When 7-year-old Shira goes to bed, she bites her lip, reminding herself not to complain to her mother that she is hungry.
Rena is a single mother whose husband left her two years ago. Since then, he has refused to pay child support – leaving Rena, who married young with little education, to raise Shira on her own.
“I remember when Shira was born,” explains Rena (name changed). “Shira means ‘song’ in Hebrew, and our world was so lovely and full of hope.”
Today, Rena and Shira rarely feel like singing and do not see this world as a particularly beautiful place in which to live – because all they know is poverty.
According to Goldie Sternbuch, Director of Overseas Relations for Meir Panim, 2 in 5 Israeli children go to bed hungry.
This is their reality:
- Hungry children have trouble focusing in school, leading to limited opportunities as adults to make a respectable living.
- Hungry children get sick more often due to a lack of nourishment. This puts a strain on needy families because of additional medical expenses as well as extra care needed for the children.
- Hungry children are at risk of a life of crime. Stealing food is not uncommon, and in severe cases, impoverished people turn to drugs as a coping mechanism for the difficult challenges they face.
Sadly, in Rena’s case poverty is not a new circumstance.
“Growing up, we didn’t have much, but we had enough,” she said. “But now it has become impossible for me to feed my child.”
Visiting Rena’s one-bedroom apartment adds to the sadness. The peeling paint and dilapidated furniture are a reflection of their struggles. Opening their refrigerator, one finds a pitcher of water, a hunk of stale bread and a jar of peanut butter.
“I go every day to Meir Panim’s soup kitchen to eat lunch,” said Rena. “I bring containers in my bag and the workers allow me to take food home for Shira. Without their help, I don’t know what I would do.”
“It costs only around $1,000 per year to provide a daily hot meal to a child,” explained Sternbuch. “The more people support our network of social welfare programs, the more we can ease the pain and burden on struggling families – especially the children.”
To support Meir Panim’s Passover fundraising campaign, please click here.