One morning this week, as I traveled to work on the Jerusalem light rail, I noticed it was, somehow, even more crowded than usual (which is saying a lot-anyone who has ridden the light rail during rush hour knows how cramped and uncomfortable the ride can be!). Miraculously I somehow managed to find a sole seat and, unable to restrain my curiosity, I started to look around the car, stretching my neck (admittedly a bit nosily) to peek in between train inspectors walking up and down the length of the car to check riders’ Rav Kav passes and passengers of all ages and sizes, some sitting, many standing…I just had to know, what was causing the extra crunch today?
A lively group of about 12 twelve-year-old girls was gathered at the far end of the car. They were laughing and chatting, each one with her small backpack, clearly excited and looking forward to whatever destination they were heading towards. Periodically their chaperone, a teenager doing her best to keep an eye on everyone, called out instructions while checking out the window to watch for their stop. It was obvious the girls were having a great time, trying to contain their excitement and looking forward to whatever was coming next.
I thought about how much fun they were going to have, how many photos they’d take, the memories they’d be making together that they could recall over the next few weeks and during the school year. This must be just one of the outings for camp they’d be going on, in addition to all the other activities they’d be doing.
I thought about one teacher who contacted our office earlier in the week. She hesitated to, but felt she had no choice. Two of her students, one in sixth grade and another in seventh, were the only ones in her classes who couldn’t attend the school camp: days of trips and activities they looked forward to all year. But the cost to take part, 450 NIS, was too expensive for their families. They arrived on the first day of the session regardless, to ask the administration if they could clean the school each day in exchange for permission to attend.
I thought about another family, one with two high school-age daughters who weren’t allowed to attend camp because their family still owed school tuition. I thought about the embarrassment these girls must be experiencing, the disappointment and the feeling of exclusion that would be so hard to bear.
Dejected kids, so unlike those girls on the light rail, excluded from camps and activities that all their friends are attending.
Stressed parents (many of them single mothers) scrambling to find affordable childcare so they can still go out to work, trying to budget for basics especially if they’re earning minimum wage.
Bills skyrocketing at home over the summer for air conditioning (electricity costs are going up next month!), food and other average expenses, including school supplies-just around the corner.
The feeling of isolation and discomfort, as friends and neighbors describe their wonderful summer experiences, when they are trying just to stay functional.
These are the families our Summer Relief Campaign is working to help: 3,500 of them who are struggling to get through the summer months at a dignified level - without a feeling of shame - and with a sense of normality. As an Israeli charity that proactively aims to ease their struggles year round, we’re reaching out to help them through this campaign because we’re aware that the summer, instead of being enjoyable, can be brutal. Tzedaka we raise is helping pay for summer camps, cover utility bills in the home and feed families-in other words, preserve parents' and children's sense of well being.
There is still time to help us help thousands of needy families this summer and make it one full of positive - and dignified - memories. Please join us today!