As the school year comes to a close many parents ask themselves the same dreaded question: “What on earth do I do with my kid during the summer?”
For fortunate parents, the promise of the long, warm summer months presents an endless array of possibilities: vacations, spending quality time with the family, and of course, some alone time while the kids are off to summer camp.
But for those children who are not so lucky, the summer months can drag on, especially when they have no framework.
In an effort to make sure no child in Israel is neglected during the summer, Meir Panim offers camps for children from impoverished backgrounds.
Thus, these camps help not only the kids who have nowhere else to go when school is out, but they’re also a godsend for parents who can’t afford luxuries like summer camp.
“During the year, school in Israel is free. But during the summer, parents are responsible for paying for their child’s summer camp,” Mimi Rozmaryn, Meir Panim’s Director of Global Development, explained. While some parents are able to save up for camp during the school year, many who live paycheck to paycheck are unable to do so.
“For these families, summer becomes a burden. That extra NIS 1-2,000 can really be a strain on people’s finances,” Rozmaryn added.
The Meir Panim summer camps, located in Or Akiva and Dimona, offer kids basic necessities and much more throughout the day. Each and every day the children receive breakfast and lunch. While some may dismiss this as the bare minimum a camp should provide, for these children who are not fed on a regular basis at home, knowing their nutritional needs will be met at camp is a relief.
“It’s so inspiring to see these kids, that come from a challenging environment, having fun,” Rozmaryn added. “At camp, their faces light up.”
While the details regarding their home life are grim, at camp the children are eager to put that aspect of their lives behind them and revel in being carefree kids.
To help them do that, Meir Panim offers them a consistent schedule which includes morning prayers, workshops, and fun activities. Instead of watching TV all day, or worse, such as roaming the streets, these children go on stimulating outings weekly. From Sunday through Thursday, from 8:30 am until 3:00 pm, parents can rest easy and know their children are safe.
Moreover, oftentimes, the children participating in these summer camps also take part in Meir Panim’s after-school programs. The volunteers who help in the latter program, also help out at the summer camps. Seeing the same friendly faces daily year-round gives the children a sense of security that is sometimes absent from their home life.
“When you’re a kid and there’s turmoil and crisis, the more consistency they have in their life, the better,” she explained.
In Dimona, Meir Panim teamed up with Coca-Cola to teach kids the value of hard work. Up to 20 young adults enrolled in this volunteering summer camp where they earn points for their good behavior. At the end of the summer, the two organizations will host a big summer concert bash, where the points can be redeemed for fun prizes.
But during the summer, the young adults have an opportunity to make a difference. From reaching out to Holocaust survivors to assembling care packages for the needy, these teens are taught the value of giving back to their community.
“I love that a big multinational company like Coca-Cola is lending us support,” Rozmaryn said. “Additionally, it’s awesome to have young adults participate in our various projects. It’s inspiring.”