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Chairman's Message September 2022

Reaching Higher, Achieving MORE! 

The summer break is almost over and it's time to concentrate on the year ahead. We've seen a return to normality this summer, which has been missing for the last couple of years, but within ESRA 'normal' has become a continued buzz of activity, adapting to changes, planning and preparing for the future.

In addition to the many ways in which we offer continued support for the English-speaking community, ESRA's main aim and focus is on enriching the country through education, and this defines the overriding thrust of our efforts. Both our English Tutoring Program and Students Build a Community projects perfectly reflect these aims.

As I have mentioned in the past, and it's worth repeating, ESRA's English Tutoring Program (ETP) has grown beyond our wildest dreams during the last academic year and now embraces more than 1,000 volunteers. Our objective, jointly held with our partner, the Israel Ministry of Education, is to move to the next stage by incorporating many more volunteers, both within Israel and internationally. This has required a great deal of thought regarding the structure of ETP, how to prepare for future developments, and how best to take advantage of our wonderful volunteering community to help fill the gaps in Israel's education system.

Volunteering in ETP does not require any previous teaching experience as training will be provided. If you talk to an ETP volunteer, you'll hear how rewarding the experience is for both tutor and student. You can find details in this ESRAmagazine of how to become involved and share your 'gift' of speaking English to the benefit of children, teachers, and ultimately, the country.

We have also taken the opportunity to review the structures of our individual Students Build a Community (SBC) projects, examining our areas of operation, what works best where, and working on what needs improvement.

SBC continues to be our national flagship project, for now and into the future. South Tel Aviv and Akko are the most recent to have joined the long-established projects in four Netanya neighborhoods, making a total of six SBC projects that ESRA currently operates.

Establishing a new SBC project doesn't come with a guarantee of success. While the core of the program remains consistent and unchanged, each new area presents its unique characteristics and challenges, requiring appropriate adaptations.

This win/win project provides accommodation in depressed areas of the country for students who, in return, each take four local schoolchildren under their wing, tutoring, helping with homework, organizing social activities, and communicating with their teachers and parents. The students very quickly take on the role of mentor or big brother/sister, something we have seen occur to wonderful effect over the past 16 years of the program's successful operation. Not only do the schoolchildren benefit, but the students are enabled to complete their studies without the financial strain of housing. They acquire and develop leadership skills within the community and all the students gain huge satisfaction from the experience, most vowing to continue their volunteering activities in the future.

Both ETP and SBC are undoubtedly of great national importance. The difference is, whereas ETP is almost entirely run by volunteers, with ESRA's financial commitment limited to funding of administration and technical structure, SBC requires a major annual investment and careful financial planning. Finding the funds necessary to run our educational projects is always a major concern and this year, as in the past, we are launching a fundraising appeal to you, our loyal supporters, donors and friends - Reaching Higher, Achieving MORE!

Our fundraising campaign relates specifically to the SBC project which we are looking to expand with your help into several new areas of the country where it is needed – and there are many. ESRA works in cooperation and financial partnership with locally based municipal institutions, sharing payment of rentals on the apartments and providing other additional support such as activities including communal Bat Mitzvot, Purim parties and other celebrations, and an annual outing for the children. All this requires funding, and as we are well aware, all these costs are rising and are expected to continue doing so.

That is why we are asking you to donate as generously as possible in support of this extremely worthy and vital project. More details of the fundraising campaign can be found on the opposite page, and I thank you in advance on behalf of all those who will benefit from your generosity.

The holiday season will soon be upon us so may I take this opportunity to wish all our readers, fabulous volunteers and supporters, as well as our loyal donors, a healthy and sweet Shannah Tova.

 

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Saturday, 26 November 2022

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