Living and Learning through a Pandemic

The coronavirus presented significant challenges to Israel’s youth villages, schools and other educational communities.Village Way expands in Israel

At Yemin Orde Youth Village, management and staff spent the summer preparing for an unprecedented school year ahead. As the fall approached, the health and safety of youth remained a top priority in addition to overseeing the educational and emotional needs of the Village's at-risk youth.

Click here for video of Village Director, Shmuli Bing, describing how educators are turning an otherwise stressful situation into a positive learning experience for Yemin Orde's youth.

A return to classroom learning

In late August, after a summer of challenging isolation for thousands of at-risk youth across Israel, Yemin Orde’s teens returned to the Village and to modified in-person classroom learning. Youth divided up into in small groups or pods for all of their living and learning activities including dining, indoor and outdoor recreation, extra-curricular programs.

Unfortunately, after a few weeks, Covid-19 rates in Israel started to rise and Israel’s government decided to impose another lockdown throughout the country, just days before the Jewish holidays school break. Youth who had family in Israel returned to their homes, while those with no other place to stay remained in the Village.

Staff who remained in the Village supervised the remaining youth and planned daily activities to keep them busy. Activities included four hours a day of online learning for everyone, outdoor hikes, art projects, music and working in the Eco-Farm. Informal educators and social workers also checked in with each youth and provided emotional support.

Following the holiday break, while Israel remained in lockdown, Yemin Orde received special permission to allow their youth to return to the Village.

Approximately 90 percent of the Village’s youth opted to return to Yemin Orde’s comforting and safe environment. This is significant as Yemin Orde’s staff could continue to provide its fragile teens with much needed educational and emotional support in the face of unrelenting anxiety because of the pandemic.

Pod life during the pandemic

There are many ongoing logistical challenges to daily life at the Village in the face of the coronavirus.

All youth must stay within their designated pod in their home. Each pod is assigned three teachers and a national service volunteer, who are responsible for maintaining an atmosphere that is conducive to learning and engaging the youth.

These pods are learning together, eating together and participating in activities together. They are benefitting from a daily structure that allows them to focus on their educational and personal development.

Additionally, participants in gap-year leadership programs in Israel are now living and volunteering in the Village. They are helping youth with their studies and assisting staff. They are leading activities in the different groups during the long hours after school to keep the teens busy.

Encouraging creativity is another way to keep youth busy and feeling good about themselves.  Staying within their pods, the youth have had Master Chef classes (photo, right), theatre workshops, soccer games, outdoor training activities, learning how to train dogs and more.

If any youth needs to quarantine or becomes ill, the Village has designated separate rooms that are located away from the rest of the Village population.

For staff living at the Village who may need to quarantine or has a sick family member, they, too, must remain in their homes.

For youth who have remained in their homes because of extreme circumstances, Village educators have created personal learning plans and schedule times for remote learning. Social workers are in daily contact with these youth as well, making sure they have someone accompanying them in their daily educational routine.

While the coronavirus presents daily challenges at Yemin Orde, educators and staff remain committed to providing youth with the best possible learning and living environment.

Click here to read how the coronavirus virus impacted our Village Way family in Spring, 2020.

Read how Village Way community partners continue to expand despite coronavirus.

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