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Hunger Relief and Welfare Assistance for the Impoverished
The poverty-stricken elderly Jews of the former Soviet Union (FSU) confront unbearable hardships in societies that can do little to help them. Often alone in the world, these Jews must subsist on grossly inadequate pensions that necessitate agonizing choices - paying for food or rent, fuel or medicine. The situation in Moldova is even worse, as an average pension makes 45% of the living wage. Local public social services are not able to provide help. In fact, local welfare centers sponsored through JDC remain a unique solution and way to survival.
To meet this goal JDC developed a network of welfare services that anticipate the essential needs of its aging clientèle, including food packages, meals-on-wheels, medical services and in-house hygienic care.
Funds to cover the enormous cost of this critical program are raised from a variety of sources. Those who suffered from the Nazi depredations are provided with minimal adequate relief thanks to restitution funds, such as those from the Claims Conference and Swiss Banks Settlement. But almost half of the elderly Jews who depend on the help are not Nazi victims. So, the relief they receive must be funded entirely from other, non-restitution sources - of which American Jewish Federations are by far the most important.
Yet non-restitution funds have not kept pace with needs. In fact, for every $2 in restitution funds available for victims' care, welfare centers have only $1 for "non-victims," even though both groups face equally dire conditions. In the face of this shortfall in funding a two-tier system of relief was put into operation, which provides Holocaust victims with adequate (though basic) care, but which can offer non-victims significantly less - and offer some no help at all. Sadly, numerous poverty-stricken elderly in Moldova have already felt the effects of curtailed funding, sometimes in the form of smaller food packages, sometimes in the form of decreased home care hours, vital as they are. Since 2005, welfare centers in Moldova are forced to introduce partial payment for the services.
The budget for welfare relief in 2005 was comprised of expenses for:
• Food packages for poverty stricken pensioners and supermarket sets for elderly poor
• Home care, including hygienic care, for homebound and/or bedridden elderly
• Medical consultations to ailing individuals and medications for aging individuals
• Winter relief, in the form of heating fuel, blankets, and winter clothing, to enable pensioners to survive the bitter winter months
The Jewish elderly of Moldova need a funding commitment of $175,000 (per annum) to maintain the life-saving services to non-Nazi victims in Moldova, thereby ensuring sustenance and dignity for this vulnerable population.
The Mazal Tov program for pre-school age children has been working for several years in Kishinev. The program provides material assistance to young families in the purchase of necessary items for newly born babies, baby carriages, cribs, etc. In addition, classes on child development and young parents' education have been organized. Currently there are over 300 children under five years old registered in the database of the Jewish community of Moldova. At present the Mazal Tov Program covers only a third of them.
The Jewish Community is seeking a funding commitment of $20,000 annually for developing new programs and expanding existing programs for families with pre-school children in order to provide them with material assistance and to deepen their involvement in community life.
After-School Program Centers for Jewish Children
Child neglect after school remains a crucial social problems. Parents are not at home as they work for many hours trying to earn money to support the family. The criminal environment of cities and towns in Moldova and Transdniestria makes such situations dangerous for the growing generation. One solution is the creation of after-school centers in the Jewish communities. Children can come to these centers and receive a hot lunch, participate in clubs or workshops activities, and do their homework. Such centers may be established within existing Jewish facilities.
The center's budget is comprised of expenses for:
§ Hot lunches;
§ Teacher and tutor salaries;
§ Purchase of equipment (music centers, TV sets, computers, software, games, etc.).
Such centers are slated to be opened in:
§ Kishinev (60 people);
§ Rybnitsa (20);
§ Beltsy (25);
§ Bendery (20);
§ Tiraspol (25).
The Community is seeking a funding commitment of $50,000 annually to provide a safe and enriching environment for children and youth during after-school hours.
Day Centers for Children
Disabled, homebound children are deprived of normal communication with other children. Special Day Centers for children aim at solving this problem. Plans are underway to open such Centers in Kishinev, Rybnitsa, Bendery and Beltsy, and to expand the existing Center in Tiraspol.
