05 May Mentoring At-Risk Israelis During COVID
When COVID hit Israel, many nonprofits, especially younger ones, struggled to make it. Despite being around since 1991, Yedidim for Youth and Society, a nonprofit that empowers children, youth, and young adults from diverse cultures and socio-economic backgrounds by helping them fully integrate into Israeli society, was no exception.
“We had to respond immediately to the changing reality and some of our programs were forced to stop,” explained Shimon Siani, who has served as Yedidim’s CEO for 27 years. “We also had to put 50 employees on unpaid leave. But our mentoring programs were recognized as essential during the emergency lockdown period and approved for remote operation by the Ministry of Welfare and the Ministry of Education.”
Yedidim was established to help hundreds of thousands of children and youth who had immigrated from the Former Soviet Union and Ethiopia in the 90s and needed support to successfully adjust to Israeli society and realize their potential. Today, through a range of programs, Yedidim touches the lives of 3,500 children, teens, and young adults each year throughout 120 communities across Israel, working in the realms of life skills and employability training as well as prevention and intervention of risk behaviors.
The organization received many requests from their participants to continue offering their services throughout the pandemic as the long stays at home due to lockdowns and restrictions increased many of their risk factors. New needs of youth and families emerged as well, such as assistance with food supply and technology so that the children could engage in distance learning.
To serve their beneficiaries, Yedidim got creative using digital platforms and developed online training for mentors. But with many of their major donors freezing their donations, they needed help with funding. That’s when they turned to The Jewish Agency and Ogen’s 2020 Emergency Loan Fund for Nonprofits.
“Yedidim needed a loan to help with our cash flow in order to pay our mentors, who receive a scholarship for their volunteering, and who we needed to continue to mentor youth at risk throughout the pandemic,” shared Shimon. “And the mentors are students who were facing financial crisis and uncertainty themselves during COVID-19. They greatly appreciated our ability to pay them as we promised, so the loan really arrived just in time.”
Shimon praised the professionalism and quickness with which the loan was approved and transferred. He appreciated the fact that while the loan application was being reviewed, he was kept up-to-date on where the loan request stood and that he received guidance throughout the process.
“When the loan was approved, we felt like The Jewish Agency and Ogen really believed in us and wanted to help us,” added Shimon. “There was a sense of trust in Yedidim’s activities and in our ability to meet the repayment terms. And Yedidim was able to repay the loan in six months.”