Monday, August 26, 2013

A Chance for Success in Afula

The Afula Center for Young Adults is an incredible source of energy and inspiration. 

Avi, the Director of the Center, says that long-time residents used to joke that you shouldn’t bother changing gears when driving in Afula because by the time you shifted gear … you’d already have left the town (it was that small). His father remembers Afula having only two roads.

But the city is now 45,000 strong; it doubled in the 1990s with aliyah from the former Soviet Union and Ethiopia. There are new neighborhoods now, and young couples.

But there are significant gaps within the city.

One-third of the population is new immigrants, of whom 10% (4,000) are Ethiopian-olim.
Afula is unique because it actively wanted to absorb Ethiopians into the city, unlike some other places.
There are stories of the leaders of Afula going twenty years ago to lobby and recruit in absorption centers.

One of the fascinating new programs that the Center is running is a cooperation with the Emek Yizrael College, for Ethiopian-Israeli women nursing students. I sat at the Center with two inspiring young women, Vered and Almaz, who are in the course.

What strikes you (ok, me, but I’m assuming I'm not the only one) about the impact of this program is that the people that benefit from it aren't just the students themselves. The program “creates a lot of positive feedback in the community,” says Vered. She and Almaz and the other 15 participants have become role models for others in the Ethiopian-Israeli community in Afula.

They get special assistance in English and chemistry, coaching and supplemental guidance and mentoring and loans to help with unique challenges. The name of the program is really apt – it’s a “chance for success.” Not just to promote academic studies in the Ethiopian-Israeli population, but also to prevent dropouts. There’s a huge problem of dropping-out among students who aren't used to studying, how to manage time, study for exams, how to sign up for things, how to succeed in daily student life.
Getting adapted to a framework, learning English, absorbing self-discipline, it’s even harder for young mothers, for women who come from a more traditional society.

Almaz made aliyah at an early age, and explained that “even though my parents understood how important education is, I always knew that I’d be the one to lift myself up. If I left it to them, I’d be stuck there. They have so much desire for me to succeed, but they are limited [in how they can help] because of their education and background. The Center for Young Adults is where I got an amazing guide and a path. I didn't know how to do it, how to ask, how to get advice. I wasn't in the place that I'm in today.”

What's amazing about this program is that the recipients have to give back while they're in the program. Almaz and Vered have to volunteer in the community 120 hours a year for the two years of their course. 

They volunteer in an absorption center, helping newer immigrants. 
They help them study, to understand their options. 

There’s a circle here. They are role models for those who come after them. 

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