Ahava Village for Children and Youth
|Name||Sara Pinchovich from the Ahava Village for Children and Youth|
What is your title and what are your main responsibilities here?
I’m a social worker and my title is Education Coordinator. I’m responsible for all aspects of education here at Ahava: writing programs, organizing activities, working with the foster parents who work with the kids and youth here and working with volunteers in the afternoon activities, all of which is very fun, because I work with strong sections of kids to empower all their positive aspects, which is a contrast to other social workers, who often work with sad aspects.
How long have you been working here?
Seven years – I started in February 2000, so I’m starting my eighth year here.
Tell us a bit about your personal background and how you came to work here.
As a student in social work, I was a teacher and guide at Ahava in the evenings – teaching how to prevent road accidents! Showing kids how to cross the street, be careful, everything for kids’ safety. After I graduated and got my BA, I worked for four years in Jewish education as a counselor and group leader at another organization, but then I came back to Ahava.
What are the most important aspects of this place – its functions, what it offers, etc.
It gives kids the chance to see something closer to ‘normal life.’ They start out not having a sense of home; they need to survive and there are too many unknowns. Here they are safe with a normal, stable and predictable life. For some, this is home. They get love and support. The kids do get attached to the foster parents – but they learn how to deal with someone leaving them as well. We have a big focus here on how to say goodbye; we work with the kids on the idea of leaving and going away because they have abandonment issues. Last year there was no chance for proper goodbyes because of the war [with Hezbollah] and the need to relocate the kids. The war was very traumatic for them.
How has this place evolved since you’ve been here?
In many ways. Initially my job was small – we had no education program and fewer activities. Seven years ago Yoav [Yoav Apelboim, Executive Director of Ahava] developed the idea of family connections at Ahava – the concept of bringing the biological families to our village to interact positively with their kids. Generally the kids and their parents have good experiences during these visits. We pay for the transportation for the parents so they have no excuse not to come. They spend two hours with their child. Sometimes it is hard to convince parents to come…
There are other ways in which Ahava has grown, but this way is the biggest.
What is the most visible mark of the Bnai Zion role here?
Our cultural hall and kitchen were Bnai Zion gifts – seven years ago the hall was nothing compared to how it is now! Bnai Zion helped build something for the community here - that we use for Friday nights and other events - which is so important to the kids. The kids and staff here feel they belong to a community that has its very own structure and shape. Having this wonderful hall means there is a place for everyone to gather together.
What are your biggest or proudest accomplishments here?
Two things: I am very lucky to be in a position and place where the management lets me do what I believe in with my skills and interests. I have lots of work satisfaction every day and it is a great feeling that everything you do can help change in a small way the life of the kids here. I developed seven education projects for the kids that we didn’t have here before, now very important to their lives.
Changing the lives of people is a huge thing. Working with teenagers is so fulfilling; knowing I can help their empowerment means a lot to me.
What do you envision for the future here?
To do more and more of what we’re doing now: giving kids a chance. Unfortunately the conditions of the kids coming in are harder every year, so we have to keep changing what we’re doing. We have to make sure the staff has the energy available for the kids. We want to build a home daycare building for a longer day of care – to give another hundred kids daycare and increase our daycare capacity. We also want to build an emergency center for kids removed from a traumatic environment.
If you could change or improve something here, what would it be?
I would improve what we can give our staff who work with kids, for example, a chance to study, to attend seminars, things like that to empower them. I would improve what we give to teenagers; I would like to give teenagers a safe place to rebel. I’d like to expand our ‘Age-18 Project’ which is providing homes for these teenagers in the military to go to while on leave, when their peers go home to their families. This means a place for them to go to and a foster parent to call them everyday. At that age, you’re still a child and you still need parental input.
What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working here?
I like travel and nature. I grew up in the north in Kiryat Motzkin, and I love the Golan, seeing the greens and nature colors, and the waters – and I love photography and taking pictures, and being with friends. I have visited Europe, relatives in Canada and great friends in New York; I also visited the Far East, Thailand and Burma – but only for five weeks, not a whole year like other Israelis!!!