For 25 years, Orr Shalom Children's Services has been providing residential and therapeutic services to severely abused and neglected children throughout Israel.
Since 1979 when Orr Shalom pioneered Israel's first therapeutic family group home, it has been steadily expanding its network of care to ease the plight of Israel children at-risk.
Orr Shalom's range of homes and programs are designed to meet each child's individual needs. Currently, it cares for more than 1,050 children in a variety of settings.
Who are Orr Shalom's children?
Where do they live?
The Stories of Our Children
"Against All Odds"
This past Independence Day, Nati who is now a sergeant with the Military Police Investigation Unit stood on the stage at a military base in the center of Israel, where he was honored as one of the Israel Defense Force's 22 outstanding soldiers.
Nati is one of Orr Shalom's children and the Orr Shalom family is so proud of this young man who has overcome so many obstacles.
On the night of December 31, 1996, Nati's mother Sima climbed to the roof of the Eilat Towers and jumped to her death leaving 13 year old Nati all alone in the world. His biological father had disappeared from his life and for a period of three years Nati was shuttled from one foster family to the next. He was considered a lost cause, and was diagnosed as being handicapped and disabled.
"I was in dozens of foster homes. I don't remember how many, and I don't remember who I stayed with. I know that every week they sent me from one family to another, and they always told me, 'It's only temporary.' I don't even remember if I felt good or bad with these families. I do know that from the time 'Orr Shalom' opened in Eilat, and I was the first kid to go there, everything began to improve. I didn't want to stay at home. I wanted to live quietly with normal children. And that's how it was, and from then on I had a home."
He continues, "Everybody loved me. I just felt good with all of them, and always had a supportive network, since I entered Orr Shalom. I can't even imagine my life without Orr Shalom. They gave me a home, they gave me love, they did everything so I would survive, so that I could move forward and advance. There is lots of light in this home. I asked welfare authorities to let me live at the home for another two years, and they let me do so, because it was hard for me to leave what has been, for me, the only home I knew."
Nati's matriculation certificate is displayed on the living room wall in the Orr Shalom home in Eilat. Next to it now is the Certificate of Merit he received from the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). His Orr Shalom home is his only home. "The house parents, Chaim and Sigal, are my best friends. They are my parents,"
Today, Nati has a future and a clear focus. After his release from the IDF he plans on studying at the Wingate Institute. "I definitely want to raise a family, to get married and have children. I know it will happen, but I am not ready yet. For now I want to establish myself in life. Once I have done this, I know that I can give my children the good things life has to offer... the best of everything. Only then will I start a family," Nati declares.
Against all odds Nati has won.
As I reflect back on the year 5764, I cannot help but smile when I think of what a fruitful year this has been for Orr Shalom Children Services. Our family has matured both in Israel and the Diaspora. Just this past September, by the request of the Ministry of Social Affairs, we adopted a foster boarding care program making our family grow from 350 children to now over 1050. In February we opened Beit Goldschmidt, an intensive care facility for young teenage girls ages 11-14 who suffer from severe behavioral problems due to extreme sexual abuse. The changes are abundant and we are learning how to adapt at a fast pace.
More exciting news is occurring across the waters in the United States. With great pleasure, I am pleased to report that we now have an invigorated American Friends of Orr Shalom. Barbara Salmanson has undertaken the chairmanship and is aggressively working to expand the American board. Together with Lynn Berney, our American Friends executive director, they are creating greater visibility for Orr Shalom and seeking philanthropic support so provide our children with the services that are necessary for them to succeed.
In August, I traveled to the States and had the opportunity to visit with many of you. It was wonderful to reconnect and discuss our future. While in New York City, I met with several professionals from the Jewish Child Care Association, a non-profit organization in New York which wrestles with many of the same issues regarding child welfare as we do here in Israel. They provided me with tremendous insight into foster boarding care and a wealth of information related to new technologies in tracking our children.
I look forward to updating you throughout the year. If you know of someone that is interested in learning more about Orr Shalom, please feel free to pass on this e-newsletter.