Summer sunshine is meant to bring a welcomed respite from a year of hard work and stress. But for children from poor and dysfunctional homes, summer is a particularly threatening time.
“Two out of five Israeli children come from impoverished homes,” explained Goldie Sternbuch, Director of Overseas Relations for Meir Panim. “Many of these children not only suffer from hunger, but also from neglect and abuse.”
Meir Panim, Israel’s premiere charity organization, works to combat poverty not just during holidays but year-round. “It is especially important, during the summer months when children have so much free time on their hands, that we provide a safe and productive outlet for kids whose homes have many challenges,” continued Sternbuch.
Due to budget cuts, Israel’s Education Ministry is operating camps this summer only for children in first and second grades. This is placing extreme pressure on Israel’s working poor, who cannot even provide for the basic necessities of their families and certainly cannot afford child care during Israel’s long summer break.
Recognizing that children need a safety net from poverty and abuse, Meir Panim is partnering with local municipalities and social workers and working to gather funds from generous donors in Israel and abroad to establish summer programs for Israeli children from disadvantaged homes. Participants are only required to pay a nominal fee of $25 to cover the cost of insurance.
“The Meir Panim summer programs are managed by Meir Panim volunteers. In addition, there are soldier mentors who fulfill their Israeli national service through volunteering,” said Sternbuch to Breaking Israel News. “Our cooperative efforts have created a life preserver for hundreds of children to be safe and productive for the one-month duration of our programs, and to experience quality mentors who teach discipline and give lots of love.”
Meir Panim annually distributes 100,000 hot, nourishing lunches to children. Kids who participate in their summer activities are given breakfast, lunch and snacks. “We do not only feed their hungry stomachs,” said Sternbuch, “We also fill their souls with loving care, provide a safe haven from difficult home situations, and give them quality programming to build lifelong skills.”
Participants receive swimming lessons, learn cooperation through team sports, gain study skills through educational games, are enriched through arts and crafts, music and dancing classes and more. “The only difference between Meir Panim summer programs and other programs is the cost to struggling families – and perhaps the knowledge that Meir Panim is helping to build a better future for at-risk youth,” Sternbuch concluded.