22 August 2008 World ORT supports poorer students World ORT has distributed more than $300,000-worth of aid to some of the poorest high school students in Israel aid that is not only saving some students from abandoning their education, it is also fostering ties of friendship with Israels non-Jewish communities. This, the seventh phase of Kadima Mada World ORTs programme raising educational standards at more than 30 school campuses across the country has seen vouchers for spectacles, uniforms, sports shoes, stationery and text books distributed to 18 schools. The companies from which World ORT bought the vouchers Optika Halperin, H&O, Kravitz and Tsomet Sefarim each contributed money or additional vouchers to significantly boost the amount of aid given. One of the recipients at my school is a 10th grade boy, an orphan who lives with his uncle, said Jalal Hamdi, principal at the Arab Shfaram High School in the Galilee. Unfortunately the uncle doesnt support him. The student worked last summer in order to buy text books, pens, paper and other necessities but couldnt make enough money to cover all his needs and was thinking of leaving school. When I gave him the vouchers from World ORT he started crying and threw his arms around me in gratitude. He has now decided to stay in school. Rajach Gadban, high school principal in the Druze town of Horfesh, said the benefits extended beyond the classroom. One of my 11th grade pupils was arguing with his parents because they didnt buy him the text books he needed, Mr Gadban said. The vouchers provided the means by which he could get the books and so restored peace in his home; and now that the student has returned to a proper relationship with his parents he is better able to understand their difficulty in helping him. Not only that, the fact that such help was coming from a Jewish organisation was a sign of friendship between communities. These vouchers are a sign of the sincerity of a Jewish organisation which wants to help the Druze and strengthen their belonging to the State of Israel, Mr Gadban said. Mr Hamdi added: We feel great to have received this help, we feel supported and heard. The fact that World ORT is Jewish gives us the feeling that we are not only cousins but brothers. Most of the recipient schools have an entirely, or mostly, Jewish student roll but the ramifications of World ORTs policy of helping all Israeli citizens regardless of ethno-religious background are potentially immense, said the Head of the World ORT Representative Office in Israel, Rony Kalinsky. Through Kadima Mada, World ORT has brought cutting edge technology to dozens of schools that would otherwise have waited years for it with generations of students missing out on the advantages it brings, Mr Kalinsky said. But of what good is that if students from the most vulnerable sectors of our population have to leave the education system while their friends benefit And of what good is it if the society into which are students graduate is fractured World ORT is about providing opportunity and creating hope and nobody needs that more than the poorest members of society. But we are also about tolerance and respect, which are things that benefit us all. This is not the first time that World ORT has provided such vouchers for needy students in Israel. Last year, some NIS 1.5 million-worth of vouchers were distributed to 17 schools. Some 4,000 students at Kadima Mada schools have been identified as being in urgent need of assistance in order to continue their studies, said Sherrie Gazit, World ORTs Projects Manager in Israel. Some of these students are from single-parent households, some have parents who are unemployed or underemployed, and still others are experiencing crises that have disrupted family income such as death or serious illness. Other beneficiaries include new immigrants from Ethiopia, youth on the Naale programme who arrive alone in Israel from the Former Soviet Union, and members of families which have found it difficult to make a living since being forcibly removed from Gaza. Voucher recipients are selected by teachers and counsellors at the schools who are not only familiar with each students needs but are able to have a close and supportive relationship with each one of them. The students are not made to feel as if they are charity cases but rather that the programme is a natural continuation of other school activities. This has a great effect on the students self-confidence and self-image and usually works to strengthen the ties between the student, the family and the school, Ms Gazit said.