Can you remember a special counselor who influenced you to make some change in your life? Perhaps it was his personal qualities or the connection he made with you that inspired you to get involved in a social action project, to to get serious about your studies or to make aliya.
After five years in the field of financial education, Chaim BePlus learned that in order to influence young people to save money, more than the academic knowledge of facts and figures is required. Youth need role models they can relate to, who speak their (SMS/YouTube/Facebook) language and understand their needs and lifestyle.
Since 2006, Chaim BePlus, a nonprofit organization, has been teaching courses in personal financial management to thousands of young people all over Israel.
Based in Raanana, it is guided by a dedicated group of English speaking business people who are passionate about preventing poverty.
In 2011, after encountering the peer-to-peer model that works so effectively with Hillel students in North America, Chaim BePlus recruited dynamic college students with successful training experience and trained them to be financial mentors.
The mentors work in high schools, pre-army institutes and National Service organizations. They lead five interactive sessions in small groups, using film clips, games, role playing, debates, online budgeting tools and more.
The mentor personally engages with each person mentored in between the group sessions and after the course. This interaction can be through a phone call, online chat or Facebook.
The goal is to support the person mentored throughout his accomplishment of financial tasks assigned in the group sessions. Tasks include getting the password from the bank and following the account online, renegotiating the cell phone package, tracking incomes and expenditures and so forth.
This is not an easy process. Most Israeli youth are used to eating out, buying brand names and asking their parents for money to spend in shopping malls.
It takes time to make a change, and that's why the Chaim BePlus mentor continues to coach over the span of a few months.
One of the groups receiving the program, Midreshet Shiluv BaLev in Givat Washington, consists of young women from disadvantaged families and Ethiopian immigrants. These students are used to freely buying clothes, shoes and accessories, taking loans from family and friends and living on a day-to-day basis with no thought of what the future may bring. After the Chaim BePlus project, 20-year-old Hagit said, "I've made a change in my life. I don't buy anything without calculating in advance if it's in my budget. I transferred my cell phone bill from my parents' account to my account". That’s real success.
The mentors are also undergoing a life-changing growth process and discovering the talents within them to influence young people to live a better life.
Assia, a business student at the College of Business Administration in Rishon Lezion, is passionate about her special relationship with those she mentors. "I'm proud to be a mentor because I'm having a real impact on the lives of others. It brings meaning into my life. Plus, I get the bonus of learning great tips for saving money!"
In order to train as a mentor, the college students, after undergoing a personal interview, take an online financial training course and have to pass an exam.
Each mentor receives a kit containing the lesson plans, games and activities needed. In addition, all the mentors are connected to a Google Drive shared network where they download the film clips and documents which they will show in the sessions.
An impressive tracking system has been set up on Google Drive, in which the mentors report on the progress of each person, on which tasks have been accomplished, and on the changes in their financial habits over time.
After a successful pilot run in 2011, 2000 young people are expected to be mentored in the 2012-13 school year. Some of the participating educational bodies are the Amal network, Amit, Nishmat, Sherut Leumi, Aliyat HaNoar, community centers and programs for youth-at-risk.
After learning about Chaim BePlus, adults commonly respond that they wish they had these tools ready when they were younger.
It's gratifying to know that Chaim BePlus graduates are thinking of their future and planning accordingly. As our rabbis said:
איזהו חכם – הרואה את הנולד
Who is wise? He who anticipates what lies ahead.
And who is lucky? He who has a financial mentor to point this out to him while he is still young!
See the video film on Mindy’s organization: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vBts-rsCTLE