Updated: Jan 7, 2021
Dror Israel educators have been working around the clock to provide additional support to at-risk youth hit particularly hard by lockdown pressures; impact detailed by ELEM report
ELEM – Youth in Distress, a leading Israeli non-profit, recently released a report detailing the impact of the COVID-19 lockdown on at-risk youth in Israel. This report confirmed much of what Dror Israel’s educators have experienced in their work with at-risk students across the country in our schools, after-school programs and youth movement.
The lockdown exacerbated circumstances in many homes already experiencing distress before the crisis, forcing all household members inside together for months, compounding existing pressures. This, together with the added financial stressors on most families caused by lost income, saw many youth entering real crisis situations. According to the ELEM report, this included depression or anxiety, hunger, running away from home, drug and alcohol abuse, self-harm, and even attempts at suicide.
Dror Israel educators maintained contact with their students throughout the lockdown and organized group meetings online in an attempt to ease loneliness, anxiety and other pressures. They also organized productive activities to keep kids contributing to society and feeling helpful and needed, including Dror Galil High School’s manufacturing of protective equipment, teen youth movement groups volunteering in agriculture, and teens calling seniors to regularly check on them and ease their loneliness. When our educators identified severe financial and other crises in student homes, they referred the situation to the relevant welfare services for immediate food or other assistance and made sure to monitor the outcomes closely.
Our two boarding frameworks for at-risk youth – the Eshbal Boarding School and the Iftah Pre-Military Academy – both requested and received special permission from the Ministry of Education for most students to continue living, learning and working on site because of the conditions at home.
Now, as Israel returns to a new normal, we are beginning to understand the extent of the harm the COVID-19 lockdown caused to our students. Even after they returned to school, students are still haunted by the anxieties and ordeals of the lockdown, and families continue to suffer from lost income and social status.
This summer, we are determined to give these youth the summer that all kids deserve – a summer of fun, freedom and friendships – with mini day-camps in small groups throughout the country including 3-day camping trips, and Safe Summer Nights for at-risk youth in their neighborhoods. All, of course, in accordance with Ministry of Health regulations.
We can’t erase the difficult consequences of this pandemic, but we can ease its impact on our kids by giving them a normal, fun and enriching summer childhood experience.