Thursday, October 4, 2012

Better Together Afula

Better Together improves services for children and youth in disadvantaged communities such as development towns on Israel's periphery and poor inner city neighborhoods, by maximizing local resources and forging partnerships between residents and service providers.  It improves existing services and creates new programs, accompanying children from birth to 18, morning till night, school to home. The program focuses include early childhood development and academic assistance and enrichment activities, while engaging parents, teachers and community leaders in strengthening communities.
Location: Gvanim School, corner of Negba St. and Wolfson St., Afula

Wolfson neighborhood is the closest to Jenin, but there's no neighborhood identity, they don’t even use the name – most aren’t aware of the fact that it’s called that; they're planning a competition to rename and own the name.
14,000 households with children
1/3 olim from Ethiopia
1/3 FSU olim
1/3 veteran Israelis

PACT was here, very successful, now in phaseout – i.e. we have a strong infrastructure
BT is based on three concepts:  (1) organizational, cooperation with professionals and residents
                                                   (2) professional training
                                                   (3) answering needs

IRIS is the school principal, came to the school two years ago. This is an elementary school. The South East of Afula is in a serious condition, difficult population, violence, drugs, verbal violence, alcoholism, poor socioeconom ics. Therefore the main aim of the program in the school was to ensure that the kids would be ‘free’ to learn and to empower the teachers.

"I found a school ripped apart, parents and teachers would fight each other – literally. There were petitions left and right against each other, it was awful here. I wa s in shock. Parents would come in to the school in the morning, open a classroom door and scream at a teacher, I was threatened. It was a violent and difficult culture. The BT was an SOS for us, first to improve the teachers’ communications and functioning, working together for the students. Now it’s been two years. I met Yehuda, we thought together what tools do we need here, courses, workshops. We wanted to start with the teachers so they could start modeling the right behavior, with parents, working together. There was a lot of opposition at first,  significant change – some of the courses and extras are on the teachers’ free time, they know how important this is."

"After six months we understood that there has to be a social response as well. The long school day finishes at 2:30pm, so kids go home and then they have all kinds of problems. We have to provide an alternative, but we didn’t have funds. There's no Matnas here, there are no social activities. So the school became a center, including alight dinner – because there are kids here who otherwise wouldn’t eat anything in the evenings. We also got recognition as a healthy eating school."

DARI is the community coordinator. The place is vibrant and full of kids and parents this evening. This used to be a violent and unpleasant place. Now most evenings there are activities. Twice a week run by BT, twice by others.
50% of the families in this neighborhood are classed as ‘non-normativ e’ (charig), without proper functioning family structure.
MORAN is the artists’ group coordinator. BT emphasizes the voice of the residents.
Yehuda: we did a survey of 150 families – saw the need for community leaders course.
Moran’s group: 30 artists aged 24-27, based on a Nahal garin, integrating into the community as artists in education, community, arts, neigh borhood projects. But we’re residents here. There wasn’t even a Va’ad Bayit when we came to our building, no one cleaned the front garden and stairs. Everything was dirty and messy. Today it’s much better.

The model is tightly restricted to the Wolfson-Kinamon-Jerusalem streets, with all the population: community events, presentations, kabalat Shabbat, event s, cleaning up. We set up a community shelter with cultural events, open moadon, social games, Hebrew for adults

There are 180 kids in the classes. 300 in the school (from first to sixth grade)
We walk around the school and visit the activities:

(1)   “Penguins” – toddlers, 20 kids, run by Meital and Sapir. Sport, singing, dancing, two hours, every 30 minutes something new. Right now having a snack. Then singing.
(2)   “MasterChef” for 1st to 3rd graders, right now having soup, which they learned about as part of the activity. Einav is the madricha, English major at Oranim.
(3)   There's a busload of older kids and their parents going to the Festigal in Haifa. Each person pays 5 NIS for the subsidized ticket; we provided snacks and the bus. Local businessman subsidized the ti ckets. I said hello, they were thrilled to chat (but thrilled to leave on time, too)
(4)   Theater group with Adi and Ortal from the artists’ garin. 5 girls, they see Moran all the time in the neighborhood, all grew up here. Naomi: what do we do here: relaxation exercises, drama, presentations, movement. Rivka: we learn so much here, we did a show for the younger kids, but we also get the chance to talk here about other things, about politics, life, culture. There's such a warm feeling for us here, they care about us and what we feel and think. It helps me in school as well. My horizons have opened wider here. Adi and Ortal aren’t just teachers, they’ve done so much in the community, everyone loves them, they’ve put on a show for the community, “Servant of Two Masters” (by Goldoni). Tzviah (in pink) – we’re talking today about our relations with Arabs and the price tag concept, we’re trying to understand what we feel and why  [amazing openness to discussion and grappling with difficult concepts], we’re discussing it through the concept of the stranger and the other, someone different from me, we’re preparing a show about it. [this was really impressive – I was expectin g a political discussion but they're doing this through theater and moral concepts]. Adi explains that the girls are increasingly volunteering, getting involved in the community, helping in other roles.
(5)   Sujud is leading a Zumba class. She's from Yafiya (near Natzrat)

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