Demonstrating to the world what social impact means, Pitchon Lev
‘Pitchon Lev’ is one of the largest NGOs in Israel helping to break the poverty cycle. Providing direct assistance to 250,000 Israelis every year, an organisation such as this one doesn’t come without a story.
By no means did founder and previous CEO Nissim Zioni come from a wealthy background, yet, later on in life Zioni found himself married with three kids, a radio broadcaster and successful events planner. Upon launching his winter radio show ‘Operation Winter,’ Zioni explains how he met poverty again. A woman of two approached him in tears, “save us from death, my two children haven’t eaten in two days.” This mother of two “tore my heart with her story and made me change my entire life.” Zioni proceeded to leave everything and dedicate his life to stopping poverty in Israel.
In 1998, Pitchon Lev was born with a clear goal of breaking the poverty cycle. Current CEO Eli Cohen lays out the structure of the organisation, “There are really three areas of Pitchon Lev, immediate assistance, long range and strategic range.” In the first area, the needy receive aid in forms of food, baby food, household utensils, clothing, footwear, electrical appliances, legal and medical advice and even hairdressing services. Chen Zanzuri a volunteer at Pitchon Lev for over 8 years explains they give haircuts, “so they look like they’ve been to the best hair salon in Tel Aviv!” Like every good hair salon, they get to know their clients, “one woman told me her family of five are living off 5000nis a month ($1400).”
After three years of taxing fertility treatment, Meytal and her husband were blessed with a boy. They also found themselves in bankruptcy. Her struggles intensified when her son grew up calling her ‘dummy’ and ‘stupid,’ words learnt from Meytal’s now ex-husband. Looking for a job for over six-months she explains, “my sweater is from Pitchn Lev, which isn’t a coincidence, 90% is from them.” Meytal expresses her deep gratitude to Pitchon Lev’s weekly food package, clothes, baby stroller and more.
In their ‘Strategic Range’ area, Pitchon Lev act as a national humanitarian umbrella assisting 42-non-profit organisations helping soup kitchens, senior citizen centres, orphanages, shelters municipalities and more. They aim to distribute food through these mediums with the help of their team of volunteers who work at the aid centres. Pitchon Lev strategically work with tens of international leadership and Jewish youth movements allowing them to volunteer on trips and in general. The last aspect of their strategic approach is lobbying in the Kennest on behalf on the needy in Israel.
Arguably more important than their nation-level distributions are their programmes which positively attempt to break the poverty cycle. Since 2004, under the supervision of the Ministry of Education and in conjunction with the Tel Aviv University, ‘Program 7’ and ‘Touching the Horizon’ was established for youth who have ‘the will’ and ‘talent’ but need to support to realise them. Over seven years a young person will enter the programme at 10th grade and along with a mentor and a group of similar students will develop skills such as self-awareness, creating positive self-image, leadership skills, social responsibility and much more. Ela Slomkovitz a programme director of seven explains, “Students inherit the DNA of Pitchon Lev of asking, what is my role in the world and how will it allow me to give to others.”
The seven programme and the mentors will help prepare the final year high-school participants for the next step of life, their army service. They will share their anxieties, hopes and dreams and gain practical skills to how to integrate into their new setting. The next four years includes on-going support and care whilst in the army and a year afterwards where their mentors and team help them to reintegrate into civil life. Prof. Izhar Oplatka of Tel Aviv University shares his experience of the participants, “one boy told me if it wasn’t for Pitchon Lev, today, I would either be a criminal or a drug addict, another told me their mentor was my “angel.”
Pitchon Lev’s full range of aid is beyond the scope of this article, from their recycling centres’ to their academic studies of successful results of the seven programme, their family discount stores and all the personal stories. Without a doubt, Pitchon Lev are driving Israel into a future of no poverty, flawlessly promoting the SDGs’ 1st goal and inspiring the world whilst doing it.
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