A recent report by the United Nations Agency for Children put Israel in the highest bracket for child poverty in the developed world. And the numbers don’t lie. 817,200 children live below the poverty line in Israel. That means that every day, one third of Israeli children go without adequate food, shelter, education and other basic needs we take for granted.

For as little as $3 a day you can change a young life in Israel and literally change the fortunes of entire communities.

By sponsoring a child in Israel you are providing a child, their family and their community with the essential resources to feel safe, loved and secure, giving them the opportunity to live healthy and productive lives.

So join our Sponsor a Child in Israel initiative to actively ensure a successful, strong and flourishing Israeli society for generations to come.

SHALOM/SALAAM, OMAR and SHOSHI

Two-year-old Omar and his little classmate Shoshi have been at the WIZO Multipurpose Day Care Center since they were both six months old.

Omar, an Arab Israeli, lives with his parents and six siblings. He is the youngest child. His father works long hours in the building trade and his mother stays at home and looks after her children.

At first, Omar’s mother, Fatima, did not want to send Omar to day care at such a young age. However, having to look after her sick and elderly father after her mother died and with all the pressures of looking after her large family, she agreed to send him to the local WIZO Multipurpose Day Care Center. Her friend and neighbour, a Jewish woman, whose daughter Shoshi had just started to attend the WIZO Day Care Center, had told her that at the day care
center there were babies and children of all backgrounds and that she knew that Omar would thrive there.

Fatima was still apprehensive when she took Omar there for the first time, but the caregiver who took Omar in her arms and kissed him just as if he was her very own child reassured her.

Omar rewarded the caregiver, a young Ethiopian woman, with smiles and laughter as she gently led him away from his mother and set him down on the padded floor mat next to Shoshi and the other babies under the watchful eyes of another caregiver, an Arab lady whose eyes twinkled as she played with the wide-eyed babies.

Both Shoshi and Omar are now happy little toddlers along with their little day care center friends, children from all colours of the rainbow, from all races and religions. Together they celebrate the festivals of the Jewish, Christian and Muslim religions, and they sing songs of peace and coexistence.

Omar’s mother, whose elder children all attend school, is undergoing a WIZO operated course to retrain as a mitapelet (caregiver). She often comes into the day care centre to volunteer and she says, in her own words:

“It fills my heart with such great pride to see all the children so well cared for and happy. My husband was resistant to Omar attending the day care centre, but since he came and saw for himself how beautifully, all the children play together, and how the parents gather to join in all the different religious festivals, he was very impressed and he has encouraged me to volunteer here. To me, all the babies are Omar and Shoshi. I love them all as my own.”

Through Fatima’s involvement with the WIZO Day Care Center, her social circle has widened and she now enjoys the company of many of the other mothers, who though different in culture and religion, are just like her – mothers who only want the best for their children.

(Names changed to preserve anonymity) 

(Photo for illustration purposes only)

READING IN PYJAMAS

In an apartment in Kiryat Nordau, three-year-old Alysha sits on her mother’s knee listening intently to a story that one of her elder brothers reads to her from the colourful picture storybook she received at day care. As he reads to her and her elder sisters, Alysha’s mother points to the pictures and repeats the words in Hebrew after him.

Alysha’s mother and father do not know how to read and write in Hebrew although they do speak a little, just enough to get by. In their local community, so heavily populated by low-income Ethiopian families like themselves, Alysha’s father, a manual worker, never saw the need to learn Hebrew. At home, and in the neighbourhood they speak in their native language of Amharic to friends and neighbours while they rely on their Israeli-born and educated children to translate written Hebrew words for them.

In the evening, when the younger children are in bed, Alysha’s mother takes out the storybook and copies down words in Hebrew into a notebook. This way, she learns as she always wanted to do, but felt embarrassed to tell her husband, and so she keeps it a secret shared only with her eldest son and Etti, the director of the WIZO UK-sponsored Grete & Henry Abrahams Day Care Center in Kiryat Nordau, which Alysha attends. Her eldest son often sits with his mother and prepares her small written exercises, using words found in the storybooks that Elysha receives from the WIZO Day Care Center.

These storybooks are part of the pyjama Library, (Sifriat Pyjama) a reading initiative that aims to instil literacy and Jewish values. Every month during the school year, kindergarten classes of all WIZO’s Day Care Centers throughout Israel receive a new book from the Pyjama Library, selected by WIZO’s pedagogic specialists. After the children enjoy the story and enrichment activities based on the story in the book at day care, each child is given a new copy of the book to take home with them so they can role play and love of words can be enjoyed in a family setting as well as in the classroom.

