For Ethiopian student, Yonatan (not his real name) who started at the WIZO Nir Ha’emek Youth Village in the seventh grade, his new home in the dormitory was a place where he finally ‘found himself’ away from the noisy, over-crowded apartment that he shared with his single mother and his many siblings. Yonatan’s father had abandoned the family when the children were small, leaving his mother with the struggle of holding down a job and bringing up her six children.
Despite many emotional and educational shortcomings, Yonatan settled in well at the dormitory, and with one-to-one support and tutoring he began to appreciate the merits of education and he studied hard, showing a high aptitude for mechanics and electrical engineering.
“At Nir Ha’emek, they did not see me as the sad Ethiopian kid with no future. No! They instilled in me a sense of ambition, and they provided me with the tools to achieve,” Yonatan explained. “For weekends and holidays, they encouraged me to stay at the youth village, so that I would not be led astray by my older brother who was doing drugs.”
When Yonatan graduated, he continued his education at a prestigious school of further education, where he attained excellence in mechanics and electrical engineering, gaining valuable accreditation. All through that time, he spent much of his free time on the Nir Ha’emek campus, where he felt very at home.
Yonatan was enlisted into the army in the maintenance division as an electrical engineer. From there, he was selected for officers’ school. Now, he is a lieutenant and serves as a tutor in electrical engineering and maintenance in the officers’ school. He attributes his successful army career to the valuable life lessons he learned at WIZO Nir Ha’emek, and he takes great pride in visiting the youth village and speaking to the students about his time spent in the dormitories and how impactful school days are in preparation for meaningful service in the army – and beyond.
Yonatan stands erect and tall, resplendent in his army uniform. His eyes glow with pride.
“I used to think that good fortune was something that other kids had, but not me – and maybe you think that too," he says, addressing students from the dormitories. “I have been, where you are now – and I can tell you that you are the luckiest kids so take advantage of everything that Nir Ha’emek has to offer, and listen to your teachers. Know that they are there for you, for your future, for your success. It worked for me. It will work for you, too.”
(Names changed to preserve anonymity)
(Photo for illustration purposes only)