Ahava Village is a residential center designed to help children who have experienced loss or have been victims of abuse and neglect. In Hebrew, Ahava means ‘love’ and it is the mission of Ahava Village to provide these children with a supportive, loving home so that they can become fulfilled citizens leading well-adjusted lives.
The residential facilities of Ahava Village are located in Kiryat Bialik, a small community near the city of Haifa in Northern Israel. The center provides care for children aged six to eighteen who have been removed from high- risk home situations by the courts. According to the foundation’s website, “the campus is home to two hundred children, who receive personalized care, therapy, support and training.”
Ahava Village: A History of Compassion
Ahava Village traces its origins to an orphanage in Berlin, Germany established in 1922 by the local Jewish community there. As the Nazi Party became increasingly oppressive, the director of the orphanage, Sister Beate Berger, made it her mission to deliver the children in her care to safety. In 1933, she traveled to Israel, known then as British Palestine, to purchase the property that the facility sits on today.
She established the Ahava Village for Children and Youth in 1935, and by 1938, she was able to transport the remaining staff and children from the orphanage to safety in Israel. An act that proved to be the difference between life and death for these 50 children. From young survivors of the Holocaust, to children who have suffered the effects of war, to victims of violence and abuse, Ahava has remained a shelter and refuge for children in need. With over eighty years of experience in Israel, the organization has helped thousands of children overcome troubled situations.
Healing Through Love
Ahava Village houses at-risk youth in host families in fifteen family care unit apartments owned by the organization. They also provide educational facilities, entertainment and recreational activities for the children. It is crucial to offer these children a sense of community, something that they may not have experienced before in their lives.
The foundation strives to make the children feel at home by providing them a safe environment with caring parents, a privilege that can easily be taken for granted. Many of the children at Ahava Village have not had the opportunity to create cherished memories of childhood.
Ahava Village provides these children with valuable services to support their physical and emotional needs. Each child lives with foster parents responsible for caring for providing a nurturing, supportive space for the children to heal and thrive. These families model healthy, loving relationships, maintain a traditional home life, teach responsibility and foster trust. Through this practice, Ahava Village hopes to help the children move past their traumatic childhoods to achieve their full potential as balanced, optimistic adults.
Many children who come to Ahava Village have experienced trauma and neglect. Their experiences have left them with emotional and developmental scars. Counselors at Ahava Village provide therapy sessions allowing the children to overcome the challenges they have faced in their past.
Experienced therapists use several approaches designed to help the children including group therapy sessions, music therapy, drama therapy and writing therapy. The center also operates a pet therapy program designed to foster caring, loving relationships between children and animals. Positive experiences in therapy allow the children to develop the skills that will help them to function as adults.
Children of Ahava Village attend an on-site school with teachers who are specially trained in meeting the developmental needs of the children. The Ahava model presents a unique approach to caring for vulnerable children permitting them to avoid institutionalization and the stigma that it can bring.
Supporters of Ahava Village
Ahava Village would not be able to fulfill its role as a safe haven for these children if it was not for the dedicated staff members and generous donors who support its work. David Grin, the current director of the board of Friends of Ahava Village, has devoted the work of his charitable foundation to “enhance and improve the lives of kids from disadvantaged backgrounds.”
The goal of Grin’s foundation is to provide children with safe, supportive environments, help them to achieve academic success, and afford them the opportunities that every child deserves. David Grin, who has studied and worked in Israel, currently serves as the chairman of a real estate investment firm, Lotus Investment Group, based in Dublin, Ireland.
Ahava Village also gets financial support through the organization Bnai Zion, a “US-based nonprofit that identifies and funds capital projects in Israel in the areas of social inclusion, health, and culture.” Most recently, the foundation collected $500,000 in donations to fund a project at Ahava Village that built safe rooms in each of the apartments on the organization’s campus.
The Israeli government advised the program to build the safety rooms into each of the family care units after the children and staff were required to evacuate the center due to rocket attacks during the 2nd Lebanon War in 2006. The new shelters ensure that the children will remain safe in the event of future rocket attacks from the north.
Through its donors, Ahava Village has been able to build an emergency shelter used to house children who have been urgently removed from traumatic situations and a therapeutic center to help diagnose and treat children in who are in a fragile emotional and psychological state. The center also manages an 18-plus project to support young alumni serving in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) or working in the civil service who do not have a family to return to.
Steve Savitsky, president of Bnai Zion, recently said this about the work of Ahava Village “No child should be without hope,” said. “Ahava Village offers healing for children who have been victimized, enabling them to transcend a traumatic past and embrace a hopeful future.” It is with this spirit that the organization continues its important efforts to help children and youth in need.