Sderot is home to three of Meir Panim’s highly successful After School Neighborhood Youth Centers. The center addresses the needs of at-risk youth from disadvantaged backgrounds and engages them in different activities and special programs that focus on helping the youth develop life and academic skills while simultaneously providing a safe environment for them.
Counselors are getting creative with activities without risking teens’ exposure to COVID-19
During the COVID-19 lockdown in March and April, activities were suspended and the only contact between the counselors and the youth groups were virtual. Since then, activities have resumed but in a limited fashion. Counselors are finding creative ways to run programs without violating COVID-19 regulations.
Government protocols limit the number of people in an enclosed space to under twenty people at any given time. This has been a significant obstacle for the usual programming at the center – especially with multiple programs and with many teens participating. To avoid this issue, program directors have taken their activities to the streets – setting up in parks and sports fields around the city. Not only does this simple solution allow them to continue to operate at “full capacity”, it has also enabled them to involve more at-risk youth to join in on the fun!
In the open setting, teens who normally may have been too intimidated to walk into a center are able to join in a more neutral setting. As such, COVID-19’s limitations and restrictions are actually helping the programs grow!
In addition to COVID-19, Sderot now faces rocket terror from Gaza
Sadly, for the Neighborhood Youth Centers in Sderot, COVID-19 isn’t the only challenge the teens are facing. Recently, nearby Gaza has been firing rocket attacks daily and the town of Sderot and its citizens are affected the most.
Nightly, the residents of Sderot are awakened by the sound of sirens and quickly run to the nearest bomb shelters for safety. The program staff are in constant contact with the teens via WhatsApp groups to check-in and offer them emotional support. It is incredible to see the resilience of the members of the center as they stand united and strong even while under attack. We pray for their continued safety and for peace to return to the area.