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We have reached the midway mark of what has turned

May 25, 2015

We have reached the midway mark of what has turned out to be an awesome experience in the Holy City. The Youth at Risk methodologies training is one that I would recommend to any service provider working with this special population of students. Youth at Risk is my passion, my life work if I may dare say, so any opportunity to sharpen my tools is always attractive to me. This training programme facilitated by MASHAV has not only added to my repertoire of tricks in the bag, but it has also given me an opportunity to renew and refresh mentally, physically and most of all spiritually. One has to be spiritually connected to some source of light if one is to be able to light a path for those who are experiencing a season of darkness. 

As a clinician, if you asked me last week what my favorite experience was I would have said Renana Danon and the programme at ELEM for the high risk population (the homeless, refugees, those who have found themselves into drug and alcohol use, young people in prostitution, those detached from normative frameworks and functioning).  I was very encouraged by the simple fact that Israel sees the importance in investing in the support and transitioning of these young people who simply have lost their footing at this time or who even may have fallen, but need some assistance to get back up. I was impressed by Renana and her colleagues and coworkers' commitment to showing this population of youth in transition (as I prefer to call them) that there are special people in their environment who care for them and to whom they can turn to 'get back up'.

The pinnacle of my experience I found this week in the trip to AHAVA, the village of love. All over the world and certainly in Barbados, facilities are established to provide residential care and support to young children with social concerns that warrants them to be separated from their parents. This is the first time however that I have encountered this model of raising such children within the context of a nuclear family situation, with what I call surrogate parents, in an assimilated family unit. That the programme has its own school that specifically caters to the target population of AHAVA clients is nothing short of ingenious.  And the fact that they recognize that these children need special therapies and interventions that are part of the programme delivery and are received on site is phenomenal. This model should be replicated all over the world!

A model is one thing while it's on paper or in someone's mind, but it is all for nought if you don't have exceptional people to make it come alive. And AHAVA has the powerful combination of both. More than just the model, the power of the programme is in the love that underscores the philosophy of the establishment and is evident in the practitioners from the blooming Human Resources Manager to the instructors, teachers and permeating even to the ancillary staff and volunteers. Despite the circumstances that may have brought them there, the children we saw seemed to be happy and comfortable and emotionally secure in their surroundings, both in the school and the living facilities.

If it is one thing I would like to bottle up and export back home from Israel is the passion the people from these programmes have for youth at risk. Their belief that the students' present circumstances don't define them and that there are worthy of investing time, love and money into even (or especially) when the young people are in difficult places which makes it hard for them to love and believe in themselves. Sometimes practitioners quibble about money, resources, facilities and so on (not that these things are not important), but we sometimes forget that what these children want most of all is cost less, always available and we don't have to rely on others to provide it because we have it within all of us to give:- love, attention, belief in greatness. Youth at risk world over are gems in the rough, they just need the right circumstances, the right exposure and the right people to help them shine. Thank you Damian and MASHAV for realigning my vision!!!

Juanita Brathwaite


Some prevoius blog on Ahava Village - Click Here