Giving Israeli youth under rocket threat a 'safe haven'
Meir Panim Youth Centers are built in existing bomb shelters in Sderot, making them friendlier and more welcoming places, rather than rooms that represent panic and fear.
By JERUSALEM POST STAFFAccording to a recent study, about 70 percent of children in Sderot, a city less than a mile from the Gaza Strip that frequently comes under Kassam rocket fire, suffer from symptoms of anxiety, fear and PTSD. Meir Panim, an organization that was established to help diminish the harmful effects of poverty in Israel, has refurbished a bomb shelter into a Youth Club in Sderot to alleviate the trauma that plagues the children in this community. In the following article, JPost looks at the facility that addresses the needs of young adults who have experienced their childhoods under fire, and examines the ways in which such a lifestyle has affected their lives today. "Tzeva Adom." "Tzeva Adom."Imagine sitting at Shabbat dinner when these words ring around the city. You freeze for a second but check back when you realize you must move, and move quickly, to get to the nearest bomb shelter. For families living in Sderot, these situations happen all too frequently.Aside from the temporary physical damage inflicted on Sderot communities by Kassam rockets, such threats and attacks also leave permanent psychological destruction within its citizens.According to a recent study, about 70 percent of children in Sderot, a city less than a mile from the Gaza Strip that frequently comes under Kassam rocket fire, suffer from symptoms of anxiety, fear and PTSD.In an effort to help children growing up in these communities cope with the threats and trauma, Meir Panim, an organization that was established to help alleviate and diminish the harmful effects of poverty in Israel, has refurbished a bomb shelter into a Youth Club in the Ben Gurion neighborhood in Sderot.Meir Panim is best-known for its chain of restaurant-style soup kitchens and meals-on-wheels food delivery programs throughout Israel, but it also runs several other programs benefiting Israel’s children in need, including after-school clubs and summer camps.AdvertisementBecause of their well-known community work, the Municipality of Sderot chose the organization to build the program of “safe haven” youth centers.The youth centers are built in existing bomb shelters, allowing Meir Panim to reconfigure bomb shelters into more welcoming and friendly places, rather than a room that represents panic and fear.The shelters provide a safe space where children aged 12-18 years can come to relax, do homework, participate in recreational activities, and receive professional mentoring. Staff members work with at-risk youth to help them create and meet personal, academic and professional goals.The renovated bomb shelters have full amenities and provide meals, as many at-risk youth come from impoverished homes where food is not always available.According to interviews with Meir Panim, the goal has been to empower the youth of Sderot to aspire to greater heights and to become accomplished and adjusted members of Israeli society.In order to allow Meir Panim help these children and others, all you have to do is join in with a symbolic contribution as you see fit. .