By: Meira Weber
May 19th, 2020
I grew up watching an educational American television show called Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. The show was centered around a sweet man named Fred Rogers, who was called just Mr. Rogers on the show, and he would sing and teach and impart wisdom to his young audience through the use of puppets and songs and his own calming, wise demeanor.
One of the hallmarks of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood was how he never shied away from any topic – he addressed things like death, violence, and national disasters on his show in a way that helped children understand and work through their feelings about them. He is famous for often saying the following quote:
“When I was a boy and would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.”
Coronavirus has affected us all – physically, emotionally, even spiritually. The regulations are hard on all of us, and I didn’t particularly want to write about coronavirus, again, for my email today. I felt it would be too depressing. I didn’t want to bring up that giant social-distancing elephant in the room that everyone can’t stop talking about. But then I remembered that famous quote from Mr. Rogers, and I realized that I have been put in such an incredible position: by working at CFOIC Heartland, I am surrounded by helpers, all the time!
You, the donors of Christian Friends of Israeli Communities, have never turned away from Israeli pioneers in need. You have stood by us through thick and thin and been there when we needed you the most. You are the helpers!
That’s what I was thinking as I sat in the office, masked, and Sondra Oster Baras, our Israel Office Director, received phone calls from the Bet Hagai Youth Village and the Heart of Benjamin program for special-needs children. I was there, listening, as new needs were relayed to her and she immediately responded with, “Yes, we can help you.”
And we can. Because on our side we have you, an army of God’s helpers.
The Bet Hagai Youth Village is struggling. They offer a warm, familial refuge for boys from broken and dysfunctional homes, boys with anger issues and personality disorders, boys who don’t otherwise have a place in the world. Bet Hagai becomes their home. These boys receive love and care in Bet Hagai family homes, and religious and vocational training from special teachers. At Heart of Benjamin, children with special needs enjoy afternoon and holiday programming, while young adults with special needs live in protected hostels and participate in employment programming.
With the advent of the Coronavirus crisis, the children at Bet Hagai and the young adults at Heart of Benjamin went into lockdown. They were not allowed to go home, group programming ground to a halt, the Heart of Benjamin employment program stopped. The caring and loving staff of both places suddenly had to care for these teenagers and young adults full time, around the clock, with no additional resources for the extra staff, food and other supplies that would be needed. Overworked staff were suddenly thrust into the demanding role of full-time caretaker and entertainer.
While challenging, the administrations of both Heart of Benjamin and Bet Hagai Youth Village have continued to hold activities and workshops in smaller groups to comply with regulations. In the best of times, their budgets are already stretched thin – but now, with the coronavirus restrictions, they spent funds they did not have because they had no choice. They needed to provide food for the children, masks, gloves, sanitizing materials, and additional staff to watch over and protect the children. And as they anticipate the needs ahead, as this emergency is far from over and everyone is anticipating a second round, they are thinking ahead. They need to have exercise equipment on hand, teaching materials and games to ensure that they are prepared for future lockdowns. And of course, these added facilities will assist these programs to meet the ordinary needs of these children in a more effective way.
Bet Hagai, Heart of Benjamin, and the donors of CFOIC Heartland – you! – have worked together for so many years, and they are turning to you again to help give these boys what they so desperately need. We assured Bet Hagai and Heart of Benjamin that we would help them pay for what they had to spend, but we need your help to do that. We would like to ensure that they have everything they need as they face the ongoing threat of coronavirus. They are counting on your help. Coronavirus has hit and hurt us all, and now more than ever is when we need to support those less fortunate than us. Now is when we need you to become a Helper – by donating today. Anything you can give will go directly to help the special needs children of Heart of Benjamin and the teens of Bet Hagai who have come so far.