Community center for Eritrean women to open in TA

Center will provide a daycare program for Eritrean children and workshops on the Hebrew language, contraception and domestic abuse.

July 9, 2012 23:45
2 minute read.
Volunteer with Eritrean toddler at community cente

Volunteer with Eritrean toddler at community center 390. (photo credit: Ben Hartman)

On a main street in south Tel Aviv’s Shapira neighborhood, volunteers on Sunday put the finishing touches on an Eritrean women’s community center, which they said will be the first of its kind serving the community.

The center will provide a daycare program for Eritrean children and later, workshops on the Hebrew language, contraception and domestic abuse, according to Sara Robinson, who proposed the idea during a meeting with an Eritrean female activist earlier this year.

“We wanted to create a daycare that was more up to standards; most of the ones that they can afford are not up to such standards,” said Robinson, the refugee rights coordinator for Amnesty International Israel.

Robinson said the center will charge NIS 600 per month for daycare and hopes to have one caretaker watching 10 children the first month, eventually reaching three employees and 30 children.

Along the way they will have to balance the need to comply with standards with the need to remain economically accessible to community members.

The center is located in what Robinson described as a former artists loft that was in a hellish state of disrepair when she and the rest of the crew began renovating the place earlier this month.

There was an ancient, defunct air conditioning unit sticking out of a hole in the concrete wall, several risqué posters from men’s magazines and the stench and filth left behind by the artists’ five dogs. Over the course of the past few weeks, volunteers cleaned the building from top to bottom, put in new flooring, painted and fixed the lights and installed ceiling fans. They also acquired furniture through Facebook and secondhand websites.

Today they have a colorful yet modest 80 square meter, two-story facility and are receiving help in paying the NIS 4,600 monthly rent, partly through a 1,000-pound monthly grant from an Eritrean human rights organization in London.

There are no signs on the outside of the building and volunteers are looking to put up a bamboo fence for privacy and security. This is impossible to overlook in a neighborhood where, in one night in May, five different buildings housing migrants – including a daycare – were targeted in a string of Molotov cocktail attacks.

“Security worries me because these things happen to many refugee places in Israel,” said “Almaz” a 29-year-old Eritrean asylum seeker who will be running the center.

“You can’t not do anything because you’re worried about Molotov cocktails,” added Robinson.

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