Jaffa center for at-risk kids threatened by lack of funding

WIZO after-school center in danger of shutting down, letting go 5 employees; center works mainly with Ethiopian youngsters,

WIZO 311 (photo credit: Koko/Israel Sun)
WIZO 311
(photo credit: Koko/Israel Sun)
An after-school center in Jaffa that helps at-risk children is in danger of shutting down its operations due to a lack of funding, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
The “WIZO (Women’s International Zionist Organization) Italy House” in the Lev Yafo neighborhood runs after-school programs for at-risk teenagers, most of them from Ethiopian families living in Lev Yafo or in other impoverished neighborhoods of south Tel Aviv and Jaffa such as nearby Tel Kabir.
According to a volunteer who works at the center, if it does not receive WIZO’s share of its annual operating budget, it will be forced to fire five part-time employees and shut down its after-school programs.
The volunteer, who asked not to be named, said that the center works mainly with Ethiopian youngsters between the ages of 13 and 18 who “won’t have a place to go after school and will be out on the streets,” if the after-school programs are forced to shut down.
The volunteer said that activities at the center are run each school day from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m., and include tutoring, arts and crafts activities, and music and dance classes.
The volunteer added that if the children lose the place, “they’ll end up hanging out at the central bus station, where they can get involved in drinking, drugs, prostitution.”
The municipality’s figures diverged from those given by WIZO, which said Thursday that in the past it contributed a little over NIS 350,000 per year to the center, a sum which it had had to cut by half due to the effect of the global economic crisis on Jewish philanthropic organizations.
The spokeswoman added that WIZO also contributes donor funds outside the NIS 350,000 for other projects at the center, including an art exhibit.
When asked why the center was in such dire economic straits, a spokesman for WIZO-Israel said that it understand the importance of helping fund such youth education centers, but that such support “is made possible by the donations the organization receives from the Jewish communities of the world. It also depends on the support of the state and the local authorities.
Unfortunately, the world economic situation has brought a serious drop in the amount of donations and WIZO must reduce its participation in important projects such as the leadership center, but will continue to support it according to a yearly budget.”
The organization, which will hold its annual World WIZO Enlarged General Meeting at the Tel Aviv Hilton on January 15-19, added that the center’s yearly budget was managed by the city of Tel Aviv and that it was certain that the reduction in WIZO’s support would not aversely affect the center’s operations or lead to its closure.
WIZO said that it hoped to be able to increase its funding again in the future when donations increased.