Home again

January 10, 2019

I walked into the office today and everyone asked me about my trip. I had many things to share, but in the back of my mind, I thought about how often so many people that I cross paths with take for granted the life they have.

 

I am grateful for what I have and I try very hard to never lose perspective.

 

I live in a beautiful town, I have three children that I adore and a wonderfully supportive husband. I own a lovely home and a brand-new car. My kids all went to great schools and attend or have attended college. I am quite frugal compared to most of my contemporaries, but I know for sure that I spend more than $200 a year on my children’s necessities. 

 

Each day when I go to work, I am grateful that I work for an organization that helps others. I believe that all of us at Federation share this sentiment.

 

OK, where is this leading? We try at Federation to do more than just ask for money. But unfortunately, it is a lot of what we do. But as our CEO, David Weisberg, always reminds us, we are not asking for money for ourselves, but money to help others.  We send out mailers or have events where we talk about the organizations we support. We try to convey their needs.

 

So here is one story I shared when I got back.

 

We visited with Beit Singer in Afula, a residential campus for children that houses a therapeutic zoo.  Picture what that looks like in your mind.

 

Now think about how 70% of these children have been sexually abused, and mostly by their own families. (This shouldn’t happen to any kid anywhere in the world.)

 

Think about how Beit Singer receives only $200 for clothing, pajamas, shoes, towels, and sheets per child, per year.

 

Now picture a playground with children playing… what do you hear?

 

I can’t see your answers but I’m sure you pictured a warm and inviting place, something that felt like a home. Maybe a soft blanket, a cozy room. Animals in nice habitats, and the noise on the playground… laughter and fun chatter. 

 

Something I hoped to see when I visited. It’s a great picture… and the sounds, what else would you expect?

 

Instead, we stepped onto a playground where children were playing basketball. I heard the ball bounce, but no other sounds. I didn’t see the typical blocking and trying to take away the ball from one another.  No, personal space -- well, it's much larger than you can imagine, because theirs has been violated.

 

I walked through the therapeutic zoo. I’ll try to describe it. It’s a small path with cages that house animals, far from the natural habitats you find at the Bronx Zoo, for example. The cages need work, the pond for the ducks was suffering from a broken filtration system. The bird and chinchilla cages are small and in a dark building sheltering them from the elements.

 

How did you picture the children’s rooms? Although they try to make it feel like a warm home, the walls need painting and the furniture needs replacing. I’m sure there are other needed repairs that I did not see. 

 

Don’t get me wrong: Beit Singer does a fantastic job and has many wonderful, heartwarming success stories. And I am grateful for that.

 

But their needs are great -- like every organization we visited.

 

Now let’s circle back to taking things for granted. Nice home, clothes, soft blankets; healthy, happy children -- I can go on and on.  

 

Yes, at Federation we ask for money. But we ask for a good reason. Because the need is so great.

 

I encourage all of you, on your next trip to Israel, to visit Afula. Visit our beneficiaries so that you too can hear their success stories and most importantly, see their needs first-hand. And do as I did: bring at least one of your children to share this experience.

 

 

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Federation for Jewish Philanthropy of Upper Fairfield County | 4200 Park Avenue, Suite 300 | Bridgeport, CT 06604 | 203-226-8197 / fjp@jewishphilanthropyct.org

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