YEDID: The Association for Community Empowerment

Through a national network of Citizen Rights Centers, YEDID empowers low-income Israelis of all ethnic and religious backgrounds to access their rights, break the cycle of poverty, and achieve self-sufficiency. YEDID ("friend" in Hebrew) was founded in 1997 with the mission to promote social and economic justice in Israel. To date, YEDID has given direct assistance to over 290,000 Israelis of all ethnic and religious backgrounds. In addition, we have run hundreds of community empowerment programmes, and have lobbied successfully for public policy change on social issues such as housing, labour, healthcare, and social security. Our approach to creating social change operates on ...
Jul 30, 2014

Progress Report on YEDID's Mobile Center

After retiring in May 2014, Katya was astounded to discover that she wasn't receiving her old-age benefit; without this benefit, she was afraid that she wouldn't be able to pay her rent, and would find herself, at 68, homeless. Katya immediately turned to Israel's National Insurance Institute (NII), and demanded an explanation as to why she wasn't receiving her old-age benefit. A service representative explained that in all her years of employment, Katya had not worked the minimal amount of months (144) that would make her eligible to receive her old age benefit; upon further investigation, it turned out that she had worked the required amount of months, but that one of her former employers had neglected to report that Katya had worked for him. In order to receive the benefit, Katya would have to gather ten years' worth of pay stubs (66)! Though she was entitled to these pay stubs by right, when Katya went to her former employer to ask for them, he rudely turned her away, and refused to help her.

It was at this point that Katya turned to YEDID's Mobile Center. Although she only had her final paystub from her unpleasant former employer, the pay stub noted the date that Katya had started to work there, and YEDID staff concluded that this was enough information to take action. A YEDID staff member approached the Department of Insurance Continuity at the NII with a letter detailing the sequence of events, and asked the department to update their registrations. Within a week, YEDID was informed that Katya's insurance continuity had been fixed, and that she would begin to receive her old-age benefit. In numbers, this means that over the next 20 years, Katya will receive NIS 30,620. Thanks to YEDID, Katya can enjoy her retirement without the fear of losing the roof over her head.

The goal of YEDID's Mobile Citizen Rights and Health Center is to empower and strengthen residents like Katya of Israel's socioeconomic and geographic peripheries in the areas of health and social rights. The Center's objectives are to help clients navigate the national health system; to provide preventative medical services; and to supply information about legal rights and social benefits in the area of health care and other areas (such as housing and National Insurance, to name just two). Unfortunately, due to the ongoing conflict in Gaza, all of the health days that were planned in the south have been postponed until further notice. 

From the beginning of May 2014 through the beginning of August 2014, the Mobile Center provided 131 clients with rights counseling. The most prevalent subjects for which people turned to the center for non-health related issues during this period were matters related to debt and repossessions (31%), issues concerning public housing and mortgages (20%), and problems in accessing benefits and rights from the National Insurance Institute (Social Security) (15%). Clients served included immigrants and veteran Israelis, Arabs and Jews.

The Mobile Center's plans for the coming months are to continue running Health Days, to recruit more volunteers with specific skills such as fluency in Arabic and Russian, and professional experience in relevant fields. Thanks to a generous donation, we will be able to hire an additonal part-time case manager for the Mobile Center. This will allow the center's staff and volunteers to more efficiently handle the packed caseload, especially on days in which the center both receives clients and simultaneously runs health days.

On behalf of YEDID's staff, volunteers, and clients, I thank our supporters for their partnership. The immediate and essential assistance that the center provides to individuals across the country could never happen without your help. Thank you so much!

 

Jul 28, 2014

Progress Report on Vocational Training Course

In January 2013, the second cohort of students of the Megemeria School began their training at the YVEL Design Center, situated on the outskirts of Jerusalem. YVEL's location was symbolically fitting for this undertaking: the students, Ethiopian immigrants living in Jerusalem and the surrounding areas, felt that they were society's outcasts. Prior to their being accepted to Megemeria, the majority of the students had worked minimum-wage jobs, such as cleaning or mall security, which forced them to work long hours in order to be able to support their families. A complex set of obstacles, such as the students' lack of Hebrew skills, and the vast destabilizing cultural differences between Ethiopia and Israel, stood between them and a successful integration into Israel's workforce and society.

However, after just a few months into Megemeria – which means "Beginning" in Amharic – the students underwent a profound transformation. As they acquired the jewelry making skills that would enable them to have a meaningful and viable profession, the students' self-confidence increased, and their children began to take pride in their parents’ work. The students' sense of belonging to Israeli society began to grow, thanks to the financial literacy courses and classes on Israeli culture, history, and geography that YEDID provided throughout the program.

