TikvaHope Neighborhood Youth Centers: Helping At-Risk Youth in Sderot
TikvaHope is Meir Panim’s network of after-school youth
programs and centers across Israel that offers hope for disadvantaged children
and struggling families.
TikvaHope provides a strong academic foundation through
tutoring and homework assistance as well as extra-curricular activities and
coursework. Computer skills are also taught so the latest technological
learning tools are an integral part of every TikvaHope after-school program.
Personnel and volunteers closely guide each student at his or her own pace in
acquiring the skills that are essential for their academic advancement.
While these types of pursuits are readily available to
children from more privileged back-grounds, Israel’s neediest children would
not otherwise have access to any of these opportunities.
What is the mission and purpose of this program?
to provide disadvantaged youth with the tools to break out of the cycle of
poverty to become independent and productive members of Israeli society.
We are committed to making sure children flourish by
providing them with the nutritional, academic and emotional support they need
to thrive. It is impossible for a child to succeed in their studies with empty
stomachs. Therefore every child is provided with nutritious meals. Academic
assistance and enrichment activities help close the gap between disadvantaged
children and those from more secure socio-economic backgrounds.
Sderot’s youth have endured both the challenges of
poverty and constant rocket bombardment since infancy. TikvaHope is building
youth centers here with the objective of helping at-risk teens in one of the
most beleaguered areas in Israel.
Meir Panim is converting an existing bomb shelter in the
Sderot neighborhood of Nir Am, and a former youth club (unused for several
years) located adjacent to a shelter in Ben Gurion, into neighborhood youth
centers. The centers will offer a safe haven where teens can work towards their
personal, academic and professional goals. The centers will provide a place
where they can spend time with friends, enjoy recreational facilities and
achieve a much-needed sense of normalcy.
Each neighborhood youth center will accommodate 50 high
school aged children, and a total of 100 youth will be enrolled in the two
centers. The centers will offer special course work, educational guidance, peer
mentoring, extra-curricular activities and trips, as well as hot, nourishing
meals. There will be a special emphasis on Leadership Development and Community
Service components, as a key objective
of the neighborhood youth centers will be to develop future leaders and
groundbreaking entrepreneurs and pioneers.
For those teens exhibiting signs of anxiety or distress,
appropriate referrals will be made to the Department of Social Services.
With proper intervention, we will not only transform
young lives, but we will also build a cadre of leaders in Sderot who will not
only contribute to the future stability of Sderot, but also to a stronger and
more secure Israel.
Negev city of Sderot has been an ongoing target of Qassam rocket attacks from
the Gaza Strip since 2001. The city is a low-income community where the poverty
rate stands at 25% and the unemployment rate of 13.5% is higher than the
national average. More than 50% of its residents are immigrants from Ethiopia
and the Former Soviet Union.
Youth who come
from socio-economically disadvantaged homes are considered at- risk. Those
living in Sderot are living in an even higher risk situation. In fact, as much
as 75% of the population suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, without
the ‘post’ as the sirens rarely stop. There is an alarming 15% high school
drop-out rate and there are so many more youth at risk of imminently leaving
school. Hence, establishing neighborhood youth centers is a useful prevention
strategy as they will include small learning communities with greater
Youth Centers will fill a critical need for extra-curricular activities for
teenagers aged 13-18. These teens otherwise spend their time unsupervised and
are potentially exposed to several problematic and even dangerous scenarios.
Since the Municipality’s Youth Department will be supervising the program in
conjunction with the schools in the area, there will be constant contact and
communications between them, teachers and school administrators.
centers will be located in or adjacent to bomb shelters in the areas of Ben
Gurion and Nir Am, where shelters are especially needed during times of
emergency. By attending the centers, youth can achieve and maintain equilibrium
in their lives, be better situated for success as productive citizens and at
the same time, remain safe after school hours. Living with constant rocket fire
and day-to-day hardships, the youth will learn to adapt well in the face of
Sderot program is brand new, existing TikvaHope after-school programs have been
so effective the Mayor of Sderot, Alon Davidi, has specifically called upon
Meir Panim to respond to the challenges facing Sderot’s at-risk population.
What we hope to
accomplish is to build on its young population’s inherent assets: qualities of
strength, courage, character and community responsibility. While generations of
children have grown up here living in a perpetual state of fear, Meir Panim
recognizes that there are also opportunities for growth and development that
often accompany adversity.
Youth Centers will offer a safe-haven, a home away from home where, in
partnership with caring staff and peer-to-peer mentoring, young people can
learn to lead healthy and productive lives as caring individuals and community
members. Here teenagers will gain clarity, develop their potential and work
toward their personal, academic, and professional goals. This comfortable space
will also allow youth to enjoy recreational facilities and to spend meaningful
time with friends; enabling them to live as normal lives as possible under
Meir Panim is
determined to empower the youth to not only overcome the deleterious effects of
living under fire, but to also develop their potential to succeed in the face
How do you measure the success of your program?
The staff of the Sderot Municipality's Youth Department, in conjunction with
Meir Panim staff, will evaluate the short-term and long-term impact of the
project by tracking the teens’ academic progress, educational achievement,
civic engagement, organizational involvement, pursuit of post-high school
university studies and future roles in the military.