When we invoke the name ‘Israel,’ the biblical personage of Jacob who received the name ‘Israel’ from God comes to mind.
Jacob grew up in a home which had its difficulties. He suffered from threats of violence and abuse from his older brother. These threats were so significant that he was forced to flee his home with no worldly possessions save the clothes on his back. Sadly, many of his descendants today are in the same situation.
There are thousands of children today in Israel who need to flee from abusive or unhealthy home environments. Like their biblical forefather, they too need to seek refuge and depend upon the kindness of strangers. Winter is coming, and they have no clothing or worldly possessions to keep them warm.
For children from Jerusalem to Eilat, The Summit Institute is there to offer help, support, a caring hand and warm clothes. “The children who are taken into foster care in Israel, are often escaping abusive or traumatic home lives, and they arrive with nothing except the clothes on their backs,” said Yoni Bogot, executive director of Summit.
In an interview with Breaking Israel News, Bogot explained Summit’s support system for the disadvantaged youth. “The children get dropped off at emergency shelters provided by families who volunteer to foster a child or several children on an emergency basis. The government brings the children to us and we place them in emergency foster care, until a more permanent foster family can be found,” he said.
In foster care, the child receives a $200 stipend from the government to cover basic needs such as medical treatment, after-school activities and tutoring. This modest sum does not cover the basic needs of each child, such as school, food, and clothing.
“We have to provide everything for these children from their very basic needs to paying for therapy and extra help with school in face of their traumatic background,” said Bogot.
While Summit is active in helping young children in the foster care system, their life-saving efforts do not stop there. Summit has begun trying to garner support for their “alumni” – children who turn 18 and become their own legal guardians. Upon turning 18, the foster children no longer qualify for governmental assistance.
As over 84 percent of foster children in Israel have no family framework whatsoever, once they are no longer welcome into the foster care system, they are left literally on their own. They have no emotional or financial support. They often don’t even know their own rights.
Summit has found that many cannot even afford basic needs such as food, clothing and even shelter. “We’ve often found that our alumni are in ‘extreme risk’ situations. Many of them have no income and have no support system. They end up in severe debt,” explained Bogot.
To help them avoid the pitfalls of having to live on their own and support themselves for the first time, Summit provides these children with a crash course on how to live on one’s own without the support of family, arming them with life-saving tools.
“We have a program that teaches them the basics of what they need to know for life on their own, including financial education, where they can turn to support, and what their rights are,” said Bogot.
“We receive dozens of requests from the social workers assigned to these children, ranging in content from emotional support, to driving lessons, to things as basic as providing clothes,” he said.
All of these children deserve a chance to live a normal life and to have the things that normal children have. Summit is doing its best to provide for all of them, but is hard pressed to accomplish that financial task.
Like the biblical figure of Jacob, help will come from on high, but for these children it will come from The Summit Institute.