On the first of April we were among the organizers of a first conference that dealt with African refugees and asylum seekers in Jerusalem. Last week, on May 27, we continued the learning, with a tour of organizations and institutions in Tel Aviv which are dedicated to helping these populations. There were 26 participants, who covered a wide range of professions – welfare office, well-baby clinics, public health, education, community workers, volunteers, NGO’s, and interested residents who wish to volunteer in the field. The tour included a visit to Mesila, a help and information center for the foreign population, operated by the Tel Aviv Municipality. There, participants heard a survey of the situation of the foreign population in Israel – data, problems, how they live, education of the children, and more. The group split up into tracks, and some took a tour of the central bus station and Neve Sha’anan, areas with large concentrations of refugees and asylum seekers. Here, life has been adapted to its inhabitants, with many stores and restaurants boasting signs in many languages besides Hebrew and English.
Participants were also able to choose to go to a number of different places – Unitaf, grassroots organization that operates a network of day care frameworks for both younger and older children; ‘Babysitter’ a private kindergarten for the refugee population; The Garden Library for the Migrant Communities and Neighborhoods of South Tel Aviv, which is located in the Lewinsky Park – a community center for the refugee population that includes classes for adults, activities for children and cultural activities; children at risk – a meeting with the team head of the children at risk section of Mesila – ways to treat and prevent the phenomenon, and parents classes.
Participants also met with an asylum seeker who lives in Jerusalem, who told of the differences between the community in Jerusalem and the community in Tel Aviv. This includes – fewer in numbers, fewer services available, less crime. At the same time, his description in many ways mirrored the stereotypical description of the Jerusalem population – more serious, they care for and organize child care solutions amongst themselves, and more.
We continued to provide more education for both professionals who care for asylum seekers in Jerusalem and asylum seekers themselves. On June 1, Michal, the coordinator of the refugee and asylum seeker hotline, is giving a talk, with translation into Tigrit, to mothers at the well-baby clinic in the Mahane Yehuda market. The lecture will include explanations on immunizations, healthy snack and diet, and more. There were lots of women at the event (in the families, many of the mothers stay home to take care of the children), and they asked for more of these types of lectures and workshops. We’ll keep you posted.