At the end of each academic year, ESRA organizes a ceremony where our wonderful students and their pupils present an insight into what the Students Build a Community project is about.
Why was this year different to every other year? Basically for two important reasons:
This was the first time that our chair of projects, Nina Zuck, brought together all three Students Build a Community projects for the traditional "end of year" ceremony.
The second being that on this occasion (June 30 to be exact) it was the Municipality of Netanya, headed by its Mayor Miriam Feirberg-Ikar, who requested to host this event as a token of appreciation for all ESRA has done and continues to do for Netanya.
As we entered the Community Center at Kiryat Hasharon flags were flying, balloons in abundance and a wonderful reception awaited us generously provided by the Kiryat Hasharon community center. In came the children and their parents. In came the students and in came the wonderful ESRA volunteers whose contribution is invaluable.
Our Students Build a Community remains ESRA's flagship project. Initiated in partnership with the Municipality some eight years ago in Netanya's Hefzibah district – this is an area comprising virtually, 100 per cent, Israeli Ethiopian residents – our SBC has turned around an entire community. Prior to ESRA's entry, crime was rife – with the surroundings totally unkempt – but since ESRA's dynamic involvement Hefzibah is a success story from every standpoint.
How does it work? Students who are looking for financial help with the cost of their living accommodation apply to ESRA.
Carefully selected students are then offered the opportunity to live rent free in an area of deprivation in exchange for mentoring the children on the block three times a week.
These terrific students help the youngsters with their schoolwork as well as encouraging them to develop social skills.
Such was the success of the pilot scheme in Hefzibah that the Municipality asked that we extend this project to other areas. Today we operate in three districts of Netanya – with Nordau and Sela also benefitting from ESRA's involvement.
Back to the evening itself – our Projects' Chair, Nina Zuck, excelled herself as the MC (in fluent Ivrit.) She gave a warm welcome to everyone but especially to the parents who had come to see and support their children. We were entertained superbly by the singing and dancing of the youngsters.
The Mayor of Netanya, spoke glowingly of ESRA's enormous contribution to the challenges facing the city, especially in the areas where ESRA operates. She expressed her deep appreciation to the many ESRA volunteers whose regular presence and support makes the difference. She also thanked ESRA for its outstanding financial support over the past eight years.
Our donors, our volunteers and all of ESRA can be exceedingly proud of what we have achieved in the most challenging of circumstances.
The audience was deeply moved by the message of Ofer Orenstein, Member of the Netanya Coalition and Head of the Netanya Community Centers.
His words of praise for ESRA and the impact we continue to make on the lives of countless children resonated with us all. ESRA is indeed fortunate to have Ofer as our direct line to the Municipality.
Nina presented certificates to our wonderful students – of whom today 80% are Israeli Ethiopians. This, without doubt, is the essence of our success.
For what better role model can our Ethiopian youngsters have than to see a student coming from the same community?
ESRA's deep appreciation goes to everyone who is involved with this outstanding project.
Together we are building a better tomorrow for our beloved State of Israel.