Homes without electricity …exposed electrical outlets … broken fuses… homes at risk for electrical fire… These are some of the untenable living conditions suffered by impoverished families in Israel.
“Poverty-stricken families are engaged in a constant struggle for survival,” says Gabi Nachmani, the founder and director of the nonprofit Tenufa Bakehila. “Often their budget cannot cover basic food and clothing, let alone home repairs (even the most critical), so they are forced to live without functioning kitchens, sometimes without showers or hot water.”
Tenufa Bakehila is dedicated to rebuilding the lives of families whose living conditions are reprehensible and unsafe. As the only large-scale nonprofit in Israel thatrepairs dilapidated housing, the organization renovates hundreds of apartments each year at no cost. Its professional repair teams and staff social workers restore safety and dignity, and help families move towards a brighter future.
Nachmani tells the story of the Amir family who woke to an explosion at 2am on a winter night in Jerusalem. Flame, smoke, and an overpowering stench spread quickly through the apartment. Theparentsand four children made it out minutes before the apartment went up in flames.
“The fuse box was old and not up to code,” explains Nachmani. “They lost everything, we were called in too late. We restored their home after the fire. But our goal is to reach families before disaster strikes. To ensure that their homes are safe.”
“We see families who lived for years without electricity or lighting. We see, not only hardship and distress, but homes that are literally unsafe for families.”
Nachmani is a long-time social activist, raised in Jerusalem in a single-parent home. “My father passed away when I was eight,” he relates. “We lived in an old house. It was very cold in the winter and parts of the ceiling and walls were crumbling.” Until age nine, there was no hot water in the house. There were serious malfunctions, and no one to fix them. “We showered with a bucket during the winter.”
Nachmani and his brother began single-handedly repairing their own home. Imagine a nine-year-old boy spreading tar on the roof against leaks, a young boy repairing fuses. “That was our reality, and that was how my obsession with helping families in distress—the elderly, Holocaust survivors, single-parent families—was born.” Each time something broke, the brothers learnedto fix it.They began helping neighbors, and Nachmani knew this would be his mission in life—helping people livein dignity, in safe and decent homes.
“In one home,” Nachmani relates,“a grandmother, her daughter (a single mother), and seven-year-old grandson lived for four years without electricity. Most of us take electricity for granted. But for this family, every activity—showering, choosing clothing, doing homework—was complex because the home was unlit. We rewired the entire apartment. I’ll never forget the look on that boy’s face when we turned on the lights.”
“In a chronically dark home in Kiryat Malachi, we learned that a mother and son cooked and ate supper by flashlight for 18 years... Our teamrepaired the source of the electrical problem,re-plastered, painted, and made repairs throughout the home. Light! This is what we saw on the mother and son’s faces.’”
As a student, Nachmani and his friends volunteered to repair the houses of the needy. Later, he launched a volunteerhome-repair projectfor students visiting Israel. That project grew into Tenufa Bakehilawhich now employs fulltime professionals to carry out repairs. Theyrenovate homes throughout Israel, helping hundreds of families annually. Some of the teams include youth-at-risk who receive professional training and a new start.
To date, Tenufa Bakehila has assisted over 6,000 families. But according to the Ministry of Welfare, there are over 50,000 more waiting for help. Tenufa’s teams will soon servefamilies in 20 Israeli cities, working closely with social services.
“We want to restore safety and light to every family, sothey can thrive in homes that are worthy of the name, in dignity and safety. Only by doing this, can we return the light to Israel’s homes.”
Join the SPARK LIGHT campaign.
For more information: Tenufa Bakehila
Contact us at [email protected] or 02-679-3491
This article was written in cooperation with Tenufa Bakehila