Archive for November, 2015

MiniActive Youth, Striving for Normalcy in Abnormal Times

November 28th, 2015

The past few months have been difficult for us all in Jerusalem, with its uncertainty, violence, increased army and police presence. For the Palestinian population, add to this riots, police raids, roadblocks at entrances to Palestinian neighborhoods that severely limit movement, including extreme difficulty in getting to work or school, especially if they are outside of the neighborhood. In short, life in East Jerusalem these days is quite far from being a bed of roses.

Through it all and despite it all, our MiniActive network for Palestinian women continues to be a ray of light. Throughout the despair, MiniActive continues to empower women to stand up for their rights and create change. Throughout the trials and tribulations of this difficult time, the MiniActive network of women has stayed strong, continuing to fight for cleaner streets and other services, continuing to educate women in practical skills from leadership to the environment to Hebrew language that will help them to gain access to critical services, continuing to provide enrichment activities for its members, from exercise to dessert making (hmm, interesting correlation…) to computers to trips to Acco, Haifa, Tiberias.

MiniActive Facebook campaign - "We don't want to live with garbage!"

MiniActive Facebook campaign – “We don’t want to live with garbage!”

And remarkably, MiniActive Youth  – our new extension for teenage girls from all over East Jerusalem  that meets at the Abna al-Quds Community Center – has continued as well, and flourished. When things really started getting difficult, we thought that this might be time for MiniActive Youth to take a hiatus. “These girls can barely get to school, they can barely get out of their neighborhoods,” we thought. “How can they come from all over to Abna al-Quds?”

Group at Abna al-Quds Community Center

Group at Abna al-Quds Community Center

But in fact, they came, and they continue to come. Despite all the logistical challenges. Despite the fact that they are girls, which means they are traditionally considered weak and ones who must be looked after, making it more likely that their families would not allow them to leave their neighborhoods. MiniActive Youth symbolized for them a structure that they yearned for. It symbolized a state of normalcy that they craved. It was empowering them to be able to change at least their immediate surroundings and beyond – and because of that, they continued to come. We have a total of 25 teenage girls, from neighborhoods that include: Issawiya, Wadi Joz, Ras el-Amud, the Old City, Silwan, Abu  Tor, Kufr Aqeb. They’ve already participated in a 6-session leadership course, where they learned how to plan and lead activities, follow-up, interpersonal communication, and more. Just this last week, they began a Hebrew course, to be given at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

In class

In class

They will also take part in a course on the environment, and are working on a gardening project, in Abna al-Quds’ community garden. The theme – “Let’s eat locally” – growing vegetables in the garden. We’ll save you some cucumbers.

Working in the garden

Working in the garden

Many thanks to the Jerusalem Foundation and its donors for its ongoing support of this program.

Toward Culturally Competent Employment Training and Placement

November 17th, 2015

Cultural competency affects us all, nearly everywhere – in the health care system, in the welfare system, in the education system, and more. Issues related to cultural competency also come into play in employment training and placement, and we are proud to be a part of change in the system.

Be-Atzmi workshop

Be-Atzmi workshop

On November 10 we held an all-day seminar for the Be-Atzmi organization, which assists thousands of unemployed and underprivileged men and women every year to integrate, on their own, into stable and appropriate workforce opportunities. Since Be-Atzmi often works with populations on the geographic and socio-economic periphery – including Israelis of Ethiopian descent, the Ultra-Orthodox, and Arab populations – a culturally competent approach to employment training and placement can be critically important for the program’s successes. Thus, this year the organization dedicated its annual professional development seminar to cultural competency.

More of the workshop

More of the workshop

The seminar was held for all workers who come in contact with clients from throughout the country – some 150 people – and was held at the Academic College of Tel Aviv-Yafo. The day included teaching the different skills required to deal with different issues in a culturally competent manner. These included, for example, cultural objections to going out to work, refreshments during the Muslim month of Ramadan in mixed groups, integrating husbands into decisions, etc. The seminar dealt mainly with ‘personal cultural competence,’ which means how cultural competency affects individual people. For instance, a case worker suggested what seemed to be a perfect job for a Bedouin woman – working as a maid in a hotel. The pay was above minimum wage, the wages included full benefits, and the hotel provided transportation to and from work. The one problem – in Bedouin society, working as a hotel maid is not something ‘good girls’ do. It is considered to be ‘working in the bedroom,’ just one step up from prostitution (!) The solution – all the job seekers must be interviewed to see what kinds of jobs they’d be willing to take, and it must be made sure that cultural and religious norms are not infringed upon.

Participant in workshop

Participant in workshop

Other issues that were discussed were interviews, and the different ‘western codes’ of what is acceptable and not acceptable to say in an interview, being on time, involvement of the husband in decision-making – there is a gap between what the facilitators are used to and what the clients need.

As a result of the positive feedback received by organizers and participants, we will also begin to work with Be-Atzmi in developing their organizational cultural competence as well. This means ensuring that all forms and informative publications and signage be produced in a number of languages to fit the clients’ needs, that different culture’s holidays are respected, etc. In short, it means making sure that the broader picture that is the organization thinks in a culturally competent manner.