Odelia Spitalni tutoring a student.
Israel’s most valuable resource is brain power and this resource can only be replenished through high quality education of its youth. Regrettably, and mainly due to budget limitations, the public school system cannot provide many of the important tools that our children need to compete in today’s world. Many parents with financial difficulties cannot provide their children with the additional aid needed to keep them moving at the same pace as their classmates. There is no doubt today that there is a direct correlation between the financial level and the educational level, and the educational system in Israel is facing immense difficulties and is unable to meet the needs of those students who cannot afford to pay for tuition. In a class with 41 students, the weaker pupils fail to get the needed attention and soon enough are being left out or given up. As it turns out, however, many prefer to complain but there are also a few who prefer to act.
About seven years ago, Odelia Spitalni founded PUSH, a nonprofit organization that offers free private lessons to gradeschool students with low socioeconomic background. The lessons are provided by volunteers from the community. PUSH, as its name suggests, gives weaker pupils the necessary support to help them realize their full potential.
Odelia Spitalni, an attorney by trade, was herself born to an underprivileged family with economic difficulties who could not afford to provide their children with private lessons. Thus, Odelia has always been touched by the pain and suffering of those families whose children were left behind within the schooling system. As a resident of Savyon, she saw the educational gap between the Savyon children who were running from one private teacher to another and the children from the nearby Or Yehuda whose parents could not afford to pay for private tutors. Hence, she organized a few friends from Savyon to help teach English to pupils at a school in Or Yehuda that was at the lowest – or nearly lowest – level of English teaching in the country. ‘Each of my friends, as well as myself, got three or four students, and by the end of the year the students we tutored had greatly progressed and their confidence and ability to express themselves improved significantly’, she says. At the end of the year, Odelia was approached by other schools in the area who also wanted to use the volunteers’ services and not just in English. That was when she started actively recruiting volunteers. In the second year, when Odelia was already at the head of 45 volunteers and the mother of three daughters, she decided to leave her job as legal advisor at the Sheba (Tel Hashomer) medical center, founded PUSH and was determined to dedicate her entire time and energy to giving as many children as possible the necessary tools to succeed in school, believe in themselves and realize their potential.
The organization currently has 600 volunteers in many cities, mostly in the central part of Israel, who teach some 1,500 students. The free private lessons are provided within the school premises, usually once a week, during school hours or immediately afterwards. The school team identifies the children and guides the volunteers as to the individual children’s needs.
On the morning of Friday November 14, 2008, PUSH organized the annual volunteers’ meeting. The volunteers could exchange views and ideas and tell personal moving stories from their volunteering experience. One volunteer from Herzliya told about the special relationship and trust she managed to establish with a 10 year old boy who had been removed from his family due to abuse and neglect and was put in a foster home. After teaching him, spending time with him and gaining his trust, he made real progress in school, opened up and became more popular among his classmates. Another volunteer could tell about his two students, immigrants from Russia, who did not speak a single word of English. After tutoring them for a period of two years they were able to make conversation and read English books and newspapers. Furthermore, he enhanced their ambition and motivated them to succeed and at the end of the two years they passed their English matriculation with flying colors. A third volunteer was happy to tell about a 13 year old student whose teachers had given up on him, who failed in most subjects and rarely showed up in school. Following a few months of tuition, his teachers were amazed at the dramatic improvement in his grades. Most volunteers who attended the meeting could testify that they felt satisfied and gratified by their volunteer work at least as much as their students.
PUSH is always in need of more volunteers. For information, volunteering and donations:
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