Following its success in Netanya, a similar project was opened in 2019 in Akko, a mixed Arab/Jewish town in the North of Israel.
Students are provided with housing in disadvantaged neighborhoods, and in return, they mentor a group of local schoolchildren which helps to promote social integration and community involvement for kids and their families.
The Akko project started last year with 8 students living in 3 apartments, who mentored 32 students from 3rd-5th grades. This year the project has grown to 10 students and 4 apartments.
Our carefully selected students become role models of success for the children, aiming to break down old perceptions, and to open up horizons, and allow the children to develop in their own direction, both educationally and socially.
The mentoring students are provided with shared accommodation, and study grants to ensure that they can complete their studies without financial worry.
The year began with a training session in September including the students and the coordinators.
Eli Haviv, Director of the Community Youth Center, commented on the impressive results from the first year and wished every success for the coming year. An expert from the Municipal Education Department gave tips on how to boost the kids' self-esteem, and awareness of the relationship between the schoolchildren and their parents.
ESRA was represented by myself and Cathy Aron, ESRA's Projects Coordinator. I talked about ESRA's aims and a short film about ESRA projects was shown. Cathy went on to explain about the various protocols that the students have to follow, and the second-year students talked about their experiences in the previous year.
After a short break the students all took part in an activity aimed at allowing them to get to know each other better and become a cohesive group. The activity consisted of a carpentry workshop in which all the students built a table and two benches that will be placed in the community center for the benefit of the community.
The second-year students, who are continuing with their group of children from last year, started the mentoring and are meeting their group either outside or by Zoom. The new students will get their group of children after Sukkot and will start meeting with them under the restrictions and regulations of Covid-19.
A challenging year ahead!