Rishon LeZion is MetroWest New Jersey’s sister city in Israel. My son volunteered with underprivileged Ethiopian children at the community center (“Matnas”) in the Ramat Eliyahu neighborhood of Rishon LeZion for two summers. My daughter raised money for all the Ethiopian nursery school students to attend the Matnas integrated nursery school for one year. In 2010, our family visited the nursery school class and toured the Matnas. In February 2013, my daughter and I visited the Matnas again. We were treated to a hip hop performance by a dozen teenage Ethiopian girls who participated in the Challenges (“Etgarim”) program for at-risk youth in Ramat Eliyahu.
After the performance, we met with approximately two dozen Ethiopian teen immigrants at the Matnas. All of the teens were 15 or 16 years old and had moved to Israel between 5-10 years ago. Some spoke English very well and acted as interpreters for their peers. They explained that their fathers had been sheep herders in Ethiopia and were currently under or unemployed in Israel. None of their parents could speak or read Hebrew and many of their parents were not literate in their native language. The teens were their parents only way of communicating in Israel. These economic and communication problems caused the parents to become dependent upon their teens and lose parental control, guidance and supervision. The inverted dependency caused family problems which presented opportunity for the unsupervised teens to get into trouble. The Ramat Eliyahu high school has no extracurricular activities. If it were not for the Matnas, these teens would not have any organized activities or a safe place to go after school.
The Matnas has developed the Etgarim program to give these teens an opportunity to develop personal responsibility, leadership skills and perseverance. Currently the Etgarim program has two clubs: Hip Hop and Extreme Sports. There is an interest to add a Mountain Biking club. The goal of the Etgarim Mountain Biking club is to give the at risk teens an opportunity to interact positively in a group setting, challenge themselves mentally and physically, learn about nutrition, physiology, bicycle mechanics, ecology and more.
My daughter and I witnessed the success of the Etgarim Hop Hop club. Those girls were engaged, talented dancers and rappers. They were confident, expressive and very happy. But not all at risk teens are interested in hip hop dance. There are approximately 100 teens interested in joining Etgarim, but the Matnas does not have the budget to expand the Etgarim program to include a Mountain Bike club.
In order to begin the program, basic equipment needs to be purchased and an instructor needs to be hired. Start Up costs include 12 Bicycles and helmets: $435 each x 12 = $5220 and a qualified instructor stipend of $2780. The Matnas is projecting an annual budget of $15,000, but needs at least $8000 to start the program.
I would be honored if you could help me start the Matnas Ramat Eliyahu Etgarim Mountain Biking Club. Fully tax deductible donations can be made payable to UJC MetroWest Matnas Ramat Eliyahu Teen Bike Club and sent to my attention for collection and delivery to the MetroWest Shlicha Noga Maliniak at the Legow Family Israel Program Center of the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest, New Jersey.
Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions you may have.