Even during the chaotic rocket fire that rained down on Israel’s southern city of Sderot last week, the incredible staff at Meir Panim were hard at work for the city’s at-risk youth.
Meir Panim converted 3 bomb shelters into Neighborhood Youth Centers as safe-havens. The local teens’ mental and physical well-being is of paramount importance at these centers. Many of the Center’s staff sidelined their own needs to help the children of Sderot during this difficult time.
After a year of unprecedented quiet, the border towns near Gaza have once again become a hotbed of terrorist activity. The terror group Hamas specifically targeted the innocent civilians of Sderot, sending barrages of ballistics in higher numbers than ever before. Thousands upon thousands of rockets whistled through the air last week. Though Israel’s Iron Dome intercepted 90% of the missiles, still 10% found their mark: the homes of the people of Sderot.
All this came at a time when the city’s teens were finally emerging from the restrictions imposed from the Covid-19 pandemic: schools were reopening, businesses were on the rise and the Center’s staff were eagerly planning reunions for the teens. Then, everything changed in the blink of an eye for these at-risk youth when Hamas targeted them in their horrific attacks. “We were in the bomb shelter for hours at a time,” said one teen in Sderot, “so many sirens that never ended… it was an endless and horrifying place to be in.”
The never-ending sirens inhibited much of Meir Panim’s operations in the area. Staff reported that “due to how intense the attacks were, we didn’t get permission to open the Neighborhood Youth Centers even for a few hours here or there to help provide additional support for the teens and their families”.
Still, nothing was going to stop Meir Panim’s dedicated staff from seeing to the wellbeing of Sderot’s youth. Our staff remained in contact with the teens via social media and WhatsApp, checking in on them frequently to see how they and their families were coping during the war.
At the rare intervals between air raid sirens, Meir Panim’s staff organized volunteer opportunities for the teens to go out and buy food and other necessities for the city’s senior citizens. They then quickly rushed to deliver these essential care packages to the elderly members of their community, delivering not only food but a ray of sunshine with their positive attitude. Meir Panim is constantly blown away by the resilience of our young participants and is committed to ensuring their success at all cost.