Elem celebrates 30 years with fundraising event for homeless youth projects

The nonprofit organization helping youth in distress, will celebrate 30 years of charitable work next week at a fundraising event in Tel Aviv.

Ester Rada (photo credit: Dean Avisar)
Ester Rada
(photo credit: Dean Avisar)
Elem, the nonprofit organization helping youth in distress, will celebrate 30 years of charitable work next week at a fundraising event in Tel Aviv.
The proceeds of the charity event, which will include a live performance by two of Israel’s leading singers – Yehuda Poliker and Ester Rada, will go towards assisting projects for homeless children in Tel Aviv and in Jerusalem. 
“We are very excited to let the public take part in this event marking the progress and growth of Elem, which throughout its 30 years has warmly embraced tens of thousands of youth at risk and in need,” said Nava Barak, President of Elem.
Other speakers at the event will include Social Welfare Minister Meir Cohen, incoming Elem Chairman Shlomo Yanai, as well as alumni from Elem’s youth outreach programs. Furthermore, outgoing Chairman Boaz Dotan, will receive an award for his eight year contribution to the organization.
Today, Elem has grown to nearly 2,000 volunteers, reaching some 40 cities and towns throughout the country.
The organization operates numerous social welfare programs for youth, including “hafuch al hafuch” counseling centers, “friendship” vans which operate nightly in 18 cities and towns, offering immediate help to distressed youth and “Migdalor” centers where youth can work on academic studies an engage in extracurricular activities in a safe environment.
Out of the numerous Elem initiatives, the fundraising event will directly benefit two projects: “Someone to run with” in Tel Aviv and “Galgal” (wheel) in Jerusalem.
“The idea is to get to youth in distress and talk to them directly, as equals and without condescension and not wait until they are in a situation where they need to come to us,” Elem Israel Executive Director Efrat Shaprut told the Jerusalem Post
The “Someone to run with” project in Tel Aviv caters to young adults, aged 18-25, who are often addicted to drugs, homeless, or simply have nowhere to turn.  The project operates a drop-in center providing humanitarian aid and assists youth in finding temporary living arrangements. In addition, the center opens once a week exclusively for young women at risk.
Similar to the Tel Aviv project, “Galgal” in Jerusalem assists youth aged 16-25, many of whom are involved with drugs, alcohol, or criminal activities. 
Shaprut explained that under the age of 18 the government provides housing to homeless youth, but after that age these youth usually have nowhere to turn.
“We see a lot of olim who came to Israel by themselves, or those who were kicked out of their homes for abandoning their religious practices.  We provide food, a warm shower, laundry, and also to give them motivation to get off the streets and find work.  This is a long process which can take years,” said Shaprut.
According to Shaprut the longer the youth spend on the streets, the harder it is for them to get out of the life of crime, prostitution or drug abuse.
“It takes a very long time until for the youth to believe that we only want the best for them and for them to trust us. So the youth especially receive love from us, because people living on the street often receive no warm human contact,” said Shaprut.
Once youth arrive at the centers it is essentially up to them to decide whether or not they want to rehabilitate into society.
“The rehabilitation process has to come from them, they have to decide to do this and we are there for them every step of the way.  We don’t try to convince them and we don’t judge them. We show them all the options and we show them the benefits of choosing a better life and most of the youth do want to improve their lives. This takes a longer time but in the end it comes from the children and once they do the rehabilitation process happens fast,” explained Shaprut.
According to Shaprut, Elem offers housing for one year, in cooperation with the Social Welfare Ministry, for up to six girls and six boys at a time in order to help them get back on their feet.  Following the rehabilitation process, an Elem volunteer remains in contact with the youth in an effort to prevent relapses and offer a steady stream of support.
“The children are missing a parent or authority figure, because their parents don’t function or are not around - we are the adults in their lives,” added Shaprut.
In 2014, Elem will receive an estimated NIS 48 million towards managing projects for youth at risk, with NIS 12 million valued as volunteer hours.  Nearly half of its funding comes from charitable donations, while the other half from government grants.
Tickets for the fundraising event range from NIS 300 to NIS 1500.  For more details on the fundraising event or to purchase tickets visit www.elem.org.il.