COMMUNITY POVERTY RELIEF – HEALTH
People living on or below the poverty line often have significant health issues. Our goal is to help reduce the negative impact of poverty on health in our local community.
MOBILE JEWISH RESPONSE TO THE HOMELESS (MJRH)
In 1996 Ve’ahavta launched its Mobile Jewish Response to the Homeless van outreach project in partnership with Na-Me-Res, the Native Men’s Residence. In 2001, Ve’ahavta began operating the vans independently three shifts per week. Beginning in January 2010, we sent out volunteer and logistical teams on two vans for a total of seven shifts per week. In 2009, we served 4,369 clients with services including food and drink, essential clothing, hygiene supplies, and various referrals to self-improvement and counselling facilities. In 2010, 538 volunteers served 7,624 clients. That is a 75% increase of clients served! To find out about volunteer information, click here.
Ve’ahavta hosts community dinners once a month for the homeless at Evangel Hall Mission and Parkdale Activity Recreation Centre where up to 120 participants receive a warm and nutritious dinner. A volunteer team leader is chosen to bring together family, friends, and colleagues to provide a valuable volunteer experience and a welcoming environment for those they serve. At each of these dinners volunteers have the opportunity to interact with the homeless and get to know participants on a more personal level than they could in any other setting.The Ve’ahavta expansion plan for the Community Dinners Project will include two additional partners in the downtown core and one kosher community dinner partner. To find out about volunteer information, click here.
Ve’ahavta introduced our annual Community Passover Seder in 1999.This annual event provides a wide range of marginalized people and members of the Jewish community with the opportunity to share this unique Jewish experience, actualizing the mitzvah “let all who are hungry come and eat.”This year 40 volunteers will prepare a meal for 150 of Ve’ahavta’s clients.Together they will celebrate the Jewish holiday of freedom by recounting the story of the Exodus from Egypt as explained in the Passover Haggadah. To find out about volunteer information, click here.
TNT BREAKFAST CLUB
In 2010, in partnership with The New Trend (TNT),Ve’ahavta launched its first Breakfast Club Project for at-risk youth in the downtown core. The club runs once per week and to date has served over 700 students a healthy breakfast that enables them to attend school with a full stomach and a clear mind. In 2011, we have increased the frequency of the breakfast clubs and the number of students served.
COMMUNITY POVERTY RELIEF – EDUCATION
Access to education has long been considered an important vehicle for poverty alleviation. Ve’ahavta is committed to empowering clients through education, which is rooted in the Jewish value of the power of learning to transform and improve lives.
VE’AHAVTA STREET ACADEMY
The Ve’ahavta Street Academy (VSA) is an eight-week program, in partnership with George Brown College, for people that live on or near the streets of Toronto. VSA helps marginalized individuals access education as a means to becoming self-sustainable. The Street Academy is designed to motivate and empower students to explore education as a way out of poverty or off the street. We believe that post-secondary education in a city such as Toronto opens the door for the future. A supplementary income is included as a means to overcome barriers and provide an opportunity for inclusiveness. VSA offers life skills, diversity training, conflict resolution training, communication skills, educational lectures and a complete career evaluation.
THE CREATIVE WRITING CONTEST
The Creative Writing Contest gives the homeless the opportunity to improve their writing skills and to share their stories in order to gain confidence through the experience of interactive creative writing workshops and a Coffee House Event, where the winners provide a live reading of their personal stories.This writing contest provides hundreds of clients each year with a chance to express themselves, nurture their gifts and talents, and clarify who they are, where they come from and where they might go. The annual Creative Writing Contest for the Homeless has been operational since 2001. In 2010, the contest was expanded to include participants from Vancouver, and in 2011 it expanded to Halifax as well. We will continue to expand the project to include participants from cities across Canada.
Kinder Kits are packs of essential school supplies that are distributed through partner agencies to children living on or below the poverty line. To date we have distributed 5,500 Kinder Kits in Toronto alone. The Kinder Kit Project teaches the concept of tikun olam to individual volunteers, schools, community groups and corporations alike. Volunteers participate in preparing and delivering the Kinder Kits while being introduced to the realities of poverty and its impact on education.
THE LITA AND MIKEY HOMEWORK CLUBS
In 1999, Ve’ahavta launched our Newcomers Homework Club at Regent Park. The program was designed to provide free access to enriched educational tools for low-income immigrant families. The Homework Club is now in its eleventh year with 24 volunteers and 45 learners in the program.
INTERNATIONAL VOLUNTEER PLACEMENT SCHOLARSHIPS
Volunteerism is a primary component of Ve’ahavta’s core values. Volunteering is the most fundamental act of citizenship and philanthropy in our society. It is offering time, energy and skills of one’s own free will. By caring and contributing to change, volunteers decrease suffering and disparity, while they gain skills, self-esteem and change their lives. People work to improve the lives of others and, in return, enhance their own.
Ve’ahavta is committed to increasing the number of international volunteer placements. Through donations Ve’ahavta offers subsidies to volunteers. These subsidies will offset the costs faced by volunteers and provide incentives to commit to mid and long-term placements. These subsidies will also make international placements accessible to people who otherwise could not afford the expense of such an opportunity, such as students, lower income individuals, and marginalized groups.
INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT – HEALTH & EDUCATION
Ve’ahavta is committed to international development through health and educational initiatives. New partnerships are continually being forged while educational opportunities for volunteers continue to grow.
