December 7, 2011

Better Together: A Professional's View

Working in Israel's most disadvantaged neighborhoods, JDC's Better Together program strives to address the most outstanding risks to children and youth in the community by mobilizing residents, identifying and utilizing community resources and responding to unmet needs. In Neve Alonim, a neighborhood in the city of Ashkelon, Better Together is making a difference through the support and partnership of the Jewish Federation of Greater Middlesex County.

Maya is Better Together’s Local Coordinator. A veteran Better Together staffer since 2004 in Haifa, Maya came to Ashkelon in 2010.

Maya employs her professional skills and experience – she holds a Masters degree in Human Resources in addition to her social work training – to all aspects of her Better Together work, in particular some of the more delicate issues involved.

Such situations range from bringing local authority staff into coalition with non-profits and encouraging their collaboration, to helping residents overcome their widespread suspicion of professionals, or convincing staff that the effectiveness of their work would be increased by involving parents.

Maya talks about the program and its progress to date:

"I see a critical need for new services in the neighborhood for pre-school children and for youth.

I am acutely aware of the need for support, such as the help we receive from the Jewish Federation of Middlesex County. It’s enabling essential change-processes and the introduction of a new approach. We are seeing its impact already as more and more people take part in programs.

The Community Center has become a focal point for the neighborhood, a place where residents can express their needs and get actively involved. The Local Professional Forum and Residents Forum are based there, which facilitates collaboration. The two groups are already working in harmony such as when they organize events that engender a sense of belonging. They are also helping to improve services while indentifying those which are lacking. This means that we are able to develop new programs and services in the most effective way.

I believe deeply in cooperation, and it is a source of daily satisfaction for me to see smiles returning to the faces of children and parents in the neglected Neve Alonim neighborhood."

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