When designing this year’s first summer camp for children of the asylum-seeking community, Kessem Adiv said that, even though the camp was for eleven middle-school students, she put a lot of thought into making it for the parents as well. Having previously worked in the refugee department at the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants, she knew that adults in the community often feel alone and as if nobody thinks of them. Making sure that it was clear someone was concerned about them and their children was part of Kessem’s goal for the summer.
Before the camp began, she tried to make parents as involved as possible. She met with them and asked them about their expectations. While the camp was happening three days a week in July, she called a child’s parents if she thought the student had had a tough day.
“For them it means a lot that their kids are having these experiences,” she said. “It means a lot that someone thinks about their kids.”
As she designed the summer camp, Kessem kept in mind that these asylum-seeking children have fewer opportunities than Israeli children, which motivated her to make each activity as exciting and as special as possible. Working with friends she has all over Jerusalem, she managed to design a camp with a wealth of activities: a carpenter’s workshop, horseback riding, rock climbing, outdoor leadership ropes courses, swimming, hiking through a stream, visiting a kibbutz, the zoo, the aquarium and the Israel Museum. In addition to visiting exhibits and learning about the places they went, Kessem’s students had the opportunity to do things with their hands—they painted, built wooden stools and made crafts and food. By giving her students these chances, Kessem said she knew that each activity was, for most of them, the first time they were experiencing it.
“I know that every experience they had will be unforgettable,” she said.
In her time working with refugees at JACC and beforehand, at a center in the Negev and at the paralegal hotline, Kessem said this community has changed how she looks at the world. She said she has been impressed watching these people overcome the struggles they face in Israeli society.
Furthermore, she said their ongoing positive attitude changed her perspective. Kessem said she has noticed that, at community meetings, refugees often stress that they think the Israeli people are wonderful, and that it is just their government whose policies they take issue with.
“The fact that they can feel that and not harbor hatred is inspirational for me,” she said. “You can go through such hardships and still be optimistic.”
This coming year, Kessem wants to stay involved in the lives of the children of this community and also get involved with JACC’s paralegal program.
This month, JACC is raising money so that JACC can continue to provide asylum-seeking children with a summer camp that will help them grow and mature. As of now, 65% of the asylum-seeking community’s children in Jerusalem do not receive services from JACC because of limited resources. Help us expand our children’s programming today.
Please donate to our crowdfunding campaign and help us spread the word via email and Facebook.