“CORONA WAS THE LAST THING THEY NEEDED ON THEIR PLATE”
For students who depend on the Boys Town Jerusalem dormitories for refuge from traumatic situations at home, the coronavirus crisis that closed Israeli schools – and dormitories – has been disastrous, reports BTJ social worker Hadas Knopf.
“Our boys desperately need the emotional support, wholesome food, supervision and love that they thrived on at Boys Town. Their parents are barely coping with their own economic and emotional hurdles. Corona was the last thing everyone needed on their plate.”
Hadas cites an increased anxiety pervading among both students and parents. “With unemployment rampant, there’s little food at home and greater tension. Academically, distance-learning is stressful for many students. In homes with only one computer, kids are frequently absent from their online classes and fall behind. Overall, many boys are simply overwhelmed with assignments and they lack encouragement and supervision.”
For BTJ’s social service staff, the alienation forced by the coronavirus poses huge challenges in maintaining contact with needy students. “Home visits are impossible,” Hadas laments, adding that she is quite distressed by being unable to take one student to visit his single mother in the hospital due to the risk of contagion. “It breaks my heart.”
Today, Hadas was mobilizing BTJ staff in aid of Ari, an 8th grade Special Education student, and his brother Yonatan,* a 10th grader. Since their father’s health deteriorated over the past year, the school has made special efforts to help the boys. Now, with no income and massive debts exacerbated by the economic crash, the family is on the verge of financial and emotional ruin. “Ari has regressed and closes himself in his room day and night. Yonatan is fearful and anxious. Despite the hardship, we’re trying to be there for them and many other students in distress. We cannot let this crisis stop us from giving our students the support they need more desperately than ever.”
*Names changed to protect identity