August 28, 2009

Child Help Connects At-Risk Family with Resources and Jewish Education

Dylan is four years old and has experienced precious little stability in his young life.

The relationship between his parents, Cecilia and Ernesto, is strained. The couple is separated and the family has been forced to live apart. Dylan stays with Cecilia at her mother’s tiny two-room apartment in Buenos Aires, but since space there is so limited, Dylan’s 13-year-old brother, Maximiliano, has to stay with his father—a situation that causes Cecilia great anguish.

There are other pressures: Ernesto is a part-time caretaker, a job that pays little. Cecilia is employed by a real estate firm but the situation there is tenuous. She suffers bouts of severe depression and sometimes misses work. And her mother, an elderly woman with health problems of her own, can only do so much to help the family.

Fortunately, help does come…from JDC’s Child Help program.

Thanks to Child Help, the family has access to welcome financial assistance through one of dozens of welfare centers that JDC established in partnership with the local Jewish community in the wake of Argentina’s 2001 economic collapse.

Where Child Help is having the biggest impact, however, is on the children’s education: the program covers the cost of transportation, food, and half the tuition of a Jewish day school (with the school itself absorbing the other half). Older brother Max finished Jewish primary school last year on a 90-percent scholarship. Dylan’s future is looking brighter as well. Since 2007, he has been attending a Jewish preschool and kindergarten where he is flourishing in an atmosphere of support and encouragement.

The transition to school was rough at first. Dylan suffered from cognitive problems as a toddler. His teachers report that in his first few months at school, Dylan also had a hard time making friends and would frequently be involved in fights or shouting confrontations with classmates. Fortunately, the patient and strategic intervention of Dylan’s teachers has brought steady improvement in his behavior and his healthier relationships with other children.

Academically, Dylan is also moving forward, with a noticeably enriched vocabulary.

Dylan’s progress and improved behavior is a testament to the dedication of his teachers and the support of JDC through Child Help, according to his mother. “I am really grateful to JDC’s Child Help for giving Dylan the chance to receive a high level of education,” Cecilia said. “At the same time, Dylan has been able to learn about Judaism and our roots. He feels very comfortable at the school. The institution welcomed us with open arms.”

Cecilia also believes that young Dylan will one day be inspired by the generosity that others have shown him.

“One day, when he grows up, he will remember all this and help others in need.”

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