Translation of article in HaShavuah B’Netanya (This Week in Netanya) - April 9, 2015
By Hila Malki Maslati
Dozens of ESRA volunteers have become a familiar part of Netanya’s local scene. Over the past 7 years, ESRA, a national organization of English-speaking volunteers, has become one of the central community organizations in the city with an annual investment in Netanya municipal projects of NIS 1.5 million and involvement in a wide array of social initiatives.
ESRA’s flagship project is “Students Build a Community”, which was initiated together with Ofer Orenstein, the Netanya city council member responsible for the Matnas network (i.e. Community Centers for Culture, Youth and Sports). The project is being run in three locations in the city, in the Heftziba, Nordau, and Sela neighborhoods. It involves some 30 students and approximately 120 schoolchildren who enjoy the benefit of social and academic tutoring from the students who have come to live in their community. ESRA funds half the project costs, as well as providing grants to the students. The project has now entered its eighth year with the result that children’s school grades in these communities have risen and the city’s educators have reacted to the project with warm enthusiasm.
As an organization whose members are nearly all from English-speaking countries, ESRA invests its efforts in many English language projects throughout the city. For example, one can find many of the organization’s volunteers arriving at various schools to help children with their English studies. Activities focused on English encompass 12 elementary and high schools around the city (together with volunteers from AACI), a bi-weekly lecture series for English-speakers, and personal guidance and counselling for English speaking residents of the city.
ESRA is also active in support of welfare: Hand in Hand Food Baskets – distribution of food baskets to families in Netanya and supply of hot meals to children in Netanya’s afterschool centers; annual art fairs that the organization runs in Netanya with proceeds of sales going to support their projects in the city; Bayit Cham (Warm Home) for young girls at risk providing a social/therapeutic environment; a welfare and grants fund providing economic aid to families in Netanya facing economic crisis. In addition, ESRA organizes, together with the Neot Shaked Matnas, a Passover seder for 200 participants. ESRA’s volunteers are also involved in educational excellence and enrichment, one example of which is the Project of Excellence in cooperation with the Rupin Academic Center at Michmoret, where 36 highly motivated schoolchildren wishing to learn marine sciences arrive from Netanya’s depressed areas to learn and study.
After allocating funds for the establishment of two Computer Centers in the Heftziba and Neot Shaked neighborhoods, and three Vocational Training Centers giving adults the ability to earn income through sewing, the organization became a major partner in the establishment of the new Music Center in Heftziba, together with Celcom Volume.
And as if that wasn’t enough, they decided to establish an Ethnic Ethiopian Dance Troupe that develops the artistic talents of young children through traditional Ethiopian dance. There are currently two dance groups, one in Heftziba and one in Neot Shaked.
Chairperson, Brenda Katten, herself a resident of Netanya, notes that “ESRA is based on the spirit of its many volunteers who work in cooperation with Netanya Municipality and other community-oriented organizations such as the Matnas network. Although we are a national organization, much of our energies are focused on Netanya.” ESRA’s Nina Zuck, who coordinates the Netanya activities, says, “I’m happy to see that we succeeded in our cooperative efforts to expand our activities into a wide range of areas from education to welfare, with an emphasis on the city’s older neighborhoods.”
For all of its activities, the organization has earned much praise from the city’s Mayor Miriam Fireberg, who presented the organization with the 2013 Volunteering Citation of Appreciation, as well as from Ofer Orenstein, member of the municipal council, who accompanies and aids the organization’s activities throughout the city. Orenstein said, “ESRA is a great asset to the city of Netanya. I’m not just talking about its financial investment. I’m talking about its true partnership and the day-by-day involvement of the organization’s managers as well as its many volunteers.”
Translation by Mimi Tanaman