These estimates make necessary a funding commitment of $32,000 annually to create a program for enriching the lives of disabled Jewish children by involving them in Jewish communal activities. A day-long visit by a child to the Day Center is made possible with $15.
Summer and Winter Children's Retreats
Due to the poor health and isolation of children in homes, such retreats are essential for the natural healthy development of the child. They provide children with nutritious food, fresh air, outdoor activities and social contact with children of the same age - all taking place in a Jewish environment.
The present low incomes here mean that many Jewish families are unable to provide such conditions for their children. Even more, the former communist public system of children's recreation sites is practically destroyed in Moldova. Private holiday resorts charge more than a vast majority of families can afford. Thus, children from numerous Jewish families do not have a chance to spend their holidays outside the city.
The need for children's retreats exists in three regions of Moldova:
§ Kishinev and its periphery;
§ Northern Moldova (Beltsy and its periphery);
§ Transdniestria (Tiraspol, Bendery, Rybnitsa).
A funding commitment of $50,000 annually for summer and winter retreats is required.A gift of $6,000 would fund a week-long summer/winter retreat for 100 children.
Cultural Events for Jewish Children
Since the beginning of the «Let My Children Grow» project in 2002, there have been cultural events for Jewish holidays. They were organized for children from all regions of Moldova. For the majority it is a unique opportunity - often a single chance to visit the circus or theater. Generally, the lack of money in the families robs these children of such events and experiences.
A funding of $5,000 annually covers organization of at least three events a year for a hundred of children.
Jewish Family Retreats
A crucial social and economic situation and extensive migration to Israel, Europe, and the USA from Moldova has resulted in the destruction of family ties.
Various Jewish communal activities attempt to re-establish friendly connections on the family level. The involvement of Jewish families in summer retreats proved to be a most effective measure. It is noteworthy to mention a successful collaboration of Beltsy's Jewish community with the Greensboro Jewish Federation from North Carolina (USA) in organizing an annual retreat.
Two family retreats per year are needed, each for about 150 people.
Developing and enriching this program that aims at uniting and strengthening the links among Jewish families in Moldova will require a funding commitment of $20,000 annually.
Cultural Programs and Tours
Cultural life was highly developed under the Soviet regime with many theaters, concerts and plays. Unfortunately, since the fall of Communism there is no outlet for rich and ever-growing local Jewish musical talent. Extravagant as it may seem, these cultural programs reach out and attract numerous community members who would not otherwise attend the synagogue or the JCC. These events facilitate searching for Jewish identity and offer a spiritual path to Judaism in the way that other programs fail to achieve.
There are many creative groups in the Jewish community of Moldova in the field of dance, singing, theater, etc. Community members of all generations take part in these activities. Being highly professional, some of these amateur troupes have won international acclaim.
A funding commitment of $30,000 annually is needed to promote tours of local Jewish cultural groups that will spread Jewish light and song to other communities in the FSU.
Computer Classes for Children and Teenagers
There are basic computer classes offered in Kishinev, Tiraspol and Beltsy. It is important to create similar classes in Rybnitsa and Bendery and upgrade the existing equipment in Tiraspol.
Local communities are a seeking a onetime funding of $30,000 to set up more computer classes in Jewish community centers in Moldova.
After-School Program Centers for Jewish Children
Child neglect after school remains a serious social problem. Parents work long hours to earn daily bread and street culture with its criminal environment is dangerous for the growing kids left alone. In After-School Program Centers children can receive hot lunches, participate in club activities, and do their homework.
Funding of $50,000 is needed to establish five Centers – one in each of five main cities – each to serve 130 kids.
Food assistance will remain the most essential kind of help to the needy Jewish families of Moldova. A $12 food package with basic products can support a child over the course of a month.
In the years to come, unemployment will remain a major social problem in Moldova. Professional retraining seems to be a solution in helping people to find a new source of income for their family’s survival. A gift of $200 would provide an individual with a “fishing rod” – a new chance for his/her family.