Kanot Youth Village and other Updates as of June 8, 2020
Kanot Agricultural Youth Village
On this Na’amat update call from Israel with Shirli Shavit, we first heard from guest speaker, Eli Cohen, who is the Director of Dormitories at Kanot Agricultural Village.
Those of us from the 2020 Leadership Seminar had met Eli in March. He has a most warm, caring, friendly and patient nature. It is obvious why he is so well suited to running a school for students at risk.
The update began with an introduction to two students from Kanot, both of whom wore masks, temporarily under their chins as they spoke to us, but right away it was indicative of the new circumstances due to the Corona virus.
We met Nishai, 19 years old, and Adar both of whom are students at Kanot but they come from two different towns.
They shared that at the outbreak of Covid-19 they went home and began Facetiming with their teachers who gave them school related assignments. This is significant as the school and the teachers quickly reacted to keep up with the student’s education and to maintain their progress in the curriculum
Nishai stayed in Kanot during the outbreak, while Adar went home. Both of them began their daily school program at 10:30 am and ended their classes at 4:00 pm. Students like Nishai, who stayed at Kanot, began their day by working in the agricultural area prior to the start of the school program. All the animals still needed to be cared for, cows had to be milked and horses and cows had to fed and cared for. Many counsellors also participated in looking after the animals.
Eli brought it to our attention that both Nishai and Adar were among the teens who were part of the very impressive video detailing the new app called ‘Connecteen’ which was created by the students at Kanot. This is a new technological innovation aimed at helping youth at risk get connected to services that could help them while at the same time the agencies get to meet those youth at risk that they otherwise would have missed. Check out this link to learn more about this app.
When we asked how was Nishai’s experience during Covid-19 time different, she said that she was glad her best friend was with her, yet it was very hard for her because she had to wear a mask all the time and could not touch many things. Although she did not find her studies difficult because their teachers helped them.
When we asked how Nishai’s family dealt with her absence she told us while her mother really missed her, she was glad her daughter did not have to study alone, even though her mother was not working and she was at home.
Since each student received a computer or a smart phone, every student was able to participate in their studies especially those who could only connect remotely. At Kanot they made sure that each student was equipped with the necessary technology and when the girls were asked how their studies went they said their studies went even better.
Some students did not have computers. To resolve this problem everyone from Kanot called on family and friends to ask people to contribute even old computers. Luckily, or rather by great determination, the technician in Kanot fixed them as Eli said ‘magically’. They were able to restore 25 computers to work as good as new. We asked if the students get to keep their computers during year and we were told that they do.
Almost all the students who live at Kanot, 305 of them, have returned, except for 15 whose parents are still anxious about the possible exposure to Covid-19.
At Kanot everyone is wearing a mask all day, students and teachers, and luckily no one has contracted Covid-19. Unfortunately two other youth villages did and they had to close.
When we asked what makes Kanot special, Nishai replied that everyone is her friend and it feels like being with family.
Shirli asked Eli to describe how they managed in the last two months with the difficulties brought on by the Covid-19 crisis.
First the students were sent home after Purim when the government decided that all school were to close. Almost all the students went home as a result.
The agricultural responsibilities were managed by the few students and designated counsellors who remained. Even those counsellors who did not stay at Kanot were paid. We can see the great care that is offered to support students and staff alike, which is truly exceptional.
Furthermore the counsellors connected with all students for 3 hours a day via Zoom. They began connecting with students every second day. When for some students for whom Zoom was difficult they used WhatsApp chat video. We realize just how responsive and caring the school was and continues to be.
The first assignment at the school was for the counsellors to connect with and assess each student’s well-being every second day.
Rather than interacting with 30 students for their group work as they used to do, they divided them into groups of 8-10 and this was the beginning of engaging with the students.
Eli said their second assignment was to help families who needed financial assistance. These parents’ economics circumstances were very difficult, however, very quickly they became comfortable enough to share that they needed food. The school asked the counsellors to help get food to the students who lived close to Kanot. To do this Kanot opened their kitchen sent food from the kitchen.
Those students who were too far away to receive food were sent money.
By now many of us had tears in our eyes at the both the efforts made and the generosity received.
The third assignment was to manage the crisis to help those students who did not have families to back them financially. These students were given a modest sum of 200 shekels a month so they could buy food, like a falafel, with the aim of helping them feel self-respect and maintain their self-confidence.
Those students from the 12th grade who had no contact at all with their families received 700 shekels to support them.
The Kanot staff did what was most important, supporting students and families, and bonded with them even more and by the end of the peak of the corona crisis. Eli feels that the Kanot youth village grew closer as a result of all the support, attention and care that the students received.
