An employment program in Acre is giving women the chance not only to pursue new job opportunities, but also to fulfill their dreams.The word BeAtzmi, which means “on my own” in Hebrew, took on a new and inspiring meaning in March when 25 single mothers from the BeAtzmi program for employment initiatives in Acre graduated from the course. This is the second year BeAtzmi has worked successfully in Acre, changing the lives of single women, who for the first time in their lives are being offered the chance to pursue their occupational dreams and fulfill themselves on both professional and personal levels. The ceremony took place at a local community center and the audience was filled with the proud family members of the participants: children, parents and siblings. One by one, each woman presented her occupational dream. Most of them were only one step away from meeting their targets. An interesting aspect of this program is the process of true empowerment these individuals undergo. Most of these women became mothers before the age of 20 and were in troubled marriages; they could not even allow themselves to remember their dreams. Participants say that the program has made them better citizens and better parents; they now want their children to have a positive role model. They know that the best way forward is to keep trying hard, not to give up and always continue to pursue their dreams. Several factors enabled the success of this program, a joint venture of UJA Federation of Greater Toronto as part of the Israel Emergency Campaign funds, Strauss Group, the Ministry for the Development of the Negev and Galilee and the Acre municipality. Providing new skills Firstly, it provides its participants with employability skills. Additionally, deeply committed staff members, a coordinator and a professional mentor, provide the main pillars of success. The program also provides close follow-up and personal coaching, which have proven to be very effective. BeAtzmi works in full cooperation with the Acre municipality and their partnership is very strong, to the point that the program’s staff works hand in hand with the municipality. The BeAtzmi women’s group was appreciative of the support it received. The participants felt that this was the first time in their lives when someone believed in them enough to give them a chance. So many of the personal stories were fascinating, but there is one that stood out in particular for me. Ayala, a single woman with one child, worked cleaning houses all of her adult life. Several years ago, she lost her spouse when he died of cancer. More than ever, life seemed hopeless to Ayala and her son. She was encouraged to move to Australia where her sister lives, but after almost a year, she returned home because, as she admits: “I realized that I merely took all of my problems with me, and I saw that there was no benefit to being in a different geographic location.” Education and empowerment Upon returning to Israel, she learned that her other sister had participated in BeAtzmi the year before. Seeing the impact of the program on her sister, she was determined to join too. Ayala’s dream was always to become a beautician, but she did not know how to go about achieving this dream. The BeAtzmi workshops helped Ayala regain her self-confidence, an important part of becoming empowered, and, step-by-step, she is now undergoing professional training. At this point, reaching her occupational dream has become realistic. Following Ayala’s emotional presentation, her son jumped up to hug her, and her mother, who was in the crowd, silently cried tears of joy. Ayala says: “BeAtzmi gave me a chance I never thought I would have in my life: to be a happy, fulfilled person who can proudly support my family. I do not want to rely on anyone but myself.” And on a personal note, in my capacity as director of UIA Canada’s Israel Emergency Campaign, I have had the privilege to occasionally take part in BeAtzmi’s meetings, and I must say that watching the graduation was enlightening. This day and age when so many people are losing jobs – my fellow colleagues in the philanthropic world, people in the high-tech industry, and others – it emphasizes that all of us are vulnerable. And these women, despite the odds, despite their hardships of coming from a low socio-economic background and having to raise children on their own, found it within themselves to take control of their lives and fulfill their dreams.
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