The Megemeria School would not be possible without the generosity of donors like you – every dollar you donated helped the 22 students of the second cohort gain the skills, confidence, and knowledge that they needed to become self-sufficient workers, who take pride in their creative work and support their families with dignity. The second cohort of students graduated in March, and we are excited to share with you that 20 of the 22 students passed the written and practical exam of the Ministry of Economy accreditation course in jewelry making! The remaining two students are scheduled to retake the exam in the near future, and 17 graduates are now employed by YVEL or Megemeria, along with the graduates of the first cohort. Megemeria graduates come from Jerusalem and the greater Jerusalem area, including Beit Shemesh. Despite the rockets that have recently fallen in these regions, our graduates have proven their dedication to their craft and their vision by showing up for work without fail.

Megemeria jewelry sales continue to soar! The jewelry collections of both cohorts have attracted national and international interest: the Home Shopping Network has purchased 4,000 pieces of the Megemeria collection, the Israeli Home Shopping Network has also begun purchasing pieces to sell, and we are in the process of selling additional pieces to the British Home Shopping Network. Additionally, we will be setting up pop-up mobile stores in the prestigious Arena Mall in Herzelia Pituach and the Gan Ha'ir Mall in Tel Aviv over the summer. With each new piece of jewelry sold, Megemeria serves as an ambassador of the Ethiopian-Israeli community, sending a clear message: when given the opportunity, this community is capable of great things.

YEDID is continuing to advance this growing social business beyond the jewelry-making activities. We're looking into developing the school and social enterprise into a community-based tourism to house a craft shop, a café, and a space for Ethiopian artisans to demonstrate traditional crafts and skill: weaving, potter, woodcarvings, and cotton spinning. We're excited to create a place to share the Ethiopian Israel story with visitors from home and abroad while generative revenue to ensure the continuity and sustainability of Megemeria.

On behalf of YEDID's staff and the students and graduates from Megemeria, I thank our supporters for their partnership. Without help like yours, 44 talented individuals would not have had the chance to embark on the path to a brighter future. Thank you so much!

Apr 30, 2014

Progress Report on YEDID's Mobile Center

Elena arrived at our Mobile Citizen Rights and Health Center when it was stationed in Haifa. She came from a difficult background; though she was only 24, she was already divorced and a mother of a five-year-old daughter. In the not-so-distant past she had undergone physical abuse, which left her with chronic health problems. Her family had cut ties with her, and, as Elena told the center’s volunteer, she was on the brink of collapse.

Elena wanted to give herself and her daughter a clean start. She had come to our Mobile Center from Kiryat Shmona, Israel's northernmost city, hoping that we could help her get public housing. In the past, she had applied for eligibility for public housing, but had been denied due to the fact only families with three or more children who have been living on welfare benefits for a 24 month period are eligible for public housing. “I’m willing to move anywhere in Israel to get public housing,” she said, “I really need this to help me get back on my feet.” The staff at our Mobile Center prepared the necessary paperwork, and sent it to the public housing office near Haifa in Kiryat Bialik.

The request was denied, for the same reason as Elena’s previous request, on the grounds of ineligibility. Nevertheless, our staff persevered, and went in person to the housing offices to reason with the officials there. After two months of negotiations, Elena was notified that she was being granted a two-room apartment in a public housing complex near Haifa. “I’m so grateful to YEDID for all of their help,” Elena writes. “Finally, I can start getting my life back on track.”

The goal of YEDID's Mobile Citizen Rights and Health Center is to empower and strengthen residents like Elena of Israel's socioeconomic and geographic peripheries in the areas of health and social rights. The Center's objectives are to help clients navigate the national health system; to provide preventative medical services; and to supply information about legal rights and social benefits in the area of health care and other areas (such as housing and National Insurance, to name just two).

From the beginning of November 2013 through the beginning of February 2014, the Mobile Center provided 120 clients with rights counseling. The most prevalent subjects for which people turned to the center for non-health related issues during this period were issues concerning public housing and mortgages (32%), matters related to debt and repossessions (26%), and labor law problems (15%). Clients served included immigrants and veteran Israelis, Arabs and Jews.

The Mobile Center's plans for the coming months are to continue running Health Days, to recruit more volunteers with specific skills such as fluency in Arabic and Russian, and professional experience in relevant fields. Thanks to a generous donation, we will be able to increase the Mobile Center's operation from three to six times a week in the near future! An increase in days will allow us to access and assist more clients in Israel's underserved peripheries.

On behalf of YEDID's staff, volunteers, and clients, I thank our supporters for their partnership. The immediate and essential assistance that the center provides to individuals across the country could never happen without your help. Thank you so much!

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