Meir Panim continues to help needy families by providing a summer camp experience for impoverished children across Israel.
Perhaps best known for their restaurant style free soup kitchens and meals-on-wheels programs, which together serve approximately 554,000 nourishing meals annually, Meir Panim seeks additional ways to provide help with dignity.
For the 12th year in a row, Meir Panim will be assisting in the operations of summer day camps for about 300 children in the northern Israel town of Ohr Akiva near Caesarea and Yerucham, a southern town in the Negev. These highly-subsidized day camps for children of low-income families go beyond the traditional food deliveries, soup kitchens and after-school clubs for the needy.
Working in collaboration with municipal Social Services departments, Meir Panim fills the gaps between what the cities can afford and the actual cost per child of the camps. Not only do these camps give children a fun summer, they also give needy families a respite from the challenges of their day-to-day lives.
“Summer camp is a privilege which poor children would never experience without the help of the Municipalities and Meir Panim,” explained David Roth, President of Meir Panim, to Breaking Israel News. “Every dollar donated has a big impact for the entire life of these children.”
“If not for the assistance of Meir Panim, it would not be possible to run these day camps. The camps serve as a normal, surrogate home environment for impoverished children who might come from dysfunctional homes or have no supervision during the long summer days,” stated Deborah Brown, Project Director of American Friends of Meir Panim.
With consideration for the special needs of the children, the camps offer extended hours allowing struggling parents to maintain their work schedules while knowing that their kids are being well cared for. In addition, an emphasis is placed on healthy food and good nutrition, including an abundance of fruits and vegetables.
“If not for these camps, most of the children would spend their days on the street,” noted Deborah.
Since many of the children have behavioral and developmental problems, they not only enjoy exciting camp activities but they also learn to follow clear rules of conduct. The program is designed to empower participants to behave well, demonstrate proper manners and speak respectfully.
Every week, there is a ceremony which recognizes the outstanding excellence of two campers. One girl and one boy are chosen by fellow campers who share how the child has significantly changed for the better.
The day camp program includes the usual sports and arts and crafts activities as well as trips to the Western Wall, the Biblical Zoo and Superland Amusement Park. Additionally, the camp staff has professional social workers, psychologists and volunteers who have been working with the families for years offering the children a sense of ongoing consistency which is often lacking in other areas of their lives.
The guiding principle of the Meir Panim summer camps is to enable the children to return to school with a smile and a store of experiences to remember, just like the children from more comfortable homes.
Ilanit Hafuta, Director of Meir Panim’s Or Akiva branch, volunteers much of her free time to enhancing the lives of her neighbors. She told Breaking Israel News, “Meir Panim’s important work with struggling families and their children provides relief in their day to day lives and creates a brighter, more hopeful future.”