“These are new? And you’re leaving them here with us?” the kids asked with sheer wonder in their eyes. We had brought them board games—dozens of our favorite ones so there would be enough for the 280 at-risk and orphaned kids who live there. They were ecstatic. You’d think we had bought them computers and Nike shoes.
While I Stand With Israel helps strengthen believers in a variety of ways, caring for widows and orphans is at the core of why ISWI was established. As such, we are always looking for opportunities to serve the underprivileged in Israel. So, when hospital visits were out because of COVID restrictions, we found the Children’s Village that welcomed our group visits with open arms.
This Children’s Village was first established in 1943 to help care for those separated from their family or orphaned in the Holocaust. It has expanded since, adding an emergency shelter for women, a crisis center for teen girls, a counseling center for at-risk families and a dozen family homes that can give personal attention to some of the hardest cases.
When we visited the first time, the principal told us because of COVID and the lockdowns, the kids had not had visitors in over a year. Our team, who had gone up to spend some time and bring some joy, came back both elated and heartbroken. Most of the kids are there by court order—having been pulled out of homes where they were neglected by drug-addicted mothers, abused by alcoholic fathers and even tortured by their own parents. We went to give them love and they had so much more love to give back, thanks in large part to the dedicated caretakers who have made it their life mission to nurse wounded young hearts back to health.
Despite the pain, the success stories that come out of this place are incredibly encouraging. The village boasts a list of thousands of graduates who have gone on to live healthy successful lives including nurses, doctors, teachers and company directors. Most recently they graduated an Ethiopian boy who is now making his way through law school. It’s also not uncommon to have graduates return to work at the village to help heal the next generation of abandoned kids.
“If I had not been brought to this children’s home, you’d be interviewing me in some dark alley somewhere. Instead, I have finished high school, learned how to play an instrument with excellence and have been accepted into the IDF’s prestigious orchestra,” Gabi, also a recent graduate shared.
Quality time is often more valuable to kids than money, so that is why we didn’t just drop off the board games but spent the day between soccer and the Settlers of Catan. As is often the case, we felt like we received more from them than they did from us and are thankful for the open invitation for us to continue to be a part of caring for orphans in a practical way, just like the Lord instructed us.