Day care center director, Etti, explains:

“Every child loves getting his or her very own book to take home, and here where the population is so poor, buying books is not on the parents’ priorities so it is a real and meaningful gift. It promotes not only a love of reading, but it generates quality family time where parents actually sit down with their children and they read the stories together.”

Alysha’s mother is not alone. Many of our parents cannot read and write Hebrew, and the Pyjama Library enhances their own Hebrew as well as their children’s reading skill. Because the family sits down together with older siblings who do read and write in Hebrew, everyone benefits. These books are the perfect way to encourage those parents to work on their own Hebrew literacy skills, which is really a win-win situation.”

Etti also says that since the introduction of the Pyjama Library, more and more parents and grandparents are volunteering to take part in the activities based around the books at the day care center, and this has had a very beneficial effect in bridging gaps, particular between the Hebrew speaking children and Amharic speaking grandparents.

Alysha’s mother says that a whole new world has opened up for her as her Hebrew literary skills have improved. She is as excited as Alysha by the prospect of having a new book from the Pyjama Library to read, and she recently told Etti that she looks forward to the time when SHE will be the one who reads bedtime stories to Alysha in Hebrew. Indeed, the day care centre has given Alysha’s mother some old children’s books to read for her to practice her newfound skill.

The Pyjama Library is the Israeli version of an international program called the PJ Library of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation who cover 50% of its costs. Its introduction and first two years of its operation in WIZO Day Care Centers was made possible by the generosity of WIZO USA. Now, more and more WIZO Federations around the world are supporting this early education-enhancing initiative, which not only promotes Hebrew literacy but also invites a healthy interest in the written word, not just for the children but, as is seen here, for many of their parents – and grandparents, too.

(Names changed to preserve anonymity) 

(Photo for illustration purposes only)

Meet Elissa & Her Sister Amy

ELISSA & HER SISTER AMY

Elissa’s parents were desperate for another child. They had tried for many years but to no avail. When Elissa was 13 years old, her mother was shocked yet delighted to find herself pregnant again.

However, this happy news could not have come at a worse time. Elissa’s father had just lost his business and had been forced to sell their home to pay off business debts. Elissa’s mother had never needed to work. She had always been a dedicated and hardworking WIZO Jerusalem volunteer. Now the family lived on government benefits. Every day was a struggle.

Elissa had not been an easy child. As the only child, her doting parents had indulged her, but she also suffered from mood swings and attention deficit (ADHD). After failing in many other schools, she was referred by the welfare authorities to the Rebecca Sieff Centre for the Family Vocational School, where she was able to benefit from extra-remedial learning as well as counselling and treatment for her neurological shortcomings.

At the vocational school, Elissa also enrolled in the cooking track. She is especially fond of baking, a skill that she had learned from her mother.

She was very excited at the prospect of becoming a sister, and when her mother gave birth to a beautiful baby, the teacher of the cooking track sent a pink-iced cake baked by Elissa to her parents to welcome Emma – their new little girl. The volunteers at the WIZO Jerusalem Centre were supportive, discreetly providing baby clothes and nursery equipment to the family.

At the age of six months, baby Emma was referred to the WIZO Day Care Centre at the Rebecca Sieff Centre by the welfare authorities. She was a happy and content baby with a smile for everyone. This gave the girls’ mother free time to attend enrichment classes at a WIZO women’s centre, where she learned computer studies and office management to prepare her for future employment.

The girls’ father is currently retraining to become a bus driver. He said,

“I do not have enough words to say about how WIZO helped us. They actually rebuilt our lives. Elissa is doing so well at school. She is happy, and she has friends. I get the greatest pleasure from seeing her study. They (school staff) say that she will be successful in her matriculation exams and will receive her cooking certificate. My little angel, Emma, thrives and brings pleasure to everyone who sets eyes on her and my wife really enjoys her new job working as a medical secretary. Thank you, thank you WIZO!”

And yet, no thanks are needed. This is WIZO’s mission. WIZO brings hope where there is none. WIZO turns obstacles into opportunity and WIZO does it with all the care and compassion needed to embrace and support the family.

