When you watch Zvika dance, you are awed by his skill and by the confidence and power of his moves. It is hard to believe that this was once a terribly neglected little boy, who lived on the streets, hungry and uncared for. When he was brought to Orr Shalom he was tough and angry, wild and self-sufficient… and he was only 8 years old!
Zvika’s family made their way from Ethiopia to Israel by foot 20 years ago, in a trek of immense hardship and adversity. Sadly his mother died on the way and never made it to Israel. Zvika’s father suffered terribly from the loss of his wife and he was unable to look after his children. Zvika ended up roaming the streets, rarely attending school, and fending for himself. The social welfare system was called in to intervene.The social workers tried many different frameworks, but none would take him, he was just too unmanageable.
Orr Shalom has a special home for boys like Zvika who no-one else will take, it’s called Reut, in Jerusalem, and there they know how to care for the boys who have suffered extreme abuse and neglect. In the Reut home for boys, a team of therapists, counselors and teachers took care of Zvika, showing him love and care within a framework of discipline and rules. The team assessed his needs and created a personal program for him that would help him to settle down and learn how to behave with other children and adults. The small classes in the on-site school and lots of special attention from the teachers helped him to catch up with his education, and soon they saw a bright little boy start to emerge.
The staff at Reut also saw how much Zvika loved to dance every time he heard music, and he seemed to be very talented. They signed him up to a local after-school dance program where it became clear that this was a child who could really dance. Through great effort and hard work, and a huge amount of encouragement and support from the staff, Zvika was able to focus on his dance during his high school years. He continued to live in Reut and depend on the loving staff there, who were like a family to him. They wanted only the best for him, and to help him become a professional dancer, as it was clear that this was his dream and his destiny.
After his senior year in high school, Zvika was accepted to attend a summer course at the Alvin Ailey Academy in New York, which is one of the most prestigious dance academies in the USA. There, the eight-hour days and immense pressure pushed him and his muscles to new levels, as he learned advanced skills and techniques from the best dancers in the States.
Zvika graduated from high school with a full matriculation, which is testament to his hard work and self-discipline. He is now married and has a baby, and works as a professional dancer. He also spends time teaching dance to children-at-risk, making a special connection with those who have had a hard start in life, and inspiring them to believe in a brighter future. He keeps in touch with the team at Orr Shalom, who gave him all that he needed to become who he is today.
We were talking about Zvika’s amazing life this week , as we prepare for our big fundraising event Monday night. We are hosting a Charity Premiere of Billy Elliot – The Musical, which opens in Israel this week. The musical tells the story of a little boy with a passion to dance who struggles against all the odds to make his dreams come true and become a dancer.
We think that the story of Zvika is pretty amazing, and wish him every success with his career. I am so proud to work with a charity that takes children like Zvika and helps them to turn their lives around and look forward to a brighter future.