Ofra, a single mother of four living in one of Israel’s struggling development towns in the south, finally has a smile on her face. With a new job and a refurbished apartment, she is beginning to break out of the cycle of poverty which plagued her since leaving her abusive husband.
“I owe so much to Meir Panim,” shared Ofra. “Their generous help with dignity saved my family.”
Ofra is one of the estimated 1.65 million Israelis who struggle to make ends meet while living under the poverty line. Living in an apartment subsidized by the state of Israel for people in need of government assistance, her situation was dire. Meir Panim became aware of her plight when she came to their free restaurant-style soup kitchen.
“It is embarrassing to ask for food,” noted Ofra. “With Meir Panim’s sensitivity, when I came to them for food, they would have me stand in line with caretakers who pick up food for people like homebound Holocaust survivors. In that way, I looked like a caretaker rather than a person struggling to feed my family.”
“Seeing a mother with several young children asking for food implies that a family needs more than just a meal,” shared Goldie Sternbuch, Director of Overseas Relations for Meir Panim to Breaking Israel News. “We asked Nissim, who runs our southern branch, to visit Ofra’s apartment to better assess her needs.”
What was found would break even the toughest of hearts. The refrigerator was bare. The walls and bathroom were mold-infested even with Ofra’s attempts to keep the place clean and orderly. Worst of all, gas canisters were unsafely attached to the stove inside the house in a set-up which could have caused an explosion.
Meir Panim sent in a team of volunteers to help this struggling family. “First, we rewired the gas hoses so that the canisters were outside of the apartment. Then, we patched the apartment walls, got rid of the mold and gave it a fresh coat of paint,” explained Sternbuch to Breaking Israel News.
“Meir Panim helps both individuals and families. We have a holistic approach to poverty,” continued Sternbuch. “Though providing food is essential, we understand that lack of food can be a symptom of many more challenges. We strive to do our utmost to provide hurting people with what they need to get their smile returned to their faces.”
Sternbuch recently visited Ofra to check how she and her children were doing. She was happy to see that they have a new lease on life. Ofra’s apartment is much more presentable, which provides a generally more positive atmosphere, and she recently started a part-time job.
“Before Meir Panim’s help, I couldn’t even tell my children that I had food to give them to relieve their hunger pains. Recently, my daughter asked me for a doll, a ‘luxury’ I was never able to provide. What a relief to all of us that I could give her such a treat!” Ofra said enthusiastically. Meir Panim’s assistance with dignity gave her family the ability not only to feel better about their current condition, but also hope for a brighter future.