(Names changed to preserve anonymity) 

(Photo for illustration purposes only)

Meet Daniel and his dog

Meet Daniel (not his real name). Daniel’s mother is a drug addict who works as a prostitute. She has no contact with her son and her whereabouts are unknown. When Daniel was born, the Department of Social Services recommended that Daniel should be put up for adoption, but his biological father fought for the right to raise him together with his new wife.
Daniel’s father is 63 years old. Recently he has been in prison, and he suffers from a mental health disorder. He has a history of seeking out the services of prostitutes. His wife is 57 years old and she is undergoing treatment for cancer, which includes chemotherapy, which makes her very sick.
Daniel’s case was reviewed by the welfare services and Daniel was placed in WIZO’s care by court order.
When he first came to the WIZO Comprehensive Day Care Center, at the age of eighteen months, Daniel was sullen and tearful. He clung to the caregivers and refused to take part in daily activities. In the playground, he sat alone, lost in his childhood world and if one of his classmates tried to engage with him he would lash out. When the other toddlers were singing and dancing in a circle, Daniel would run to the corner, face the wall and stand rigid with his fingers in his ears.
Often, Daniel would imitate his stepmother by running to the toilet and putting his head over the bowl, as if he was going to vomit.
Patience, hugs and careful assessment by onsite child psychologists have had a positive effect on Daniel, and every step of the way, Daniel’s father and stepmother have been included and encouraged to participate in the necessary therapy to bring a smile to Daniel’s face.
His parents regularly attend parenting classes and there is a marked improvement in their handling of Daniel. Recently, they surprised him with a puppy.
Today, Daniel is a typically boisterous two-and-a-half-year-old. One caregiver described him as being ‘master of the playground’ as he lines up his friends in groups to play on the climbing frame. He is very nimble and artistic and he loves to draw pictures. He constantly talks about his new pet.
His stepmother, who is thankfully in remission, has renewed energy. She has praised the staff at the day care center for their patience and care, not just of Daniel but also of herself.
“They were there not just for Daniel, but for me too,” she said. “I cannot begin to tell you what that means to me.”
Now, when his stepmother comes to pick him up from the day care center, she brings along Daniel’s puppy and Daniel is always so excited to show off his new four-legged friend to all his daycare playmates.

(Names changed to preserve anonymity)
(Photo for illustration purposes only)

Meet Ari

Teenager Ari (not his real name) was always a well-mannered and gentle boy. His father had died suddenly of a heart attack when he was very young. Ari’s widowed mother doted upon him. He was studious and excelled in his schoolwork.
It was only when his mother remarried that his world fell apart. He became restless and angry, and his studies suffered. When his teachers tried to engage him, he would stare out of the window careful not to look them in the eye. Soon Ari began to raise his fists to classmates. His mother was called into school many times. Ari became known as a troublemaker but one day he broke down in tears and confided in the school counsellor. Ari explained to him that he would lay in bed listening to his mother screaming, while his new stepfather lashed out at her verbally and physically. Ari went to sleep with tears in his eyes to the sound of loud thumps. The one time that he tried to come to the defence of his mother, his new stepfather pushed him out of the way, knocking him to the ground.
His school contacted the welfare services and Ari was referred to the WIZO Ahuzat Yeladim Youth Village in Haifa (sponsored by WIZO Australia).
When he first came to the youth village, Ari was very anxious, displaying the classic signs of witnessing domestic abuse; he blamed his mother, herself the victim, for his overwhelming fear, poor concentration, difficulties in coming to terms with puberty and limited social skills. Slowly but surely, he responded well to therapy from WIZO counsellors under whose care he was placed. With patient guidance from teachers and village personnel, he regained his enthusiasm for study, and he adapted well to living in the dormitory, but he worried constantly about the safety of his mother. Psychologists set to work on his anger issues that all centred around his stepfather’s behaviour towards his mother.
Ari is now popular with the other youth at the village and he has regained his smile. He regards Ahuzat Yeladim as home. His relationship with his mother, which was so fractured when the stepfather was on the scene, is becoming close once again.
Before Ari’s mother found the confidence to rid herself of her abusive husband, Ari would spend weekends and holidays at the Shabbat House at Ahuzat Yeladim, but now that she lives alone again, Ari looks forward to going home at the weekend.
At Ahuzat Yeladim, Ari is settled and content. The youth village has given him confidence and tools for a successful life. He will do well in his matriculation exams and looks forward to his army service.

Silver Sponsor

$85 per month
To sponsor a child at a WIZO Day Care Centre
To sponsor a child at a therapeutic centre for children at risk
To sponsor a teenage girl at WIZO Otzma Tze’ira – a rehabilitation program for girls at risk

or $1,000 in one payment

Contact your local WIZO office

Emerald Sponsor

$420 per month
To sponsor the rehabilitation of the most at-risk families in WIZO’s Multi-Purpose Day Care Centres
To sponsor a child at WIZO Ahuza Ha’ktana, a therapeutic residential treatment facility for 7-12 years
To sponsor a teenager at WIZO Ahuzat Yeladim, a therapeutic residential treatment facility for 12-18 years

or $5,000 in one payment

Contact your local WIZO office