“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)
Among its many activities throughout the country, Colel Chabad, Israel’s oldest charity organization, is actively helping 350 families provide for their children with honor and dignity in the northern city of Safed.
Provisions include extra support around holiday times, such as running camps for children at risk, providing aid for “surprise” expenses that occur throughout the child’s development, food stipends, and psychological and therapeutic support in times of crisis or conflict.
One unique project, called the Shoulders Program, runs educational and therapeutic programs for children ages 8-13 who are on the verge of dropping out of school. 15 trained community advisors run the big-brother type initiative and serve as role models for the youth. They build close relationships with these troubled children and help them find their path before they hit the difficult teenage years.
Each advisor commits at least 20 hours per week in which they work together to help the child develop proper social and emotional coping skills, as well as learn how to let go of worries and just kick back and have fun.
The children and their mentors go on special bonding activities, such as hiking and having the child over for a Sabbath meal. Each week, the children sit with their mentors to practice active listening exercises as well as educational tutoring sessions to help with their schoolwork.
“We have seen in the past that these advisors provide a necessary source of inspiration and informal education to the children, that helps to alleviate their day to day troubles, or at least some of them, on an emotional level,” said Yorum Mauda, director of the program, to Breaking Israel News. “The children gain the ability to create stronger social bonds, develop new educational abilities and better study habits, and the advisors help to prevent the children from slipping down a dangerous slope towards becoming teens at risk.”
Mauda added that “often the children feel alone and weak, and the point of the advisors is to give them supports and strength, to prevent him or her dropping out of school and the community.”In addition to the Shoulders Program, Colel Chabad runs a group of community recreational centers in conjunction with the Ministry of Education for the past seven years. So far the recreational centers have seen great success.
The centers are aimed at helping children who come from a low socioeconomic background, and who have a low sense of self-worth, succeed in facing challenges that hamper them in their emotional and psychological growth. The centers provide the children with a place where they can feel secure, loved, and take an active part in group projects that help increase their sense of self worth.
Colel Chabad is looking to continue both of these projects and to expand them further to help provide a proper social setting for children at risk in both Safed and other cities throughout the country.