Since 2011, The Fellowship has partnered with Dennis Survival in order to prevent violence among children and youth, especially those living in Department of Welfare orphanages. Dennis Survival is a martial arts program in Israel designed specifically to teach these children and youth how to prevent violence by channeling their aggression into martial arts techniques.
The program also helps them build up their self-esteem and feeling of self-worth. The children meet every week for a practice which lasts 3-4 hours.
The Fellowship’s Ami Farkas met with one of the martial arts instructors, Erez, at Dennis Survival, and learned the importance of this youth program:
What does it mean to be a youth at risk? On a most basic level, it means you lack the emotional and financial support system a youth needs to thrive. It also means that a youth is lacking basic life skills, such as discipline, a sense of responsibility, confidence, and motivation to succeed in life.
If a child’s needs are not met at home and he or she does not receive the minimal emotional and financial support they need, then they will lack discipline and exhibit behavioral issues. Sadly, such youths typically feel no responsibility or obligation to society and will likely fight against authority and laws.
Furthermore, children who are neglected by parents and society and do not receive proper care will find it nearly impossible to develop the confidence and motivation they need to succeed in life.
For these reasons and many more, The Fellowship has teamed up with the Dennis Survival program which teaches at-risk youth martial arts, respect for God, respect for their parents, respect for their country and flag, respect for peers, and respect for oneself.
The Fellowship believes that by investing in youths who are at risk by providing them with the tools mentioned above, we are investing in the future of Israel – one youth at a time.
Speaking to Erez who works as a martial arts instructor for the at-risk youth project that The Fellowship funds, I got a sense of the importance of this outreach. “I work with two different types of groups,” Erez explained. “One group is already behind bars in Juvenile Detention Center, and the other group I am training so they won’t end up in a detention center.” After a long pause, he added “But even those in a JV center still have hope!”
Erez trains youths at a large Juvenile Detention Center as well as in a community center for teenagers after school. “In my work I meet all kinds of young people. Some seem lost when they first arrive, feeling angry, resentful, and violent. Practicing martial arts gives them an outlet, and before and after training, I always give them a talk about responsibility, respect, and discipline. I also talk to them about our country, our history, and how our youth can contribute to our future.”
The martial arts instructors are able to reach out to these young people in a way that teachers and other authority figures cannot. “The kids respect us for our martial arts skills. Then later, after they have trained with us for a while, we begin to talk about other aspects of life, family, school, army, and just about anything that’s on their minds.”
Erez has seen the incredible changes in youth who have joined this Fellowship project. These young people, who would have lived out their lives in and out of jail, got back on their feet after receiving support and discipline from our project. Some youth left the streets, where crime is the only currency, and found legitimate work. Others have gone on to college, and most importantly – many have gone from JV Centers to serve honorably in the Israel Defense Forces.
“My greatest pride and joy is writing recommendation letters to combat units for youths who I trained at the JV Center,” Erez recalled. “By investing in and strengthening these youths, The Fellowship is strengthening Israel. This is truly a wonderful project that is saving the lives of young boys and girls and turning them into proud and productive members of our society.”