Ve’ahavta is preparing to enter into the third year of the Br’iut (Health) Program in Guyana. Bri’ut is a health promotion program funded by the Canadian Auto Workers Social Justice Fund. Ve’ahavta facilitates the placement of graduate-level public health students for four months with a local Amerindian community partner. The placements are intended to support community-based development of new health promotion programs, while strengthening the capacity of local health care workers and community based health educators to support programs which encourage healthy behavior changes at the local level. Bri’ut activities have included:
- Supporting the local health care worker in the community clinic;
- Supporting weekly diabetes workshops in the regional hospital;
- Developing a comprehensive network of regional and nationally based health promotion practitioners and agencies;
- Working closely with regional health care workers to increase their awareness and utilization of health promotion practice.
- Launching a local girls’ club which focused on health issues and self esteem for adolescent girls;
- Developing a proposal for the distribution of “Baby Starter Kits” for moms and babies in partnership with Food for the Poor Guyana;
- Facilitating a homework club program;
- Organizing a regional health promotion conference;
- Supporting the activities of the local health clinic.
Israel – Ve’ahavta has worked on health and education initiatives in Israel since 2003.
Haiti – Ve’ahavta has partnered with the House of Hope Orphanage since 2010 to provide Kinder Kits as well as support educational and vocational training programs. Ve’ahavta also partners with Food for the Poor Canada and Canadian Feed the Children to support education and community development programs in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake.
Zimbabwe – Ve’ahavta has worked in Zimbabwe since 1998. Ve’ahavta has implemented two CIDA-based medical research based projects focusing on reducing the transmission of HIV/AIDS from mother to child. Ve’ahavta continues to facilitate volunteer placements at the Salvation Army Howard Hospital, as well as work with partner agencies to provide medical supplies and equipment. Ve’ahavta has provided over $1,000,000 in aid to Zimbabwe.
Ethiopia/Rwanda – Ve’ahavta has supported health and educational initiatives in Ethiopia and Rwanda since 2010, in partnership with Kulam. Projects have included the building of new potable water wells and water filter systems, providing life-saving medications, spinal and heart surgeries for children in need, and rebuilding the educational infrastructure to improve their chances for success.
Uganda – The Uganda Spine Surgery Mission pairs North American and Ugandan medical experts to provide the best possible spine care to Ugandan patients afflicted by infectious, degenerative, traumatic and congenital spinal ailments. In 2012, the Uganda Charitable Spine Surgery Mission brought together 13 members from the United States, Poland and Canada. Over the duration of the 2 week mission the team evaluated 67 patients, operated on 12 patients, delivered over $250,000 in medications and supplies to Mulago Hospital, Case Medical Center, the Putti Village, and touched the lives of countless of Ugandans directly, and indirectly. It is with great excitement and anticipation that the Mission continues to flourish on the already established foundation to create lasting and sustainable change in the state of spine care in Uganda. Ve’ahavta has provided volunteer scholarships since 2011 to support the participation of one medical student per year.
Education is the primary vehicle by which economically and socially marginalized children can lift themselves out of poverty and obtain the means to participate fully in their communities.
Ve’ahavta launched the Kinder Kit Project in 2009 to provide educational supplies to children in need at home and abroad. These kits contain the supplies necessary for a child’s academic year. Without the proper tools to learn, a child’s chance at success is dramatically decreased. Many families cannot afford the costs associated with attending school, such as purchasing school supplies. These kits will relieve one of the family’s financial obstacles of providing their children with the education needed to battle poverty. To date we have distributed over 26,500 Kinder Kits internationally through our international distribution partners in Israel, Haiti, Poland, Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka, Niger, and Kenya.
Ve’ahavta is committed to a formalized approach to international crisis response as a core part of tikun olam. Ve’ahavta is a member of the Jewish Coalition for Disaster Relief, a coalition of aid organizations which functions as a coordinating body in times of crisis to share information, share information, best practices, and determine how to allocate shared resources in times of international crisis.
HAITI – Following the earthquake in January 2010, which left three hundred thousand dead, half a million homeless, and countless buildings, homes, and livelihoods shattered, Canadians donated $228,000 to the Ve’ahavta Haiti Crisis Fund. Donations were immediately allocated to help facilitate the shipment of food, shelter, education, and medical aid, as well as implementing relief efforts on the ground. Support was provided to:
• Seven Haiti-based NGOs, providing basic necessities of life including the House of Hope (HoH) Orphanage • Eight Canadian, Israeli, and American NGOs including Health Partners International of Canada, The Israel Trauma Coalition, Magen David Adom, International Rescue Committee, The National Association of Jewish Chaplains, Afya Foundation, Food for the Poor Canada, and Canadian Feed the Children • Four medical volunteers who provided relief in the aftermath of the earthquake Ve’ahavta continues to provide on-going support in food, shelter, education, medical aid and volunteers to the people of Haiti.
JAPAN – Ve’ahavta has raised $20,000 for victims of the April 2011 earthquake in Japan. Funds have been distributed through the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and the Jewish Coalition for Disaster Relief in support of food and water distribution programs, emergency shelter, and psychosocial programs.
HAIFA – Ve’ahavta raised $20,000 to support emergency feeding programs for those affected by the fire in Haifa in 2010. Funds were distributed through Hazon Yeshaya Humanitarian Network to support feeding programs for victims affected by the fire, post trauma intervention programs implemented by the Israel Trauma Coalition, as well as the burn unit at Rambam Hospital.
PHILIPPINES – Super Typhoon Megi made landfall in the northern Philippines on October 18, 2010 battering coastal villages in the Isabela and Cagayan Provinces. The impact on livelihoods has been severe. Through Save the Children, Ve’ahavta contributed $1,200 to support local initiatives.
PAKISTAN – The 2010 Pakistan floods began in late July 2010, resulting from heavy monsoon rains and affected the Indus River basin. Ve’ahavta raised and donated $15,000 to support the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee’s local partners to provide emergency shelter, food, fuel, and water.