An estimated 30,000 adolescent girls in Israel struggle with issues related to body image and self confidence, poor social relationships, low self esteem and academic under achievement. The families of these youth, many of whom are immigrants from the Former Soviet Union and Ethiopia, are typically facing their own difficulties in negotiating the system and cannot provide them with appropriate support and guidance. These girls are left with few tools and resources to effectively overcome their challenges. Sela aims to reduce the number of girls who are experiencing verbal, physical and sexual abuse and help them break out of the vicious cycle which could lead to substance abuse, violence, theft and prostitution. Professionally trained female university students are matched up one-on-one and have weekly sessions which investigate topics aimed at raising their self image, self confidence as well as their self-awareness. 10 o f these pairs form a group providing a safe space where significant caring and sharing takes place.
The SELA model is a strategic partnership with the Ministry of Social Welfare and it is one of Yedidim’s most sought out projects by field workers, social workers and educational consultants all over the country. We believe that this is so at least partly due to the fact that the need is tremendous. SELA was externally evaluated by Dr. Michal Krumer-Nevo of the University of Ben Gurion with outstanding results.
SELA is aimed at girls, between the ages of 12-18 who have been identified by school educational consultants and community social workers as having psycho-social, educational and/or cultural integration challenges. Approximately 50% are from the FSU and 30% are from Ethiopia. On average, approximately 40% of SELA participants live in single parent households. Approximately one fifth o f the girls work in the afternoons (either to help with family income or to help support themselves). Sela operates in 20 communities across the country and serves 300 adolescent girls through the tireless efforts of 300 young women who serve as mentors.
After an initial home visit, the professionally trained group coordinator matches the teen up with a mentor and together they build a tailor-made Personal Advancement Program (P.A.P) which is designed to help each girl identify her strengths, talents, challenges and interests. By offering the girls the opportunity to associate with successful female role models who are close in age, the youths’ self image is positively affected and she has the guidance and support necessary to choose positive routes to her development. Parallel to the one-on-one weekly personal attention, they participate in organized group activities which provide them with a supportive, positive framework and a sense of belonging. Throughout the year, they also participate in experiential activities, educational field trips and community service projects.