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ESRA Celebrates Another Successful Year for Students Build a Community

Terry Morris and David Broza with the Hefzibah students representing a Swiss Foundation

Photos by Richard Halon

It's difficult to believe that ESRA's flagship project "Students build a Community" (SBC) has been operating for 16 years but this is what the students, donors and guests heard from the dynamic and indefatigable chair of Netanya Projects Nina Zuck. The place was the Community Center in Hephzibah where 27 students were awarded scholarships.

ESRA, in partnership with the Netanya Municipality, offers carefully chosen students free accommodation in an area of deprivation in exchange for their mentoring the kids on the block. The students who are awarded scholarships are usually in their second year of the project; each student mentors 4 youngsters with the relationship blossoming and operating way beyond the hours of mentoring.

As we say on Pesach - why is this night different from other nights? For the first time prior to the formal part of the evening, donors had the opportunity of meeting face-to-face with the student benefitting from their generosity. It proved to be an outstanding success for both the student and the donor.

I had the privilege of standing in for good friends who were unable to be present to personally give the scholarship certificate to their student. I met the lovely Fasika whose story is not dissimilar from many of the recipients. As a one-year-old child she arrived in Israel from Ethiopia together with her parents and three older siblings. Today the family consists of eight children.

The warm young woman seated in front of me told me she was studying Naturopathy at the Wingate Institute - a profession close to her heart as a firm believer in the physical and psychological coming together for a healthier lifestyle. Today two of her siblings are policemen, another a fireman and her a younger sister has just become a new recruit for Students Build a Community. Fasika mentors four young girls and is available for them over and above the specific hours of mentoring; in addition, she and all the students engaged in this project give additional time to the community in general.

Almito, 24 years old, was another scholarship recipient who arrived here from Ethiopia with her parents and older brother.Today she is one of six siblings. For her National Service, she worked as a physician's assistant at Holon's Wolfson Hospital, having trained initially at Tel Hashomer hospital. Today she is a 2nd year student, at Afeka Academic College, studying software engineering; her choice of this degree stems from her interest and affinity for the field of technology and science.

Almito represents the very best of what the SBC project can achieve. At one time, she herself was a child on the block being mentored by an SBC student. Without doubt she is a wonderful role model for the teenagers (many from impoverished areas) whom she now supports as part of ESRA's project of excellence at the Ruppin Marine Science Center. And, as we learnt from Nina, she is not alone in this SBC achievement.

Both donors and students agreed the opportunity to meet each other proved to be an incredibly meaningful way to start this 12th student scholarship evening.

ESRA's charismatic Nina went on to open the formal part of this event in her inimitable style by welcoming and thanking the students, donors and Ofer Orenstein, ESRA's man in the Netanya Municipality who brought the project to ESRA 17 years ago and whose vision and determination have helped it to become the success story it is today.

All those fortunate to be present learned that currently Netanya boasts 39 students mentoring the kids on the block together with contributing help for the local community.

We were excited to hear of the success of the Early Childhood Teaching project, learning centers and computer rooms in the Community Centers which offer sports activities, English language reinforcement, marine sciences for deprived youth within university settings, youth clubs, girls at risk centers, sewing centers and much more.

Nina's most generous words were reserved for the students themselves, who make all this happen. They are to be found everywhere responding to the needs of the population. They are both participants and initiators who, amazingly, manage to navigate their giving agenda between studies, work, mentoring and volunteering. At a time when the country is facing many challenges it is heartwarming to see our students who embody the best possible definition of Zionism.

In conclusion, Nina expressed deep appreciation to ESRA's partner, the Netanya Municipality. She expressed thanks to Tamar and Osnat, the outstanding coordinators of the project, to Judi Argaman and Cynthia Yaakovi who were Masters of Ceremony for the evening, to the office staff and Cathy in particular plus members of the Project Committee. She praised all the donors who made this memorable evening possible.

And we in ESRA recognize the catalyzing part played by our Nina in this amazing success story. Thank you Nina. 

 

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Monday, 20 May 2024

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