On the call Doris rightly expressed that Kanot truly went above and beyond anything expected of a school in support of their students. This is not something we ever heard that was made available to students in need in Canada. The efforts of Kanot school and staff is truly amazing!
We asked how many stayed at Kanot during pandemic. Eli detailed for us that there were three phases in who stayed at the school and how most of the students subsequently returned.
They ‘mapped’ their students so to speak with respect to who should stay at Kanot when the schools were told to close. It was decided that 78 students should stay at Kanot as their families’ circumstances were not secure enough for them to go home. However, only 40 of the 78 students decided to stay.
Eli felt that this was a good sign because their parents preferred to keep their children close to them although they did ask for food and technological support and solutions.
Eli reported how amazed he was with how helpful and responsive people were when they were asked to help. He said there were a lot of very good people.
For the slow reopening the school first had the 40 students, then 20 more and slowly the rest of the student body returned to Kanot. The Education Minister was most keen on making sure that the grades 11 and 12, the graduating class, return and not lose their year.
It is a challenge to maintain social distancing and they had fewer students in the cafeteria at one time, 125 instead of all 600 and even the staff was expected to keep their gathering to a small group.
The sleeping accommodations were also adjusted.
It was very hard to maintain all the regulations, wearing masks and gloves at the beginning and no hugging by staff.
Then after 2 weeks they got the green light to call all the other students back.
Other youth villages also went through the same challenges.
A question was posed regarding racism in Israel with respect to the current climate of global racial tension. Eli acknowledged they have to deal with racism in Israel as well. Eli tries to bridge the racial gaps by bringing the police to talk with the students.
Again Doris and Shirli reiterated how very special we feel Kanot is in supporting the students as Eli most humbly sent his gratitude and virtual hugs as a farewell.
And Shirli thanked Na’amat Canada for literally saving lives of students facing the most severe cases. While Eli tried to downplay how special Kanot is both Shirli and Doris would not allow Eli to downplay how very special Kanot has been throughout the Covid crisis.
In Israel currently all schools are open and the principals are given the opportunity to manage how to organize the shifts in classes - some attending in the morning and some in the afternoon, also the use of smaller classrooms along with the use of outside spaces too, but it is a difficult situation.
Even if most of the students are fine but one person tests positive everyone has to be in self isolation for a while.
But all Na’amat technological schools are open and without any cases of Covid-19. Still many students did not return to schools
Some students did not return to school because they had to work, as their families need the money. For these students who need to work they had the teachers connect with them and tried to teach them at night but students are tired by then.
For all this extra teaching the teachers do not get extra pay. However, the students graduating are very motivated
The Day Care Centres
For the day care centres also these are not normal times. They have what they call the “corona routine”. Not all children have come back into the day care centre, also some day care workers have not returned.
When the children are dropped off the parents do not enter, only kids do. They use a lot of disinfectants as well as take temperature of the children regularly.
Shirli said they are hoping more children will return to the day care centres.
Caregivers also are asked to gather in smaller groups when they have their breaks.
Managing the Multipurpose Day Care Centres for children at risk is also very difficult.
The Glickman Counselling Centre for Family Violence Prevention:
Na'amat Israel wanted women to know about the Glickman hot line for services and support. To that end, Na’amat launched a campaign a few days ago. A video was created to promote their services which were paid for by Histardut. This video details the violence against women which were played on TV, radio and advertised in the newspaper. Click here to see the video. This way the Glickman Counselling Centre has great exposure for their services.
They have a hot line and now more women know about Glickman Counselling Centre where they receive hundreds of calls from women. This is due to the very bad situation in the homes. They had a demonstration against the violence against women and Na’amat was prominently participating in it. As it stands the Glickman Counselling Centre is operating their hot line 24/7.
It is a relief to know that there are no cases of corona at the Glickman Centre.
The calls for the legal centres are also increasing daily. Many of these calls are about labour laws. After the immediate work stoppage many women are fired instead of being taken back to work. Even though they are not allowed to be fired, the employers disregard the law. The women, even those who are pregnant, are counselled and supported so they can return to work.
Older people are afraid something will happen to them, and they are asking about power of attorney.
Also with the divorce cases there are legal issues regarding child custody and all this is difficult and the enquiries are all increasing.
Na’amat is responding to the most urgent needs as there are many concerns at this time.
Most of the planned summer renovations had to be postponed. However the Kanot dormitory renovations are ongoing all the time. Renovations for the middle school work will be starting in September.