To Give

The “Warm Home” after-school facility To Give

The “Warm Home” after-school facility In the “Warm Home” after-school facility in Mitzpe Ramon, two units of the IAF volunteer in efforts to make at-risk children’s time there, as pleasant as possible

Lya Shanel

The members of the “Negev” squadron from “Ramon” Airbase have found a new love: the children of the “Warm Home” after-school facility, elementary school students in Mitzpe Ramon, whom they have been visiting once a week in the past year.

The members of the Aerial Control Unit from “Ramon”, on the other hand, already feel like veterans-they’ve been spending their time with the children of the facility almost eight years now. Help with homework, games and even maintenance work and equipment contributions-the IAF’s favorite after-school facility has received much from the cooperation, but it seems that the soldiers are the ones that are most pleased with the arrangement.

The Adopters

Slightly over a year ago, Captain (Res.) Oren, a reserve-duty pilot in the “Negev” squadron, arrived at the “Warm Home” after-school facility and was enthused with the idea. “Two years ago we started, a few reserve-duty officers from squadrons in the Force, the “Sky and Land” Foundation which was meant to encourage members of the IAF to volunteer”, he explains. “Through the squadron we arrived at the after-school facility and realized that it is suitable to our foundation’s activity. In the beginning we contributed computers and helped with supplying food, following with linkage between them and the squadron”.

This starting point lead to the ‘adoption’ project, in which every week, two representatives from the squadron, a regular-duty soldier and a flight crew member or reserve-duty officer, arrive at the facility to enjoy the afternoon with the children.

“We go and play with the kids, help them do their homework, sit on the grass together-just everything that children like”, says Hadar, an INI (Intelligence, Navigation and Investigation) Non-Commissioned Officer from the squadron, “I went there once and had a great time and so did they, it was fulfilling. We’re all happy that the squadron has started volunteering”.

A Family Relationship

The relationship with the squadron did not begin by chance, but was created by one of the standing-army NCOs from the squadron, Chief Warrant Officer Pini Elmakayes, whose sister is manager of the after-school facility. What began as a visit of the children at the squadron, which was organized by the siblings, soon developed into a long-term volunteering project.

“I turned to my brother because I wanted the kids to see planes and pilots, to be exposed to different things”, explains Yardena Elmakayes, manager of the after-school facility. “Afterward Oren came here and initiated the squadron’s volunteering which was wonderful. We’re always in touch, it’s important to him to make sure that everyone arrives to volunteer and that everything’s okay”.

But even before they began spending time with pilots, the 15 children of “Warm Home” already had a meaningful association with people in the IAF uniform. The cooperation that blossomed between the facility and the “Ramon” Airbase Aerial Control Unit, has persevered for many years and is characterized by deep bonds, steady volunteering and even holidays spent together.

“Moti from the unit has already been with us for years. Every time there are problems-even with electricity or water, he takes responsibility for everything. He makes sure to get me whatever I’m missing”, says Yardena. “I’ve been to the after-school facility several times. It’s fun and leaves you feeling good”, shares Miriam, who has been serving for a year at the Aerial Control Unit as a system technician. “We all take part and we already have traditions. For example, every year at Purim holiday, the children come here in costume and we create activities for them. In Hanukkah holiday, they come here to light the Menorah”.

Like many other after-school facilities, the “Warm Home” has trouble keeping a constant schedule that meets the needs of the children. “These kids don’t have these kinds of things at home and it’s very important to us to enrich them”, says Yardena. “The assistance the soldiers give us is a good thing that is happening thanks to good people”.