Education start-up aims to impact at risk youth - opinion

The educational start-up Hagal Sheli has set itself the goal of using surfing as a tool for personal development among at-risk youth.

 THE WRITER loves surfing in the sea and uses it as a tool for personal development among at-risk youth.  (photo credit: HAGAL SHELI)
THE WRITER loves surfing in the sea and uses it as a tool for personal development among at-risk youth.
(photo credit: HAGAL SHELI)

Weak populations, who are normally on the fringes of society, have been further marginalized due to a lack of resources and great solutions. The existing hardships gradually worsened into emergency situations, which included increased use of alcohol and drugs, an increase in suicidal attempts, and an increase in depression and mental crises. All that overwhelming our welfare authorities and society.

The educational start-up Hagal Sheli (My Wave), established nine years ago by Omer Tolichansky, me and educators who love surfing in the sea, has set itself the goal of using surfing as a tool for personal development among at-risk youth. At the foundation of the nonprofit’s activity is the understanding and proof that experiencing and dealing with the waves and currents at sea, with the weather, falling off the surfboard and uncertainty, are empowering and formative experiences that affect all areas of life. The experience and coping of the trainees during the Hagal Sheli activity instill in them the feeling of not to give up and, with hard work and determination, to succeed in catching a wave to a better life.

During the encounter with the sea, the youth go through psycho-educational group processes designed to help them produce language and give meaning to the emotional and physical experience they have had at sea. By doing so gradually, they learn to equip themselves with tools to overcome challenges and internal resilience, which will allow them to internalize the difference between talking about difficulty and acting upon difficulty.

In this regard, the sea has two roles: the first is as a place for enjoyment and relaxation, the development of sports skills and even fun. In addition, the sea is a catalyst for feelings. The participant who surfs will feel helplessness, anger, confusion, and fear more than once. Surfing by itself will not allow him to observe what is going on. Only the combination of surfing and the processing session, which takes place in a group at the end of each meeting, will help the trainee to contain these feelings in a beneficial way.

Processing the session that the trainees went through as part of the Hagal Sheli activity creates the ability to deal with and contain the difficult situations they experienced. It is this ability that will stand by their side when they are faced with essentially similarly stressful situations during their life.

HaGal Sheli in Tel Aviv and Bat Yam teaches at-risk youth how to surf. (credit: YANAI YECHIEL)HaGal Sheli in Tel Aviv and Bat Yam teaches at-risk youth how to surf. (credit: YANAI YECHIEL)

Dealing with difficulties and crises among at-risk youth is particularly complex, since it is built on previous frustrations in situations that most of them find difficult to contain. Therefore, the process needs to be understood over years and will enable mental coping with difficulties and crises. Because if the youth knew how to call an emotional experience by name, they will find the resilience to cope in the future. Emotional substances that cannot be defined, and the associated effects of anxiety can cause helplessness. Acquiring language, or if you like, emotional literacy is actually the solution.

The new education startup, Hagal Sheli, has helped over 6,000 girls and boys find their right way in life, with reports of more than 80% success. In the coming week, the CEO and his team are going on a tour of collaboration and partnership in North America.

The writer is the CEO of the Hagal Sheli Association.