Although it was raining and cold, we were welcomed and warmed by the wonderful leaders and the incredible work of Be-Atzmi. Be-Atzmi (“On My Own”) is a social NGO that works to alleviate poverty and narrow socio-economic gaps in Israel, through employment advancement of underprivileged and excluded populations. They serve approximately 9,000 men and women each year, mainly from Israel’s social and geographical peripheries, helping them to achieve economic independence and break out of a life of poverty and reliance on social services and charity.
We heard stories of those who suffer from various types of discrimination — ethnic, gender, etc. — which, along with cultural and personal barriers, leads to deep insecurities and lack of belief in one’s own abilities. Fortunately, Be-Atzmi is there to help. Financed through partnerships with public and business sectors and philanthropic contributions, they run a variety of programs in over 100 locations throughout Israel at no cost to those in need. We often forget that adults need help too. Although Be-Atzmi helps children as well, adults — especially the oppressed — are so often forgotten.
We met a very special adult, Meshy, an ultra-Orthodox Jewish woman who had four children by the age of 21. She worked a menial job a few hours a week and was struggling to keep food on the table. Be-Atzmi offered daycare and professional services, which helped her to build her self-esteem and employment status. Today she is working full-time and flourishing. Her dream is to become a fashion designer for the ultra-Orthodox community. She was wearing an outfit she designed and sewed and showed us many photos of her work. Her talent is endless. Her sense of fashion and design — amazing!
As I write this blog, the Federation does not currently support this organization. Visiting with Be-Atzmi left us with a unique energy. The incredible stories we heard and their desire to empower the under-served touched us deeply. I know that once I return to the Federation office, it will be easy to convey why this incredible program should be included in our network of beneficiaries.