected as the Youth Futures Manager for Horfeish, and has begun operating the program, after having recruited 7 local Trustees to work with 112 children in 2 elementary schools at the first stage.
The Trustees have undergone training in order to learn more about Youth Futures' goals, about working with children at-risk in their region, and about cooperating with the schools and local forces.
The SACTA-Rashi Foundation is one of those forces, and we expect to form a joint Advisory Committee in order to maximize the use of resources for the benefit of the children in the program. We hope to open the Family Futures program in Horfeish, operating alongside the Youth Futures program with the generous support of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit, and with the Foundation's cooperation.
Approximately 40% of the population in Bat Yam are new immigrants. This represents the highest percentage of immigrants in this region, located in four or five of the most struggling neighborhoods. The Mayor of Bat Yam, Shlomo Layiani, and his municipality have made a clear and determined effort to assist and fully integrate the Ethiopian immigrants in Bat Yam. Yet, despite the need of the immigrants and the willingness of the municipal leadership and non profits in the city, no organization or national agency has succeeded in promoting the absorption of the Ethiopian immigrant population.
The Jewish Federation of Greater Toronto has generously committed to help us try to change this situation. The Toronto Federation is already a veteran Youth Futures partner in Eilat, and the UIA Canada is one of the most dominant partners in the program nationwide. It is the Federation's goal, together with the Youth Futures program, to ensure that the immigrant children in the program are integrated into their surrounding environment and society.
A total of 6 Trustees will be recruited in Bat Yam, and they will work with approximately 90 children. This group will be led by the Youth Futures Manager, Frey Balai, who has herself grown up in the Ethiopian community and is well aware of the challenges it faces.
The first screening stage of the recruitment process was held on October 23rd, and of 3 out of 8 candidates were selected as Trustees in the program. Three more will be recruited in the second stage which will take place in mid November 2008.
The local authorities have received the program with open arms, and the education department in particular - they are extremely willing to integrate the Youth Futures program into the city and approve of the program's goals which include working with the children on a one-on-one basis.
Thanks to the warm support we've received by the local authorities and the schools in particular, we expect the Trustees to begin working with the children by December.
Kiryat Gat, located 24 kilometers east of Ashkelon, is one of Israel's peripheral communities. In 2006, Intel opened a microchip producing plant in the region, and now employs close to 3,700 high-tech professionals from the surrounding area - a small percentage of which are locals.
However, there are still serious social and financial challenges; 20% of the children under the age of 18 in Kiryat Gat are considered at-risk by the welfare authorities.
The Jewish Federation of Chicago, another veteran and very involved partner of the Youth Futures program as well as of the Family Futures program, has taken up this challenge, and is taking part in implementing the program in the city.
Hila Amos, the Youth Futures Manager, has already begun working, and the program is expected to work with some 200 children. A group of Trustees has been recruited and has already undergone basic training, ahead of their first meetings with their children.
The Youth Futures program in Maalot-Tarshicha has kicked off with a moving ceremony at the Mayor's office, link to news item. The local municipality of Maalot-Tarshicha has committed to being the Israeli partner in this program, while the Jewish Agency is covering the overseas partner's commitment, while making an effort to find a partner for this unique city.
Maalot-Tarshicha is unique because of its mixed population - both Jewish (Maalot) and Arab (Tarshicha). The Jewish population is extremely varied and made up of new immigrants, more veteran settlers, religious groups and secular.
A program manager, Zohar Ezer, has already begun working, and 11 Trustees were recruited to the program and will take part in training sessions throughout the month of August - they will learn about the program and its goals and expectations, and begin basic training on working with children at-risk.
The Trustees will also begin meeting with our various partners in the region - education and welfare departments, schools, volunteer organizations and others - in order to get to know the target population and learn more about its special needs.
The work with the children will be concentrated in 6 schools in the city, and the Trustees will join the schools' staff during the last days of the summer vacation in preparing for the upcoming school year and getting acquainted with their children and their parents.
170 children have already been selected by the schools' professional staff with the cooperation of the Social Services Bureau and the Psychological-Educational Services in the Maalot-Tarshicha municipality.
As Zohar, the Youth Futures Manager in Maalot-Tarshicha said: "I am truly excited to see the progress we've already made, in bringing together different people from different departments in order to have them cooperate in selecting the children and train the Trustees. Our Trustees are all highly motivated and I'm looking forward to seeing this program grow and develop like a tree, digging its roots down and shooting its branches upwards. I feel that my job is to nurture it and tend it, and make sure that it has all that it needs in order to be the best it can - just like our children."