ASSAF - Aid Organization for Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Israel

ASSAF promotes the welfare and rights of asylum seekers in Israel. We provide advocacy services, emotional and social support for asylum seekers, targeting the most vulnerable, while engaging in advocacy to change public discourse & Israeli policy.

Location: Tel Aviv, Israel
Year founded: 2007

Description

ASSAF – Aid Organization for Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Israel –  promotes the welfare and rights of asylum seekers in Israel by providing advocacy services, emotional and social support for asylum seekers at the individual and community levels while engaging in macro-level advocacy to change public discourse and official Israeli policy.

ASSAF is a small Israeli human rights organization with a big impact. We stand out in our focus on advocacy while offering psychosocial support programs that directly benefit over 2,000 asylum seekers each year who are living in Israel without legal status or access to basic human rights.

We offer programs for the most vulnerable members of the asylum-seeking communities, including individuals with chronic illnesses, physical or mental disabilities, youths, young adults who came to Israel as unaccompanied minors, victims of torture and human trafficking, single mothers, victims of domestic abuse, victims of work accidents, HIV carriers, and more.

ASSAF provides asylum seekers with a safe haven in which they can finally feel welcome and at home, develop a sense of belonging, and access essential psychosocial, humanitarian and welfare support. Our approach is holistic, relationship-based and collaborative. At the heart of our work is a profound commitment to the needs of asylum seekers.

Since 2007, ASSAF has been the central Israeli organization offering support for asylum seekers at both the individual and community levels, so that they can better understand and cope with their complex reality in Israel, as well as advocating for their rights.

In promoting our vision for a just society in which everyone is entitled to a life with dignity and security, ASSAF works to promote the rights of asylum seekers via our public advocacy work, raise awareness and engage in policy dialogue and monitoring to ultimately change Israeli policy regarding refugees and asylum seekers.

Youth Club for Refugees & Asylum Seekers in Israel

About

ASSAF operates a Youth Program for
55 at-risk children and teenagers who are African refugees and asylum seekers
in Tel Aviv, Israel. For seven years, ASSAF's Youth Program has been a second home for children to families
of refugees and asylum seekers living in Israel for many years, studying in the
Israeli educational system. These boys and girls live without legal status, in
a harsh reality and in an area that is a hub for drug activity and
prostitution. 


We at ASSAF believe that
boys and girls who had to escape their homelands due to persecution and civil
war, deserve the same support and opportunities as every Israeli boy and girl.
This is not just in the youths' best interest, but in the interest of the
Israeli society in which they live. We
believe in the potential of every one of our boys and girls to succeed and
contribute to society, and we nurture this potential with care.


For a small
taste of our Youth Program's Youth Club activities, please watch:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8m8EBuvtSV8

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What is the mission and purpose of this program?

The purpose
of this program is to provide refugees and asylum-seeking kids and teens with a
supportive framework of safe, holistic, and integrative activities and address
their psychosocial (emotional and social) needs. The program facilitates positive social
interactions and is an effective means of identifying and preventing risky
behaviors among this vulnerable demographic.


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Program Description

The
beneficiaries of the Youth Program are the 55 participants annually, including
approximately 27 boys and 28 girls ages 8-19, who live in South Tel Aviv and
take part in a variety of weekly gender and age-sensitive activities.

At the core
of the Youth Program is the Youth Club, which is open in the evenings and is a unique framework for the
youths, providing them with a secure and empowering environment, especially in
the late hours.


The Club's
framework is a structured format, with a consistent schedule and activities, in
parallel to workshops and special outings, celebrations and activities. The
Youth Club's doors are open twice a week, from, 5PM until after 10PM, thus
keeping its underage participants off the street and in a nurturing framework.
The Youth Club constitutes a positive atmosphere for healthy socialization,
both with refugee peers and with Israeli counselors. The Youth Club allows for
a safe environment for participants where they acquire the tools to cope with
the challenges they face as refugees.  The Youth Club schedule consists of: (1)
"open space" leisure time, where the youths freely engage in games,
listen to music, dance, etc., (2) structured and designated activities, and
always includes (3) a joint dinner – a warm, nutritious meal prepared by volunteer
cooks.

In addition to the Youth
Club, the Youth Program also includes designated activities for teenage girls,
and a few other focused activities for high school seniors and recent
graduates, in order to prepare them make the transition to adulthood as
refugees in Israel.

There is a young girls group (ages 8-12) which is ran separately of the
Youth Club, due to its more sensitive and therapeutic nature, and complex content.
The group is tailored to the needs of the young girls, who often come from
difficult backgrounds, including sexual abuse.

The Youth
Program is a haven for these youths, a place where they receive support,
ranging from small tasks such as help with their homework, to major life issues
(such as domestic violence, identity and social issues, practical issues such
as dealing with the procedure of issuing a visa, etc.) and training in life
skills (for example, computer skills, social and communication skills). They
see the program as an island of stability and support, a second home.

The Youth Program offers a diverse range of activities, including: bi-weekly joint dinners, academic
tutoring, music and computer lessons, and special activities as safe-sex and
leadership seminars, fun workshops, cinema days and special dinners and events
to celebrate all three major religions' holidays, as represented in the group
of participants and staff – Christian, Muslim and Jewish. Participants will
participate in field trips, and leisure workshops which expose the youths to
new, enriching experiences which they would not otherwise have the opportunity
to experience. The program also encourages and develops leadership skills and
social involvement amongst participants in an effort to create sustainable
positive change from within the community.

In addition
to leisure activities, the Youth Program offers psychosocial support and stress
reduction to the kids who find it difficult to cope with the daily hardship of
their reality in Israel. ASSAF's team offers the youth a friendly and
comforting shoulder to lean on, addresses their psychosocial needs and
coordinates their care with services such as emergency shelters,social
services, psychologists or clinics, as needed.

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Demonstrated Need

There are
approximately 30,000 refugees and asylum seekers living in Tel Aviv, with
hundreds of refugee children and youths. However, there are no other after-school
frameworks or programs for refugee youths, and only a couple of very specific
and limited extracurricular activities available for them (namely, soccer and
scouts).

In South Tel
Aviv, the refugee youths have no where to go, as their homes are not suitable
for play or leisure, nor do they even have their own space within their
apartments. Without a place to go, they play on the streets at all hours of the
night, where they are exposed to the grim reality of the slums of the city,
unlit, neglected, and with drug trafficking, prostitution and other criminal
activities rampant.

The minors,
ages 8-18, are in need of a supportive and safe environment to keep them off
the streets and protected, with positive influences and activities.

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Program Accomplishments

Our most
notable accomplishment is the 55 kids and youth that are active participants in
the youth club and have a safe outlet to express their frustration and stress,
a place of their own where they are equal and have a sense of 'belonging', and
experience positive influences in their lives. One notable accomplishment is
the expansion of the Youth Program, from having only the Youth Club, to having
various gender and age-specific programming, and including several activity
groups that address the children and youths' specific needs.  The expansion and diversity of the staff and
personnel involved in the program is also a testament to our specialized
approach in addressing holistically all the refugee youths' needs.

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How do you measure the success of your program?

Our metric
for success is the number of kids that remain active in the program, attending
activities throughout the year, and returning to the program year after year. By
having them in the program, we know that they have someone and someplace to
turn to, that they are off the street and we can actively address their needs. By
this measure, we have been extremely successful, as all 50 youths from last
year have returned to participate in another year of activities, with 5
additional youths who joined this year.  The Youth Program Coordinator also
incorporates the youths' and counselors feedback on an ongoing basis, and
adapts content and activities to suit the needs and wishes of the youths.

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