Occupational Therapy Afternoon Club for children aged 6-10 (closed on August 2018)
The club for the older children, 6 to 10-year-olds, was opened in 2014, in a little house located on the border of the Florentin neighborhood in South Tel Aviv. It was closed by the end of the 2018 school year. A new project is planned instead of this club for 2019. More details will follow at the beginning of 2019.
The club itself is designed like a warm home: a big space with all the necessary equipment, a large courtyard that serves as a garden and a playground. The children --who previously wandered the streets from the time school ended until late at night-- now come to the club directly after school and stay there until evening. The team includes two teachers, two assistants and a wide circle of dedicated volunteers. After club hours, the space serves for training and counseling parents and daycare owners from the refugee community.
Most of the children at this club were not born in Israel, and many experienced severe trauma along the journey that brought them here. They suffered abuse and threats to their lives by authorities as they were chased out of one country and into another (e.g., Libya, Egypt), and some were separated from their mothers (frequently by Bedouin gangs in the Sinai). Many have witnessed such indescribable horrors as the assassination of loved ones and the rape of female relatives, including, in some cases, their own mothers. Many of these children have spent time in the Israeli detention camp, 'Saharonim', in the desert, where some were actually born.
Once they arrived in Tel Aviv, their parents had to work long hours to survive financially. Consequently, the children were put into daycare centers run by women in the African community, many of whom do not speak the same language as the children's parents. They spent all day and part of the night at these overcrowded "babysitting" centers, receiving little attention, and no stimulation or enrichment. In addition to the emotional trauma they have experienced, and the severe economic hardship at home, these children are deficient in all aspects of their education, including linguistic (Hebrew) skills, and completely unprepared for entry into the Israeli school system.
Elifelet's afternoon club has become a safe haven and even a surrogate family for these children; a place where they are listened to, cared for, where they are exposed to educational activities, and taught skills to develop their individual creativity. To this end, we have enlisted the aid of professionals, specifically, in the fields of psychology, art and education.
When we first opened the club for elementary school children, we found that they had great difficulty reading Hebrew. During the summer vacation, a group of volunteers began to tutor the children, and by the beginning of the current school year, all our club children had achieved reading fluency. Their subsequent thirst for reading took us by surprise, although it delighted us and gave us great satisfaction. Thanks to large donations of books, we have been able to enlarge our library collection several times.
In addition to a strong emphasis on teaching and assistance with school homework, the club offers after-school programs, such as: art; playing a musical instrument; yoga; therapy with animals; gardening; cooking, and more. The children go on outings and attend various performances several times a year.
We are very proud of the impressive performance given by the club's choir who sang at a ceremony at the Israeli President's residence, when Elifelet received the President's Award for Volunteerism. The children charmed the audience and they received a very warm welcome from President Reuven Rivlin.
Thanks to a several collaborative efforts with high school students, the Scouts youth group, and different moshavim and kibbutzim, among others, we have been able to realize a number of goals and make some dreams come true. We are delighted to have seen these children, coming from such difficult circumstances, evolve into successful and self-assured teenagers.
We see in the club's children the future leaders of their community. Our goal is to strengthen and broaden the club's activities and accompany the children until they graduate from high school. In addition, we hope to be able to help more children every year.