M A I N   N E W S

A ‘village’ for abandoned children
Chitleen K Sethi
Tribune News Service

Tel Aviv, August 2
“Be the change that you want to see in the world,” says Dr Chaim Peri, quoting Mahatma Gandhi. A legend in Israel, Dr Chaim Peri is credited with having started a unique system of rehabilitation of at-risk children, known the world over as the “village way” -- a boarding village, which, as Peri puts it, “de-institutionalises institutions”.

Peri introduced the method in Yemin Orde -- the Wingate Youth village in Israel, over 30 years ago. This place is home to 36 families who are taking care of almost 500 at-risk children of Jewish descent.

“After the success of this village, 20 such villages have been set up across Israel and another in Rwanda where we are taking care of children of the Ethiopian Jews,” says Peri.

Yemin Orde is spread over 70 acres on the slopes of Mount Carmel, a scenic hill station, about an hour’s drive from Tel Aviv in North Israel. “Since its inception, this village has provided refuge to waves of children who have come to Israel in the aftermath of convulsive upheaval in recent history. Most of the thousands of children and teenagers who arrive at this haven have experienced painful separations; their lives marred by heartbreaking situations that left them confused and frustrated,” says Peri.

“In the boarding school setting, the child comes to understand that he is here only till he is big enough to be on his own. As a result, he never develops a sense of trust and holds on to the skills he learnt as an abandoned child. But in the village, we instill in the child that he will never be abandoned again and that if he so wishes, he has a place to live for the rest of his life. Only when a child is reassured and is at ease about his future, can he let go of his guard and be ready to learn what we have to teach,” he says.

“We believe in the famous African proverb — it takes a village to raise a child. We cannot return to the lost village but we try and create for them a home and not a boarding school,” added Peri.

The children of several Ethiopian Jews who were airlifted by Israel in the early 1990s were rehabilitated here. “Our children have become doctors, engineers, military men. Some are working as staff members here. Our sense of achievement does not come from the fact that they are doing well financially but the fact that they have grown up to be normal people who are the heads of families and are leading satisfactory lives,” he says.

Peri says the village-way method is based on the concept of a “community of meaning”. The way a child makes sense of the world around him.





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