Youngsters enjoying a game of table football at Neve ESRA
When ESRA Modiin decided in 2010 to adopt an afternoon care center operated by the municipality for children at risk, we had no idea what we were taking on, other than intending to help kids in need.
Since those early days, we are proud to have sponsored myriad objectives to enrich the kids’ lives, including parent support groups, didactic evaluations, remedial teaching, therapeutic programs, outings and purchases for the center - from furniture to computers, and from games to an all-weather outdoor foosball table. The municipality was so pleased with our support that they encouraged us to give a name to the center, which we did with great fervor, calling it, aptly, Neve ESRA.
And an oasis it is for each of the 15 nine to twelve year-olds who are hand-picked by a professional screening committee to attend the center every day from 1-5pm. From the beginning, ESRA Modiin has operated a weekly English enrichment program where volunteers spend an hour speaking to or playing with the children in English. Sometimes the kids request help with their English homework or want to kick a ball outside, and at other times they just need to sit and chat and sink into the warmth of non-judgmental attention.
While the stories of their backgrounds vary, there is a common thread why they have been placed at Neve ESRA: all desperately need a secure, calm and non-threatening environment. Children may have amazing resilience, yet one’s heart breaks hearing the wrenching situations they face and endure, which invariably are exhibited through difficult behavioral traits.
One afternoon during an activity in a hi-tech hub, the children were asked what they would like to invent. The boys all responded with fanciful ideas, yet a painful quiet descended when one girl said she would like to invent “a collar that children could wear so that when they were hit, it would go straight to the police station”.
ESRA’s volunteering across the needy sectors of Israeli society has untold value, the rewards and results of which can never be properly evaluated. Perhaps it is enough to say that we are able to make a small difference to the lives of Israel’s precious children like those in Neve ESRA.
Cynthia Barmor is the co-chair of ESRA Modiin.