A year of exceptional volunteer and community service culminated in the garden of the British Ambassador's official residence in Ramat Gan, for the annual "gold awards" ceremony of the International Youth Award Scheme.
The program is an offshoot of the Duke of Edinburgh's Award, which has been recognizing youth achievement in the United Kingdom since 1956. It operates in over 142 countries worldwide. The Youth Awards program sets guidelines for and recognizes the accomplishments of youths aged 14-18 who complete self-improvement goals including volunteer work, physical activity and more. The program recognizes overall achievement at three levels; the students at this ceremony reached the highest or "gold" level, and have completed at least nine weekly hours of activities for a minimum of 18 months.
WIZO has partnered with the program in Israel since 2007. For the past decade, on average, WIZO has had 350-450 students participating in the program annually, an impressive 25%-33% of the total participants in Israel. This year, 18 students from WIZO CHW Hadassim and one WIZO Nahalal student received gold awards.
Guests of honor at this year's ceremony included Israel's Education Minister Naftali Bennett and MK Revital Swid. British Ambassador David Quarrey hosted the event along with the co-chairmen of the awards program in Israel, Hilton Nathanson and Amir Amar. In attendance were Prof. Rivka Lazovsky, Chairperson of World WIZO, Tova Ben Dov, Former President of World WIZO, Esther Mor, President of World WIZO, Moshe Bitman, Director of the program for WIZO, department of education officials like Ze'ev Twito, director of WIZO CHW Hadassim.
The ambassador opened the event by praising the merits of the award program both in Israel and around the world.
"A few minutes ago, we heard one of my favorite songs, a song that says 'you and I will change the world,'" Minister Naftali Bennett told the young awardees after a musical interlude in the ceremony. "That's what we expect of you now, that's you'll go out and change the world. You'll be told you can't do it. But you can." He closed his remarks by imploring the students, "You've gotten a great gift, the opportunity to change Israel. Don't give this up."
"I'm positive that sitting among us tonight are young people who will be the future leaders of Israel, not only through government but in business and even parent-teacher associations," said MK Revital Swid. "Always remember the value of equal opportunities and be there to provide them."
Among the highlights of the ceremony was the performing of a popular Hebrew song by the 18 gold award students of WIZO Hadassim who are also in the youth village's choir.
"WIZO prides itself on being the one and only social welfare organization that has partnered with this important international program," Prof. Rivka Lazovsky reacted to the event. "WIZO students consistently, every year, make up an integral part of the International Youth Awards community, reflecting the fact that WIZO students understand the importance of the values that the Youth Awards celebrate: ethical leadership, equal opportunities, social justice and volunteerism. I am proud of our students' achievements and of WIZO's partnerships that benefit them and Israeli society as a whole."