AN ISRAELI breastfeeds her baby in a buttercup field near Kibbutz Nir Yitzhak on the Gaza border in 2016..
(photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)
‘Building a family and bringing children into the world should not be a privilege only for the financially wealthy,” International Fellowship of Christian and Jews Founder and President Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein told The Jerusalem Post.
Every year, some 30,000 women below the poverty line give birth, and The Fellowship ensures these new mothers with limited financial resources and their newborns get a fair chance at a healthy and strong start to their lives. “Matanot Katanot,” or Little Gifts, is one of The Fellowship’s newest programs dedicated to providing impoverished new mothers all of the necessary resources to ensure their babies are happy and healthy in their first six months.
This program is one of the hundreds offered by IFCJ that aims to fill the financial gaps in society.
The Fellowship organized this program in March 2017 in response to a vacuum they saw in public sector financial aid for impoverished mothers and their newborns. These mothers and children run a high risk of health and developmental problems that trap them in a cycle of ongoing poverty.
Thanks to the generous donations of The Fellowship’s millions of Christian donors and others, the program now reaches 700 new mothers and is expected to ultimately help some 4,000 mothers each year.
The Fellowship believes that everyone has a right to build a family, regardless of financial circumstances. “We are trying to alleviate this pressure and these families should be supported in a much bigger way than they actually are,” said Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein.
“Matanot Katanot” assists new mothers and their babies through financial aid packages totaling NIS 1,200 (this not only matches but it also doubles the monthly allowance provided by the National Insurance during the six-month period). These packages, which are given to women in their 28th week of pregnancy until their baby is six months old, provide a head start for mothers and their newborns. It ensures the babies receive proper nutrition and dietary supplements as well as covering basic medical needs crucial for proper development.
Each month, eligible mothers are given a NIS 200 card that can be used at Shufersal supermarkets and their affiliates nationwide for necessities that include pacifiers, diapers, baby food, formula, clothing and furniture. The card also serves another important purpose for these mothers – they ensure their anonymity and their dignity.
In the future, the program plans to expand to reach more families and offer more services, including advocating for public policy affecting mothers and children in poverty.
The Fellowship is also the largest philanthropic network in Israel and has generated some $140 million each year from about 1.6 million donors worldwide.
Tal Shachar has been the director of the “Matatnot Katanot” program since its establishment one year ago and has been working with The Fellowship for the past three years. Prior to taking on this position, she managed several other Fellowship programs that work specifically with Israel’s impoverished citizens.
This is the first time she is taking on such a big role working with Israel’s littlest citizens.
“When a woman gives birth, regardless of their financial status, it’s always a happy occasion and seen as something positive. However, the challenges that await those mothers who do not have the financial needs to take care of herself and her family can prove stressful and often causes long-term damage to the child,” Shachar told the Post.
“It is up to us to try to alleviate this stress of these challenges through the services and resources we offer these mothers.”This article was written in cooperation with The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews.sign up to our newsletter