It has been my aim to keep ESRAmagazine readers updated through this column, by reviewing current goings on in the organization, new developments, and any recent achievements you may not have heard about.
As I write, preparations are underway for ESRA's 2020 Annual Report to be published. It will be available on our website at about the same time you receive this edition of your ESRAmagazine.
Needless to say, 2020 was unique in ESRA's history. Unexpected numbers appear in the report in response to the changes forced upon us, with the emergence of some very interesting statistics.
Naturally, ESRA's usual sources of income were seriously affected by lockdowns, resulting in much inactivity and some suspension of our traditional modes of operating. Despite this, new ways of working were quickly adopted. Full credit goes to our fabulous volunteers and office staff, mostly working from home, whose superb effort has resulted in reducing costs so that an extremely low 13.9% of total income was involved in administrative running expenses. This provides an extra benefit towards maximizing your donations.
During 2020, much effort was focused through ESRA's Welfare Fund on providing financial aid to those hardest hit by COVID. Thanks to your wonderful response to our 'Pay It Forward' campaign, we were able to provide more than 250 families and students with grants totaling almost NIS 400,000.
Many ESRA projects were put on hold, but our important flagship project, Students Build a Community, overcame all obstacles ensuring that students can continue their studies as well as carry on mentoring local schoolchildren. Their interaction with schoolchildren switched to Zoom and WhatsApp, and students developed new and imaginative ways of supporting their local community.
The big surprise was ESRA's Social & Cultural Activities. Going online, they expanded beyond our wildest dreams. There were 224 online events held in 2020, with an average of 67 participants per event. This means that over 15,000 participants were able to broaden their interests and widen their social network through joining in with ESRA. Another result was that many ESRA branches increased their income thanks to Zoom presentations to wider audiences, and these funds will of course go toward financing local ESRA projects.
Many thousands of a diverse range of volunteer hours were invested in 2020, from running the organization and providing office assistance, to financial management, legal advice, producing and distributing the ESRAmagazine, supporting fellow Olim, involvement in projects and becoming English tutors.
As I have repeatedly and proudly boasted, we managed to continue our nationwide English Tutoring Program by rethinking the concept and getting everyone online. I am full of admiration for the way ESRA's volunteers came together, professionally recreating what was a face-to-face experience and turning it into an online success.
Both volunteers and ESRA office staff have invested a great deal of work in simplifying systems so as to enable the expansion of the English Tutoring Program, currently operating in schools in 16 different cities in Israel. Small pilot projects have also begun operation involving overseas tutors, with further plans afoot to expand this volunteering opportunity, turning ESRA into a truly international organization.
Responding to increased demand for personal support, 67 volunteers in ESRA's Befrienders and Professional Counseling programs reached out to help fellow English-speakers experiencing emotional difficulties.
You may have noticed this logo suddenly appearing on ESRA communications and wondered what the Midot 'Seal of Effectiveness' means? I am happy to answer. This is an internationally recognized certification of effectiveness and social impact. ESRA has been approved, through independent testing, as an effective creator of social value, generating positive changes in the lives of its beneficiaries. The assessment process was conducted over a three year period and followed Midot's strict evaluation methodology.
Our administrative staff are to be congratulated in achieving Midot's recognition for the quality of ESRA's work, focused on its two main aims – meeting the needs of English speakers and supporting weaker sectors of Israeli society.
As this is the last opportunity before the holiday season, may I wish all readers, volunteers and supporters of ESRA, together with our wonderful donors, a Chag Pesach Sameach. Let us hope and pray that we never again see another year like 2020.