ICEJ Helps Israeli At-Risk Youths Develop New Skills
By: Laurina Driesse, ICEJ Media & Publications Director
As part of our ministry of blessing and comfort to Israel, the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem (ICEJ) is thrilled to see disadvantaged children flourish in a loving and supportive environment that encourages their growth and development.
During Hanukkah in December, ICEJ Vice President for AID and Aliyah Nicole Yoder visited an Israeli youth village we support, home to 141 young kids. Most of these children are between 6 and 18 years old and have been removed from their homes for their well-being, though some children in the village can spend time at home with their families occasionally.
A small group of children participate in the youth village programs but still live at home. The hope is that with support, their families will be strengthened so that these children will not need to be removed.
The youth village has embarked on an educational and therapeutic project to open a bakery operated by the children. An instructor familiar with working with at-risk children is teaching them life skills alongside learning to bake and cook. This initiative has proven to be immensely popular with the kids.
Anxious to start but with few resources to purchase essential equipment, a room was identified for the new bakery-to-be. The project kicked off with great enthusiasm with a few appliances, like used mixers, a second-hand oven, and a small refrigerator. However, more equipment is needed to turn this dream into a reality and get the project fully up and running.
“The ICEJ is so excited to support this initiative,” said Nicole. “Over the next few years, these at-risk children will build their skills and learn to develop business and marketing plans that will drive this initiative into becoming a real business in the community,” she explained.
During Hanukkah, baked treats are plentiful in Israel. So not surprisingly, the kids were excited to get out of school a few hours early to use their new skills and bake for the village Hanukkah party. Nicole witnessed a hive of activity as the joyful kids worked energetically to bake 170 delicious sufganiyot (doughnuts). Later, during the party, the proud bakers offered guests a selection of colorful toppings to give their taste buds a unique, flavorful treat!
The whole village was abuzz as preparations for the Hanukkah party took shape. One young man who struggles with stuttering practiced a beautiful song to perform at the party. When he sings, the stuttering somehow fades into the background, and he can sing clearly and beautifully.
Meanwhile, guests were beginning to arrive at the front gate. Eleven-year-old Shlomi was alive with anticipation for the party, and even more so when he spotted his parents arriving. He called out to the director: “Maya, look! My mom and dad are here!”
“He looked like a pent-up bundle of emotion and energy, all wound up and so sweetly shy at the same time, as though he did not know exactly what to do with himself,” noted Nicole. “I was so touched to hear that the parents received a special taxi—paid for by the village—so that they could make it to the party. It was their first visit, although their son had lived in the village for four years. No wonder he was a bundle of pent-up emotion.”
The director quickly suggested that he choose a gift for his mother from a nearby table. “You should have seen him shoot off at a run to get that gift for his mother. What a special day for him and so many other children who welcomed their parents to the village for Hanukkah,” said Nicole with much emotion.
Warm thanks to the ICEJ’s partners who gave the first donation toward purchasing equipment to get this project going. The donation will go toward purchasing an industrial oven.
Please consider giving to ICEJ AID, which helps disadvantaged Israelis have a brighter and more hopeful future—and in this case, is enabling at-risk Israeli youths to heal and develop new vocational skills in a loving and safe environment.