Afikim works in 14 branches across four cities, providing intervention programs that currently work with 500 of the nation’s most vulnerable children and 400 parents. They offer a five-year program that runs for through junior school empowering youth to be prepared for high school with the hope that they will continue to succeed.
Despite the many impressive accomplishments Israel has achieved as a nation and a society, there is no disputing that all too many in the modern Jewish State are suffering from a wide variety of financial and practical challenges. Among the most disturbing is the growing trend of “at-risk youth.” Today, a population numbering some 250,000 children, this group is defined by disturbing behavior and an overall failure to integrate within greater society. The causes are many but most often the at-risk population comes from families facing desperate financial difficulties resulting from unemployment, illness or substance addiction. The result is a cycle of dysfunction that carries across the entire family – most negatively affecting the children.
The Ministry of Education and the Welfare Ministry help identify the children who are lagging behind in school due to neglect and poverty at home. Parents are referred to Afikim and in specific cases where the situation is particularly dire family courts order the children into Afikim’s program.
At Afikim, children are treated as individuals and with the appropriate levels of both compassion and discipline. Each child receives a highly focused after-school afternoon to evening program that begins with a light meal and ends with an evening meal before returning home. Liaising with schools, a tuition program is built giving extra lessons in the areas that the children need the most improvement. In addition, studies are provided in computers science, English, Hebrew, and Mathematics. With the recognition that these children often require additional outlets beyond traditional education, extracurricular and “fun” programming is included within the overall curriculum.
Alongside their children, Afikim stresses the message that the parents also deserve attention to get on the road to building strong and viable families. Parents are offered parenting and household management courses to give them the tools and confidence to escape the downward cycle.