kids baking 88.
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On Friday mornings, Nimrod eagerly explains to customers the different types of whole wheat breads on display at the Yeladudis bakery stand in Tel Aviv's Dizengoff Center.
"At Yeladudis, I overcame laziness and learned how to work," he proudly claims.
Nimrod, 17, of Beersheba has been a resident of the Neve Hanna Home for Children and Youth in Kiryat Gat for the past nine years.
"I feel that Neve Hanna is my first home. The children here are like my siblings, and the staff treats me like a son."
Located on the premises of Neve Hanna since 2001, the Yeladudis bakery is considered by Al Hashulchan gourmet magazine to be one of Israel's top three boutique bakeries.
An oasis of tranquility for more than 60 children who had to leave their families for various reasons, Neve Hanna includes attractively designed living units, trimmed lawns, a petting zoo, cultural hall and basketball court adjacent to the compact bakery.
"Children are provided with all that a home entails - a clean and esthetic house and a quiet, calm atmosphere," says David Veger, director of Neve Hanna. "We provide them with all their needs, including material, health, and emotional support, with a range of therapies such as art and animal therapy."
The children study in Kiryat Gat schools and return to Neve Hanna in the afternoon, living in groups of 10 as family units under the supervision of a housemother and a male caregiver.
Neve Hanna, founded in 1974 by Channi Ullmann, is a pioneer of the residential unit model, which has since been emulated around Israel.
"I worked with Hanni until she passed away in 2002," says Veger. "I learned from her as if I attended four universities. It was a privilege to work with her."
Many parents of children in Neve Hanna subsist on a National Insurance allowance. Most of the children have never learned from their parents about the value of working as the source of livelihood.
Work and vocational training are thus important areas for educating the children of Neve Hanna. However, the most important thing they learn is to assume a sense of responsibility while gaining the opportunity to observ the working world of the adults.
The idea for a bakery came after Veger and Ullmann visited Hershey, Pennsylvania, home of the Hershey chocolate company. They were inspired by how entrepreneur Milton Hershey had founded an industrial school for orphans at the beginning of the 20th century, thus enabling the children to work in the factory.
"We then came up with the idea of creating a bakery for bread," relates Veger. "Bread is a primary, basic food. It is not thrown away, and it inspires awe. It is important in religious rites and the cycle of life."
Challenged to produce quality bread, Neve Hanna's staff turned to bread bakers in Germany and Switzerland, from where many non-Jews come to volunteer at the children's home. Finally, they located a Swiss master baker.
"The recipes for bread were adapted to the Israeli market and taste buds," notes Miki Tal, director of the Yeladudis bakery. "European taste differs from Israeli taste. For example, Israelis check the bread to see if it's soft, while Europeans prefer harder bread."
All the breads are made with whole wheat flour and are sugar-free. They include onion, tomato, caraway seeds and sunflower breads.
The next challenge was to interest the children in working at the bakery.
"At the beginning there were only a few work slots," says Veger. "The supply exceeded the demand. Only the most suited children would get the job after passing our exams."
Today, some 45 children are employed in the bakery. They punch a clock, don aprons and hats, and stick to rules of hygiene and other regulations. Their work during the afternoon and evening hours includes slicing bread, packaging, filing and keeping the place in order. Older children market the products. Seven adults are employed full time, mainly as bakers. The children observe the bakers at work and assist them.
"The children are happy to come to work," testifies Tal.
Nimrod's career at Yeladudis started shortly after it opened. He would package the products and help the bakers prepare the bread. Today, he sells the products, mainly on Friday mornings in Tel Aviv.
Sold regularly to kibbutzim in the South, Yeladudis baked goods are also sold in stands in Dizengoff Center and Gan Ha'Ir, as well as in Petah Tikva and Kfar Saba. The Elite Corporation markets the bakery's new Granoliot cookies. In addition, hi-tech firms in the Dan region sell its products. Yeladudis won the El Al Airlines tender, and first-class and business-class passengers enjoy an assortment of the cookies.
The cookies include chocolate chip, grain cookies (whose recipe was developed by the children), almond cookies, granola-based cookies and Moroccan-style cookies. The products, certified kosher by Rabbi Ben-Hamu of the Kiryat Gat rabbinate, are also packaged as gifts for the holidays.
All revenue from the products helps Neve Hanna.
"We make it clear that we are conducting business with organizations and companies, and the clients realize they are receiving quality baked goods and likewise contributing to the community," says Veger.
Yeladudis usually breaks even. This year's revenue covered Neve Hanna's summer camp.
Veger is pleased that the Yeladudis model is being replicated elsewhere in Israel and gladly shares advice with others.
Since Neve Hanna sees service in the IDF or National Service as a ticket to Israeli society, it funds a support network including an apartment and social worker for graduates who serve the country without a family to return home to.
"We accompany them after they leave Neve Hanna," states Veger. "Some study accounting and business administration. Many have started businesses after the value of work learned at Yeladudis has paved the way."
Hourly wages are paid according to the child's age, minus one shekel. For example, a 12-year-old earns NIS 11 an hour. According to Tal, the wages are higher than those under the youth labor law.
"The children earn money and often save it for educational purposes. For example one child worked hard and earned NIS 800 in one month. The next day he purchased a second-hand computer (with help from other sources)."
Nimrod saved up enough money to purchase a cotton candy machine. Together with his older brother, he sells cotton candy. He also covered his driving lessons and license.
"I learned that a worker earns his own money and knows how to spend it. Today, I calculate how to budget my money. This is all due to Yeladudis, where we learned how to work, even if it began as something small," says Nimrod.
For information on marketing Yeladudis products and its holiday gift packages, call Yaniv at 0503-48-0875
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