'Babysitters' or 'Child Warehouses' in the Refugee Community of South Tel-Aviv
More than 4,500 refugee children under the age of six currently live in Tel-Aviv. The majority of them were born in Israel. Every day, while their parents go to work, these young children are deposited in overcrowded, improvised daycare centers --often referred to as 'babysitters' or 'child warehouses.' Their parents often work multiple shifts to provide for their families. Consequently, they leave their children for more than 12 hours a day at these centers where conditions are often hair-raising and, needless to say, do not meet minimum safety or sanitary standards.
There are more than 90 such facilities in South Tel Aviv, run by African women, most of whom lack any professional training in caring for young children. In addition, many of them do not even speak the same languages as the children's parents.
From 5 AM until late at night, 50-60 or more babies and toddlers are crowded into tiny rooms in apartments or basements, without proper ventilation (in temperatures that often rise above 35°C/ 95°F in the summer) and insufficient light. They are exposed to such hazards as live electrical wires and unprotected gas cylinders, and there is little provision for food preparation or waste (e.g., diaper) disposal. The centers do not offer enough food, so the children are constantly hungry, and obviously, there is no balanced diet. There are no play facilities, no planned activities, and little stimulation beyond a television in the background.
At any given moment, dozens of children suffer from physical and emotional neglect at these 'child warehouses'. Most of the babies lie on their back, unattended, in plastic cribs, for hours on end. Those who are ill are mixed in with those who are healthy. For days at a time, they get no attention at all, no care and no touch. Since 2010, 19 babies have died in these centers. At the beginning of 2015, five babies died over a period of six weeks due to lack of supervision and untreated childhood illnesses. Unfortunately, even the toddlers who can already stand and walk suffer from serious neglect. Until the age of three, they pass the day watching TV, with no opportunity to go outside and play. The parents, who need to work and have no alternative options for childcare, must pay between 500-700 NIS per month for this service.
How do we help these children?
Elifelet-Citizens for Refugee Children - is an NGO made up of volunteers operating to protect the physical and emotional well-being of the children of the refugee community in South Tel Aviv. Elifelet currently supports twenty-six small daycare centers, run by refugee women, and attended by more than 1000 children daily. Volunteers from Elifelet offer the children the personal warmth that they so sorely lack, in addition to providing food, proper equipment, school supplies, safety devices, education and enrichment activities. In the past three years, we have made an enormous effort to reach out to more and more children at risk.
The volunteers help identify the children in distress or at risk, and make sure that they get the appropriate care from the health and education authorities. In addition, the volunteers run training activities for the daycare owners and for the children's parents.
In recognition of its diverse activities with the refugee children, Elifelet received the Israeli President's Award for Volunteerism, the 2015 Yigal Alon Award for Exemplary Pioneering Activities and in 2016 the Liberty, Equality, Fraternity Human Rights Medal of the French Republic.
How do we operate?
Our goal is to rescue the children of asylum seekers from the cycle of suffering and to ensure their emotional and physical well-being. Our goal is to provide as many babies, toddlers and young children as possible with a safe environment that enriches them and encourages their development. We aspire to offer them an environment that is warm and compassionate and allows the children fulfill their potential. Until such time as it is safe for them to return to their parents' countries of origin, we want to give them a helping hand, not only for their own sake, but also for the sake of the society in which they currently live.
At Elifelet we believe that step-by-step, with every donation we receive, every additional volunteer, one more hug and another helping hand, we can help yet more children from among the 4,500 in South Tel Aviv. Every single donation is vital and is received with deep appreciation. We call upon all communities and individuals who are willing to adopt a center or an afternoon club to contact us.
For donations, please press here.
For volunteer opportunities please press here, or send an email or write on our facebook page.
Contributions to Elifelet are recognized for the purpose of Israeli tax credits pursuant to section 46a.