THE ASSOCIATED: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore works to preserve and enhance Jewish life.

It addresses charitable, educational, religious, humanitarian, health, cultural and social service needs of the Jewish community locally, nationally, in Israel and throughout the world.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

THE ASSOCIATED & JDC in Ashkelon: Pact Field Update

One of the programs that THE ASSOCIATED supports through the Annual Campaign, and which we leverage outside funding for, is PACT (Parents and Children Together) in Ashkelon. PACT seeks to help children of Ethiopian origin and their families. Below are excerpts from a field update that I received recently. When I am in Ashkelon later this month, I look forward to sharing my personal impressions of PACT with you.

PACT 2008-2009 End of Year Report

The Chance for a Better Start
At the conclusion of its second year, Parents and Children Together (PACT) continues to help Ashkelon's Ethiopian-Israeli children begin their lives on a more successful path. This past year PACT increasingly diversified the types of interventions Ashkelon has to offer its Ethiopian-Israeli community. JDC and its partners in Ashkelon thank The ASSOCIATED: Jewish Community of Baltimore for making this second year of vital assistance possible.

350 Ethiopian-Israeli families and 578 children participated in the program, increasing the number of children helped by 5% from the previous school year. This year PACT Ashkelon developed programs for individuals, families, communities, and organizations that helped to:

  • Close the developmental and educational gaps of Ethiopian-Israeli children, birth to age 6
  • Ensure that those who have the greatest difficulty affording daycare could still access it.
  • Provide training and support for the parents of participating children.
  • Offer programs to help Ethiopian-Israeli families integrate more effectively as a community in Ashkelon.
  • Conduct all of its work while building the professional support and cooperation from Ashkelon's Municipality and other partners in the city.

Highlights in PACT Programmatic Areas

1. Integration Program
This year a new program was added within kindergartens, aimed at assisting children experiencing difficulties integrating into the education system for a variety of reasons, including behavioral problems and attention deficit disorders. The program used animal assisted therapy to work with the child on strengthening their emotional and cognitive abilities. Individual sessions took place once a week with an additional session once a month for the entire kindergarten where the child being treated was placed at the center of the activities.
A total of 69 children in 34 kindergartens were treated. The feedback received from both the therapists and the kindergarten teachers has been extremely positive, and as a result, the program will be continued next year.
2. Educational Liaisons
Four educational liaisons were employed as part of the enrichment program to work in 34 kindergartens and 6 day care centers. The liaisons work with the parents to encourage them to participate in the joint parent-child activities in the kindergartens and to help improve their children’s educational achievements. In total they encompass around 400 children.

Over the year the liaisons carried out cultural programs in each of the kindergartens centered around festivals and Ethiopian culture.
3. Psychological Accompaniment
Through the use of questionnaires prepared by Psychological Services, 8 children were identified as in need of psychological assistance. These children underwent a thorough diagnosis including conversations with the child and parents and observations from the kindergarten and PACT staff. An individual treatment plan was built for each child which included direction for the parents and kindergarten staff. The psychologists worked with the children in increasing their sense of self, building appropriate boundaries, reducing anxieties and encouraging their personal growth.
4. Enrichment at Well-Baby Clinics
This year this program was expanded to include 4 well-baby clinics. Two liaisons from the Ethiopian-Israeli community work within the clinics, providing a link between the medical staff and the parents. A speech therapist also attends the clinics offering both diagnoses and treatments as necessary.

A large variety of workshops and lectures took place over the year looking at subjects such as correct nutrition, dental health, parenting skills, development and stimulation, accident prevention and baby massage. The medical staff, PACT staff, and some of the parents also attended a study day which examined the effect of culture on medical needs. A total of over 280 people participated in the workshops.

A library of books and games are available at the clinics for parents to borrow and use to play with their children at home. Children are delighted with the range and variety of resources available and the mothers have reported very positive outcomes.
5. Enrichment Centers
Joint parent-child activities are held out of 2 community centers in the hub of the areas populated by the Ethiopian-Israeli community. The activities aim to enhance parental involvement in their children’s lives, to increase their general knowledge and expose them to the many options available as leisure activities. Activities this year included art, music, and stories to develop creativity and play. One new program exposed the children to a variety of animals with creative activities based around each species. This program also included outings into the heart of nature.
6. ‘Shoulder to Shoulder’ Program
Many Ethiopian-Israeli families are in situations of distress and find it hard to cope with both their social and economic circumstances. This program aims to enable the families to progress from a status of total dependence to one of personal growth. The program measures the abilities of the family in four areas: standard of living, managing day to day life, education and employment. This year ten families were accompanied through this process. PACT aims to continue working with these families over the coming school year and to add another ten families.
7. Preparation for First Grade
This program aims to provide children entering into first grade and their parents with support and direction. The families receive individual guidance which focuses on increasing self confidence amongst the children thus ensuring that they are open to learning new skills. The families are located through the local Kindergartens where teachers identify the children most in need of support. The outstanding success of this program has led to an increased demand for the upcoming year.

This year a group was formed of children entering the first grade who were identified as having leadership skills. Together with their parents, the children took part in leadership workshops imparting leadership values and tools. The parents also received explanations on the importance of increasing their involvement in their children’s education.
8. Summer Program
Activities don’t stop with the school year. Summer camps were run throughout the summer for which 97 children received subsidies. The summer camps included a literacy enrichment program as well as activities such as a magic performance, computer courses and music activities that were all used to promote emotional development.

Several other summer activities included trips to water parks, a trip to Jerusalem and the Dead Sea, nature trips, and a wide range of enrichment activities.

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