Nine-year-old Benny and his older sister Ronit, 12, bounce out of their family’s small apartment in Yerucham, a periphery town in Southern Israel. Today, they are giggling, holding hands and beside themselves with excitement. What’s the occasion? It’s the first day of summer camp!
Of the 1.6 million Israelis living in poverty, nearly one third are children, according to the most recent figures. Benny and Ronit are just two of the hundreds of children who get specialized relief from poverty during the summer vacation from school. They attend a TikvaHope summer day camp operated by Meir Panim, Israel’s premier social services organization fighting the poverty and hunger crisis in Israel. Children eligible for Meir Panim’s summer program belong to families that receive aid from Israel’s Social Services Department.
“For the past 12 summers, Meir Panim’s TikvaHope summer camps have enabled children to be empowered in a nurturing and safe environment where they can play, learn and develop during the long summer vacation,” said David Roth, president of American Friends of Meir Panim. “One of the main goals is to give these children something to smile about so that they can start the new school year refreshed and full of great memories.”
This summer, Meir Panim is sponsoring two subsidized summer camps for hundreds of impoverished children in Israel. The camps will be held in Or Akiva in the North and Yerucham in the South, both periphery towns with struggling working class populations. Many parents cannot afford camp for their children during the summer vacation, when they must continue to work to pay the bills.
With extended hours, the camps pack in days full of games, sports and classes where they learn about healthy food, good nutrition and leading a positive lifestyle. Children receive hot nutritious meals daily and participate in several field trips, including a visit to Superland Amusement Park and a day trip to the Kotel and other Jerusalem sites. Shalom Suissa, the Or Akiva camp director, builds the program to include fun and educational activities for children. “We want them to feel just as worthy as any other child who is not dealing with the same difficulties as they are,” he explained. “We want them to be kids and play!”
“Summer is the best time! I love my camp. My counselors are cool, they are great at sports and games, and let me play soccer with my friends,” said 10-year-old Gal as he screams with joy at his camp in Or Akiva. While this is his first summer at camp, his older brother Danny attended the camp for the last two years.
“This camp saves me, because without it, I would have to find alternative childcare that I just cannot afford,” said Gila Ben Tal, the single mother of the two boys who works in a nearby food plant. “I am so grateful that Meir Panim helps me be a better mother and supports my boys with this wonderful program.”
This summer, spread the sunshine and give the gift of camp to an impoverished child. Support Meir Panim’s extensive network of aid to children and families suffering from the ills of poverty. Since 2000, the organization has served thousands of Israelis, regardless of ethnicity or religious background, through food and social service programs that give dignity, respect and relief to many of the country’s neediest residents. Click here to donate today!