New Education and Welfare Projects
Over the past year alone, ESRA has expanded its beneficial impact on Israeli society through the establishment of exciting and impressive new Education and Welfare projects, from support for siblings of children with disabilities in Petach Tikvah, to a new Students Build a Community project in Akko.
ESRA in Akko
Students Build a Community (SBC) is a long-term project which initially proved its mettle in Netanya over a decade ago. University students are provided with free housing in disadvantaged neighborhoods, and in return, each student devotes a set number of weekly hours to tutoring and mentoring local schoolchildren. By extension, students evolve into social activists within the community. In September, SBC is opening in Akko with ten promising university students who will each mentor four schoolchildren weekly. By ensuring the students' financial support to complete their university studies, they themselves become role models for the youngsters. The project operates in collaboration with the municipality, youth and community centers in Akko.
ESRA Tel Aviv
Learning Strategies is a new innovation, where children-at-risk in South Tel Aviv receive professional guidance for learning strategies. In today's contemporary world, students have access to huge volumes of information. However, most lack the cognitive skills required to process and apply that knowledge. Despite having high intellectual potential, many students are underperforming and low achieving. This results in low motivation and lack of self-esteem.
Based on the Feuerstein Method, a special education teacher provides children with learning strategies to help minimize learning gaps. Eight children are screened by the learning center and receive weekly guidance for ninety minutes. The project will run from October till June.
ESRA Ramat Hasharon
Computer Skills for the Mentally Challenged teaches computer skills and internet usage, including social media platforms such as Facebook. The mentally-challenged are frequently isolated from society. By providing them with skills in the use of the computer and other digital devices, they can be transformed into contributing and functioning members of society. Fifteen students are currently receiving instruction by the Enosh organization (a non-profit that assists the mentally-challenged), funded and organized by ESRA Ramat Hasharon.
Afterschool Center provides elementary school children-at-risk with weekly English lessons, arts and crafts activities, birthday and holiday presents, and a yearly outing to the cinema. The Afternoon Center is operated by the Rehovot Municipality, while ESRA Rehovot supports the organized afternoon activities and homework assistance.
Music Empowerment for Children with Special Needs
Music is a common language and, at the same time, a most effective therapeutic tool. Music therapy specializes in working with children with impairments such as illness or PDD, and varies the music activity in accordance with each child's situation and needs, thus promoting personal, social and behavioral development. In collaboration with the local municipality, twelve children with PDD in the TZLIL kindergarten enjoy group music activity each week for one hour. At the end of the year, a special performance is given by the children. In addition, two ESRA volunteers take the children on an outing once a week, and also engage in music and singing sessions during holidays and special occasions.
ESRA Petach Tikvah
"Playtime in English" has a dual role for children with special needs. It seeks to assist the child as well as his family, whose members invest much time and effort in the day-to-day care of the child. Since the family is the true source of strength and security for special needs children, by providing the entire family with enrichment, social and cultural activities, they become the real lever for improving the child's quality of life. And if, in doing so, they are able at the same time to learn and improve their English, the project more than fulfills its important objectives. Fifteen children and family members receive "Playtime in English" every week at Ha`merkaz La`mishpacha in Petach Tikvah.
ESRA Kfar Saba
"Youth at Risk"
HILA is an initiative of the Ministry of Education for youth-at-risk who cannot be integrated in the general education system. ESRA Kfar Saba is supporting the program jointly with the Municipal Department of Education to provide special activities that will operate during the school year. The program provides a unique educational framework for education, including the principle of imparting skills and closing gaps for youth-at-risk in order to strengthen social integration and influence future employment abilities.
It is important to note that none of the above mentioned projects happen in a vacuum. Each ESRA branch raises its own funds from its various events and programs to support the costs of their project. So while they are enjoying social interaction with their peers, ESRA members and friends are raising vital funds at the same time. A win-win situation every time. Kudos to all the branches and their volunteers who make this happen. Forward ESRA!
Cynthia Barmor is a former chair of ESRA Modiin.