Hani (not her real name) is a young woman of Ethiopian descent. She has four children, the two youngest attend the Jesse Cohen Day Care Center in Holon sponsored by WIZO Holland. Hani’s husband was extremely violent towards her and he has been in and out of prison on assault charges. Hani and her young children spent time in a battered women’s shelter but when she learned that her husband was back in prison, she felt confident enough to leave.
However, Hani’s husband was once again released and he tracked her down. The violence started again. Hani gathered up her children and fled from the family home in the north of Israel to Holon. She knew no one in Holon. She had no money and no immediate family to help her. She brought with her only her children, a suitcase of clothes and another item that was so precious to her – her self respect.
Carmit, the Jesse Cohen Day Care Center Director, explains: “Hani is a very strong and proud woman. What she and her children have been through is heartbreaking and yet Hani refused to feel sorry for herself. Her main concern was to bring stability into her life and start afresh, for the sake of her children.”
The day care social worker, Rotem, set to work on an action plan that provided crucial tools for Hani, to enable her to focus on the wellbeing of the children who had clearly suffered the trauma of witnessing their father’s violence against her. The WIZO child psychologist and social worker worked with both Hani and her children to repair emotional imbalances and to encourage healthy social interaction.
The Jesse Cohen Day Care Center became the anchor of Hani’s world. While her children thrived in its warm and safe surroundings, Hani also knew that she could depend on the day care center for everything, from the provision of second-hand clothes and toys for her children and herself to the friendly advice on every aspect of living in an unfamiliar city. Through networking with the other mothers, Hani found new friends, which soon resulted in her finding an office-cleaning job. When Hani opened a bank account with her first wages, it was Carmit, the day care center director, who helped her translate the forms.
Carmit also arranged for Hebrew lessons for Hani who practices her new language skills at the day care center, where the staff believe it is their job not just to teach the children – but also to teach the parents. The day care center also runs child and baby care courses for parents and Hani comes to the center and joins in the various activities.
Her elder children who attend primary school in Holon also come to the Jesse Cohen Day Care Center every day after school to enjoy extra-curricular activities, to do their homework and to interact with the little ones until 7 pm at night when Hani comes to take them home. Knowing that all her children are together, receiving nutritious meals and out of harm’s way in the nurturing environment of the day care, allows Hani to concentrate fully on her own personal career development.
Hani’s work supervisor was so impressed with her conscientious approach to her job, that she was promoted to team leader with a higher salary. The new promotion also required her to drive, and WIZO arranged driving lessons for her.
Hani says, “I owe everything to this day care Center. I was desperate and my children were hungry. I knew it was my job to protect them but I was powerless. I never gave a thought to myself and yet everyone at the Jesse Cohen Day Care Center really did care about me, and how I was feeling, how I was doing. They helped me so much. They even arranged for a volunteer to help me at bedtimes when I was so tired from my job and my children would not settle down for the night in their new surroundings.” She added, “Everyone needs someone to believe in them, and here they believe not just in my children, but in me too.”
The WIZO Holland-sponsored Jesse Cohen Multipurpose Day Care Center, situated in a very poor area of Holon, provides a warm home to babies and children, many of whom are ‘at risk’ and have been referred by the welfare authorities. The center is open from 7 am to 7 pm six days a week except on Friday when the day care center is open until noon. The children come from poor or underprivileged backgrounds where many have experienced neglect or violence at home. The center provides additional services such as social workers, psychologists and therapists, as well as parenting programs to encourage positive family bonding. All children receive three freshly prepared healthy and nutritious meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner).
(Names changed to preserve anonymity)
(Photo for illustration purposes only)