Yesterday, to mark WIZO's 96th anniversary, World WIZO Chairperson Prof. Rivka Lazovsky, hosted a festive meeting of the World WIZO executive committee, attended by leaders of WIZO Israel, branch directors and professional staff members, aimed at saluting and putting the spotlight on the dedicated and remarkable volunteers and professionals at WIZO projects who do the "real" and difficult work that has propelled WIZO's success for almost a century. Throughout the meeting, project directors presented briefs, updates and inspiring "behind the scenes" stories from their respective projects.
Presentations began with that of Edva Cohen, director of the WIZO "Open House" in Sderot, which recently suffered serious structural damage from a rocket attack. She spoke about the center's reconstruction plans and one of the main areas of the center's work: treating children pre and post-trauma associated with living in an area affected by war and violence for decades.
Yardena Nof, director of Neve WIZO, told the story of WIZO's foster homes, speaking specifically about the foster children she has come into contact with and their experiences in the welfare system. She enlightened the audience to the fact that the foster care children are often the second and third generation "at-risk" in their families. She specially thanked WIZO South Africa for their sponsorship and frequent visits.
Tal Koppel touched th audience when she spoke about the "Beit Paamonim" foster-care facility and the work that it does rehabilitating and caring for infants that have suffered abuse and neglect at home.
During several pauses in the presentations, boarding-school students from the CHW Hadassim Youth Village both sang and performed hip-hop dances for the crowd.
Next, Ze'ev Twito, director of the CHW Hadassim Youth Village, gave an update on the well-known Na'aleh program, which is experiencing tremendous growth: next year the program will host 120 Jewish youths from over ten different countries.
After a video presenting the story of a battered woman whose life was saved by a WIZO women's shelter, Rivka Neumann, Director of WIZO'sDivision for the Advancement ofWomen alongside Sharon Shimshi, director of WIZO's women's shelter in Ashdod, discussed the efforts of the division in general, which serves 160 woman and 80 children annually, and also the lesser-known aspects of treating battered women, for example, the fact that they often arrive at shelters in the middle of the night and with no possessions, and that, in the most extreme cases, cannot step out of the shelter's physical premises for two months. She also described the difficulties of a shelter's multi-cultural atmosphere; they house Arabs, Eritreans, Ethiopian-Israelis and native-born Israelis.
A video describing in-depth the work of the WIZO Adi Center in Be'er Sheva, which houses and rehabilitates young women at-risk, moved the audience with its tremendously inspiring success-story of a girl whose life the center helped turn around, after time in jail and living on the streets. The center's director, Revital Liraz, spoke about the impact of the center's work.
Haviv Edri, a veteran carpentry teacher at WIZO Achuzat Yeladim Boarding School, who has worked at the institution since 1972, told heart-warming stories about his time at the youth village and the troubled students at the "last chance for rehabilitation" he had encountered during his career.
Tali Engel, director of the WIZO Ramat Gan branch, discussed the realities of running a WIZO branch.
Social worker Alona Ashkenazi spoke specifically about the "Beit Peru" Multi-Purpose Daycare Facility and in general, about the work of WIZO's 20 nationwide multi-purpose daycare facilities (serve 1,756 children) which have been greatly successful in creating a therapeutic surrounding for children by working specifically with their parents, to prevent the removal of children from their homes and prevent neglect or violence before it begins.
Also discussed was the "Pninim," a unique WIZO program (largely sponsored by Perla Weinberg of WIZO USA) that provides life changing educational support in the subjects of English and science, to children from disadvantaged families in all of the WIZO institutions and facilities.
Raya Jaglom, World WIZO's Honorary Life President, charmed the audience with informative and humorous anecdotes about the history of each of the projects discussed during the meeting. Prof. Rivka Lazovksy made closing remarks, specially thanking the WIZO volunteers in Israel and abroad and emphasizing that the key to success in all the projects the assembled audience had heard about was the excellent, dedicated staff that runs them, who gain the trust of the communities they serve and without whom, nothing would be possible.