Mentors Provide 24/7 Care Under Fire | The Jewish Agency - U.S.

Mentors Provide 24/7 Care Under Fire

Mentors provide 24/7 care under fire.
During one of Israel’s crises in Gaza, Youth Futures mentors were faced with countless challenges.

Youth Futures, a subsidiary of The Jewish Agency, is one of Israel’s leading positive-intervention programs. It creates strengthening opportunities for children, teens, families, and communities during critical times. Mentors are usually local young adults, professionally trained to guide 16 children in different circles of intervention.

During one of Israel’s recent crisis with Gaza, Youth Futures mentors had a lot to deal with.

Merav Marciano, manager of Youth Futures in the South, pointed out that “There are Mentors who are dealing with the trauma of their own biological children. A few days ago, we reached out to one of our own staff members, because we worried that she needs help. We try to work in parallel, to worry about the children in our program, and also to be supportive of the Mentors. Because if the Mentors do not feel a sense of security and appreciation, it is difficult for them to give to the community.”

Noa Asher Berkeley lives on an “urban kibbutz” in southern Israel, has a 2-year-old son, and is about to give birth to her second child. For three years, she has been working as a Youth Futures Mentor, guiding a group of 16 at-risk middle-school students to lead more successful, interpersonal, academic, and emotional lives. She currently manages the Youth Futures program in Sderot.

Even on a normal day, balancing work and home would be difficult; she is torn between the needs of her Youth Futures children and the needs of her own son, who attends a pre-school in a bomb-safe building near Gaza. But lately, times have not been quite normal.

It warms the heart that The Jewish Agency responds to us, and to others, in real time.

Youth Futures, a Jewish Agency subsidiary and flagship program, is one of Israel’s leading positive-intervention programs. It creates opportunities for the strengthening of children, teens, families and communities by means of a model unique to Youth Futures – the model of the Youth Futures Mentor.

Berkeley is one of 95 Youth Futures Mentors living in southern Israel; together, they are trying to help 1,160 Youth Futures children get through Israel’s crisis with as little trauma as possible.

“We are doing what we can to help the children individually, and to take them out for days of respite as a group,” Berkeley said. “But it’s hard because we’ve been in ‘emergency mode’ now for several weeks. The children don’t have much time left in their summer vacation. And what is left, we expect will be very heavy and full of emotional baggage they’ll be dealing with long into the new school year. We work so hard with them in Youth Futures to help them succeed, but after a summer like this, the children move three steps back.”

Shimrit Biton, another Mentor and the mother of a 2-year-old, who experienced a rocket landing on the house next door, said that working with the other mentors inspired her, and gives her the strength to keep doing her job. “I am so proud of the staff that is committed to education and to values-based action at all times,” she said. “It warms the heart that The Jewish Agency responds to us, and to others, in real time.”

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