On April 11, 2019, Meir Panim Director of Global Development, Mimi Rozmaryn, and Israel365 Digital Marketing Manager, Yocheved Feinerman, made a special trip to Sderot to show support for the teenagers who participate in the Nir Am neighborhood adolescent club set up by the Mair Panim organization. Wishing the young people a Happy Passover on behalf of Meir Panim and its donors and sponsors around the world, one hundred boxes of matzah were distributed to the teenagers to take home to their families.
Rozmaryn told The Jerusalem Post that she wanted everyone to know that “the Meir Panim national organization cares about the teenagers, and to thank the branch manager for her remarkable work and to let her know that she is part of something bigger.”
In operation since the year 2000, Meir Panim is mostly known for its work ensuring that Israel’s working poor and the elderly will have warm meals and that children will not go to bed hungry. In consultation with local municipalities, they determine local needs and in the case of Sderot, a safe meeting place for traumatized children growing up under constant rocket fire and occasional outbursts of war was the project of choice.
“The Sderot program is about providing a space for teens to develop leadership skills and build confidence,” said Rozmaryn, “and a place where they can find comfort. They get therapy in a way they don’t realize is therapy.”
Three community adolescent clubs were established in Sderot over the past three years by Meir Panim to provide a much needed safe space in addition to home and school, what Rozmaryn called a “third space”. Four evenings a week, about 50 teens get together in each of the three converted bomb shelters that were adapted to meet their needs for space and activities. There is room for the program to expand to 70 teenagers each.
From 6-10 pm, parents know where their children are – and that they are safe. If there is a sudden red alert signaling a missile attack from Gaza, parents are secure in the knowledge that their children are in a bomb shelter and do not have to run to get out of harm’s way.
Feinerman admitted to being afraid on the drive to Sderot since rockets can be fired at any time without warning. “And then I came into this large two-floor bomb shelter and it was like coming into someone’s living room. There are comfortable sofas, a well-stocked kitchen, a giant TV on the wall and downstairs there is a games room and a homework room. Everything is well maintained by the kids.” Feinerman and Rozmaryn were impressed with the warm and close relationship the teens had with the two young leaders who were there. “Everything looked so normal,” added Feinerman. “And then I asked how life is in Sderot.”
Amelia admitted that life is “really tough. We are lucky to have this center.” Other kids enthusiastically jumped in to tell about missiles falling in this yard or that yard. “We only have 15 seconds to get to safety from the moment the Red Alert blasts.”
“When things are calm,” Amelia said, “it is good to be together. And when it’s not calm, we really appreciate this club. And our parents feel better knowing we are here and not home alone because many of them work late.”
Over the past month, when missiles were falling with high frequency, the young people asked that the club expand its hours of operation so that they would have more time together with their friends in a comforting environment.
The teenagers did not talk about being hungry, but there is much impoverishment and many families are headed by a single parent. In addition to having a safe place, Meir Panim offers them healthy dinners. The boxes of matzah distributed to the kids was a big help to the families. One person even came in off the street and asked for a box for himself.
Meir Panim’s investment in these kids is preparing the leaders of tomorrow. In this safe environment they get leadership training courses, have healthy social interactions, encouragement with their schoolwork and more. “I saw first-hand what this place means to the kids,” remarked Feinerman. “Meir Panim cannot give their parents better paying jobs, and we cannot stop the rockets. But we are doing much to alleviate the impact of living in a war zone. Donors and sponsors can be proud of the young people this program is supporting. And there is more that we can offer these teenagers when we will have the resources to do so.”
Meir Panim would like to be able to hire tutors for them, to hire more staff, to expand the hours the club is open, to offer them lunch as well as dinner. Your donations will go a long way to helping the teenagers of Sderot. They are yearning for a normal life and your support is helping bring them closer to that.
Your donation will help Meir Panim fulfill its mission of providing a feeling of freedom from poverty, hunger, and loneliness to Israel’s neediest individuals.
and distribute 110,000 hot lunches to children, 490,000 hot meals at our Restaurant-Style Soup Kitchens, and 190,000 Meals-On-Wheels to the homebound, disabled and elderly. And now, Meir Panim is running a matching campaign to raise funds for Passover...
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Written in cooperation with Meir Panim.