Written by Laura Kindler- UIA Canada
Toronto Medical Mission and Bat Yam Youth Futures Reaching New Heights Together,
Youth Futures children, together with the Toronto Medical Mission, including 35 Toronto Doctors, recently took advantage of Bat Yam's beautiful beachfront and Israel's abundant sunshine, to enjoy flying kites. It was an activity that most of the Torontonians had not done in over twenty years and one which these children at risk had never had the opportunity.
The children each paired up with a new friend from Toronto and within minutes had the kites flying high in the sky. It seemed symbolic that the kites that flew the highest without ever diving were those with the big blue Magen David on their wings. This phenomenon was remarked upon by and marveled at by children and adults alike.
Last year the Toronto Bat Yam Partnership launched Youth Futures in Bat Yam. It was the first time a locality in the centre of the country was incorporated into this national initiative, recognizing that addressing the social periphery of Israel is as critical as addressing the geographic periphery.
The Jewish Agency's Youth Futures aims to provide youth at risk with an equal opportunity to develop their unique skills, both academic and social, and to break out of the cycle of poverty and underachievement.
Youth Futures is currently addressing the needs of 96 children aged 9-13 in Bat Yam. More than three quarters of these children are new immigrants from Ethiopia and the Former Soviet Union, the activities and celebrations they share with the continuous stream of delegations from Toronto are often greater than the ones they will have with their on families.
The children in the UJA Federation, Toronto Bat Yam Partnership, JAFI Youth Futures program, are children- at -risk. The majorities of the parents are unemployed and are in the care of the Bat Yam Department of Social Services,
The core concept of Youth futures is that children- at -risk should be given educational opportunities to create new futures for them: building self-esteem, creating the ability to believe in a better future and helping to develop skills that will enable them to build that future. It is a holistic program, and one of the central foundations on which it is based is the provision of a role model or mentor committed to helping these children achieve their fullest potential.
The children more than surpassed everyone's dreams. They behaved, although very excited, like little angels. They went hand in hand listening attentively to their Toronto partner using broken English, Hebrew and hand signals and worked together as if they had been buddies forever and were old pros at this activity.
UJA Federation has made this new Partnership possible and by doing so has enabled these Youth Futures children, and hundreds of more children and adults, additional educational training programs to have increased opportunities to help them reach their fullest potential; opportunities that their parents never had for themselves and were similarly unable to provide for their children.