Taking part in a conference for Yadid L'Chinuch - a non-profit organization that brings senior citizens to tutor at elementary schools across the country - 400 senior citizen volunteers gathered at Beit Shmuel in Jerusalem on Tuesday to receive thanks and encouragement from the program's directors. "During these difficult times facing the education system, there is a high value placed on volunteers for whom the future of the country, its children and youth are important," Education Minister Director-General Dr. Shimshon Shoshani sent in a prepared message. "I want to thank every one of you for the personal contributions you've given, and I wish you much health and success." Shoshani was unable to arrive at the conference as he was dealing with the proposed cuts to the Education Ministry's budget. The program, which now has some 550 senior citizen volunteers tutoring in the country's elementary schools, has met with positive experiences for both the pupils and the senior citizens who tutor them. "The kids benefit from the volunteers' knowledge, and it's good for the senior citizens, too," a Yadid L'Chinuch spokeswoman said. "Many of the pupils have grown attached to the volunteers, so much so that parents have begun to ask if they too can meet the senior citizens, about whom they've heard so much." The volunteers arrive at the elementary schools on a regular basis and take part in the pupils' studies by tutoring and even teaching. The program is in place in 20 towns and cities nationwide, with the volunteers' contribution to the education system estimated at NIS 1 million per year. In the two years since the program's inception,Yadid L'Chinuch volunteers have logged 110,000 hours of tutoring and teaching at dozens of schools across the country. Yadid L'Chinuch began the tutoring program to try to improve classroom achievements of elementary school pupils, reduce cases of violence and create a personal connection between the volunteers and each pupil.