Israel is known to be a special country. Inside that special country is a special place: Yemin Orde. Although I have written about Yemin Orde and my visit there this past summer, the youth village is in the news. Its director, Chaim Peri, will receive the 2014 World of Children Award on November 6 in New York City for transforming the lives of Israel’s most vulnerable children. This award is internationally recognized as the “Nobel Prize for Child Advocates”.
The award was created to “recognize and elevate those selfless individuals who make a difference in the lives of children here in the USA and across the globe, regardless of political, religious or geographical boundaries. These courageous leaders recognize that our children are the world’s most important asset,” according to the World of Children website.
In Yemin Orde’s promotional video Perri said, “It’s our commitment to give these kids a better life. Yemin Orde is about taking kids from survival to leadership, not less. Transform them so they make Israel a better place.”
During Peri’s 30-year tenure as director, the youth village served as a refuge for thousands of emotionally-fragile and at-risk youth from countries such as Ethiopia, Sudan, Ukraine, Poland, Brazil and more.
In a press release by Friends of Yemin Orde, its Board Chair, Charles Gwirtsman, said, “Chaim Peri’s innate sense of the fear and hopelessness felt by Israel’s vulnerable youth has led to a remarkable transformation in the education process of thousands of children. His vision of creating a forever home and safe haven for formerly disenfranchised youth has resulted in new generations of productive and successful citizens of Israel.”
Sophia Weisberg is currently a student at the University of Maryland, College Park who volunteered at Yemin Orde two years ago for three months through Young Judaea’s Year Course program. In an email she wrote, “I never got to interact with Peri one-on-one. However, I was able to sit in on a time when he spoke to a group of visitors. I think it is apparent from just that instance… about why he is such a special individual. The selflessness he embodies and his ability to make it seem like what goes on at Yemin Orde is such a normal operation is so amazing.”
For Weisberg the experience volunteering at Yemin Orde is a testament of how deserving Peri is to receive this significant reward running a special place. From spending Shabbat to witnessing the students working with each other on the farm on the village Weisberg wrote, “Yemin Orde is unique in its approach to many things.”
Peri is a revolutionary in caring for Israel’s children, who do not let their previous unfortunate circumstances define them, and under his direction of this special place, they are fortunate to be in a loving environment. Weisberg wrote, “The entire community, from the staff in the kitchen to the teachers and students are all so close it is an amazing thing to be able to witness. What was inspiring was each individual person living on the village, be it a staff member or a student, has such a will and a drive to succeed in what they are doing.”
Weisberg also wrote, “Being at Yemin Orde gave me a whole new prospective on the idea of family. While I am blessed with a wonderful family at home, I think after being at Yemin Orde I realized a family can take on many shapes. The students all live in “houses” together, and I was able to see how they worked together and built these strong relationships that gave them a whole new chance at a stable life. I learned the true meaning of patience and love- that not everything or everyone will be the same- but that with the right combination of these two things – change can happen.”
Peri is Israel’s Jane Adaams. Building a haven for Israel’s at-risk youth, he has changed the lives of the children who faced dire circumstances that no child should have to face growing up. The children are showered with love and temporarily stay in that special village only to permanently stay in the special land of the Jews.