WIZO Australia-sponsored Makom BaLev Centre for Young Women in Distress in Be’er Sheva, where the Sylvia Smaller-Winnikow Garden was dedicated, gives young women tools and support for building their future.
“A life without dreams, is like a garden without flowers.”
Makom BaLev provides emergency housing and treatment for young women at extremely high risk. Not only does it provide the help that the girls need to get their lives on track and realise their dreams, it now also has a beautiful new garden.
The Sylvia Smaller-Winnikow Garden, situated at the entrance to Makom BaLev, is dedicated in her memory by her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. The guests of honour at the dedication ceremony were Sylvia’s son Peter Smaller OAM, and his wife Elaine, who travelled from Sydney, Australia to take part in the event.
Part of a national “HaLev” (“the heart”) program of the Ministry of Welfare in cooperation with the Municipality of Beersheva and WIZO Israel, Makom BaLev, a place in the heart, serves girls who are as young as 16 who, as a result of their unfortunate circumstances, are facing a bleak future of prostitution, drugs, alcoholism and abuse. Just one year ago, Makom BaLev opened its stunning new treatment centre and emergency shelter. The newly renovated facility provides women at-risk a place to receive a warm meal, a place to rest their heads, and a safe environment to depend on.
“A garden is more than a one-time gift. It grows, brings new life, and emits happiness through its beauty and scent,” WIZO Israel Chairperson Gila Oshrat said at the ceremony. “The young women at Makom BaLev come with extremely heavy baggage, they have hit rock bottom and need our help more than ever. This exceptional place is their last hope, and lifeline. When they come here daily to receive support, this garden will be a constant reminder to them that beauty can be found in every situation, just like this oasis you created with love, in the middle of the desert.”
“But gardens also requires work and effort to keep them beautiful,” Oshrat added. “As such, it will also be a symbol of hope and a constant reminder to our staff here at Makom BaLev, that their tireless work is crucial in helping these young women find their way back to a good life and happiness.”
When was asked to speak, Peter Smaller, who is also the former President of JNF Australia, shared a few words about his family’s involvement in WIZO and his experiences and challenges in opening new projects in Israel. He also spoke about his late mother Sylvia, a passionate and committed Zionist who was well known and admired in WIZO for her generosity, devotion and innovative ideas. Peter and Elaine were then presented with special WIZO pins and a heartfelt gift made by the girls of Makom BaLev.
Jessica Nagid, a trained social worker and the supervisor of WIZO’s Programs for Girls at-risk, then spoke about the general aspects of the program and the benefits of providing a high treatment facility, a unique concept compared to other service providers. She was followed by Mor Nahari, Makom BaLev’s supervisor, who provided specific information about the project including case examples.
“Without education, support or psychological intervention, these young women would be powerless to make better lives for themselves,” Nahari said. “They simply no longer believe in themselves nor understand that it is their basic right to live with dignity and be treated with respect. The at-risk women who come to Makom BaLev receive professional counselling and support, vocational rehabilitation according to their individual needs, referral to medical care, safe and hygienic emergency housing and hot nutritious meals.”
The guests were then led on a tour of the building which included: a state-of the art kitchen, two washrooms, a living room, a dining room, a meeting room for group therapy, emergency housing for up to four women, an office and overnight accommodations for staff.
“Empowering and keeping women safe is an integral part of WIZO’s philosophy,” Nagid said. “The women who come to Makom BaLev will receive the tools and support necessary for building their future. Through the creation of life-changing programs, such as Makom BaLev, WIZO is giving women of all ages opportunities to regain ownership of their lives.”