Expansion into Youth Villages and More
The end of summer and the beginning of the school year is usually not a time that most kids relish. This is especially true of the many kids who suffer from ADHD, emotional issues or learning disabilities. Imagine how utterly demoralizing it is for a child to spend his entire day in an environment that he is failing in. The psychological implications can be utterly devastating. That is why Geerz is so critically important for these kids. We provide them with a framework that is both supportive and empowering. Our carefully crafted curriculum addresses real life issues through the thrilling medium of mountain biking. Kids develop the skills that result in enhanced confidence, responsibility, problem solving and group interaction.
This results in reduced anger, improved academic performance, diminished anxiety, improved mood and a myriad of other benefits. To say that Geerz has been beneficial to many hundreds of kids is an understatement. More often, Geerz plays a transformative role in their lives. The fact that over 80% of our participants are referred by academic, mental health and spiritual advisors is a clear indication that Geerz often succeeds even where conventional therapy fails. That's why, despite a never ending array of challenges, we continue to successfully implement our ambitious expansion plan of bringing Geerz to kids who desperately need it but can very seldom afford it. This year, we are currently operating in Beit Shemesh, Ramat Beit Shemesh Aleph, Ramat Beit Shemesh Gimmel, Shomriya, Talpiyot and Neve Landy, with plans to open after the chagim in Sderot, Modi'in, and youth villages in Harish and Pardes Chana, as well as with the relocated Ukrainian refugees.
Over 300 kids are already participating in Geerz programs with a number of additional groups currently being formed. As Geerz continues to transform young lives, the demand for our program continues to skyrocket. Our scalable model enables us to meet this increased demand. The only impediment is lack of funding. If you would like to sponsor a new group or join with other families or community members to do so, please contact us at email@example.com.
Geerz focuses on areas in which kids suffer from physical and emotional insecurity, such as in the communities along the Gaza periphery. The revolutionary Geerz therapeutic mountain biking program, has proven to be remarkably effective in treating PTSD and other anxiety related disorders, even where conventional therapy has failed.
Another major focus is youth villages and development towns. Kids who come from these areas are more likely to develop problematic and antisocial behavior. The poverty in these towns means that their families can't afford to give their kids the programming they need. Geerz is a real game changer for these kids, and imbues them with self-confidence, responsibility, and heightened self-esteem that set them on the path to a better future.
Single Mothers and Their Children
Several months ago, we learned about a shocking and tragic reality right in our backyard. There are over 90 divorced women from the Charedi (ultra-orthodox) community in Ramat Beit Shemesh who are raising their often large families as single parents in abject poverty. These women are often victims of abusive and dysfunctional ex-husbands whose plight is rendered more tragic by an entrenched culture which blames the victim rather than the abuser. In most cases, the father pays little or no child support or alimony and this abrogation of financial responsibility is often extorted from the women as a condition to obtaining their Get (divorce). These families live under incredibly challenging circumstances and many rely on food donations, collected from local weddings and Bar/Bat Mitzvas to feed their families. Aside from the grinding economic hardship, these families also suffer the humiliation of being ostracized in the ultra-orthodox communities. Their children are denied admission to quality schools and they are often shamed for their family status by a society which demands conformity to traditional family dynamics at all costs. Needless to say, the impact on these kids is devastating. Predictably, these kids are often at-risk and suffer from anxiety, anger and insecurity as a result of their second class status. These single mothers lack the funds to provide the enrichment and therapies to help their children lead normative lives. The problem has been especially acute with kids who range in age between 10 and 14.
Once we became aware of this issue, we could not, in good conscience, stand by and watch these kids languish. Geerz has warmly welcomed these families and hosts these children on a tuition-free basis, in addition to providing them with bikes and other essential equipment. Obviously, we need to cover the entire cost of this initiative independently. As a general rule, we at Geerz endeavor to be fiscally conservative. We never owe money and our expansion plans are typically based on the success of our fundraising initiatives. This initiative was simply not budgeted for in our ambitious but meticulously planned expansion plan. Yet, there is no doubt that our innovative program and dedicated staff will have a profound impact on the lives of these kids. These kids have little of their own, but time is of the essence. We do not have the luxury of waiting until we have adequate funding for these scholarships. We will find a way to fund them. If you are capable of providing us with financial assistance to enable us to offer Geerz to these needy families on a no-cost basis, we would be incredibly grateful. The cost of the program for a full year is $1800 per child. This figure includes the cost of purchasing bikes and other equipment for the kids. Please be our partner in this tremendous Mitzva. Your kindness will make a radical and profound difference in the lives of these unfortunate kids.
Throughout our 11-year history, Geerz has never operated during the blistering Israeli summer months. The program has always been designed to operate during the academic school year. The combination of the heat coupled with staffing and scheduling challenges simply make summer programs impractical. This was true until this past summer.
As you well know, Russia's war against Ukraine has devastated much of the country. The lives of millions of Ukrainian children have been turned upside down as over half of all Ukranian children have been displaced from their homes. Just before the summer, we learned about an incredible story of heroism. A remarkable group of Chabad emissaries in Ukraine have, for several years, been operating an orphanage that cares for 90 Jewish orphans. After Russia invaded, these emissaries realized that these orphans were in mortal danger. What they did was nearly unfathomable. At great personal risk, they managed to transport the entire orphanage to the safety of Israel. Today, these orphans are being cared for by these same emissaries in a makeshift facility in the Judean Hills near Jerusalem.
These 90 children are now not only orphans, but refugees as well. What little stability existed in their lives has been obliterated. Although they have been warmly welcomed by Israel, they do not speak Hebrew and the combination of culture shock and PTSD has resulted in overwhelming anxiety for many of these kids. Upon learning about their situation, we immediately sprung into action. We decided to create special summer programming for these Ukranian orphans and operate them on an uniterrupted basis continuing into the school year.
Although the logistics and financial challenges were formidable, we are extremely proud that we successfully operated three groups throughout the summer that have all continued to operate in the academic year. Obviously, we are covering the entire cost of these programs independently. At Geerz, one of our major objectives is to help alleviate suffering wherever and whenever we can. While it is true that these unbudgeted programs impose a substantial financial burden on us, we are mindful of the fact that these kids literally have nothing and if we can help, we must help. That is our mission and responsibility as an organization and as Jews. We invite you to be our partner in this sacred undertaking.
The Geerz Curriculum
In our previous newsletter, we discussed what distinguishes Geerz from standard after school athletic programs. Geerz is not simply an extracurricular cycling program designed to get kids away from the screen and moving. Rather it is a highly innovative therapeutic program designed to harness the inherent magic and challenges of mountain biking to develop real life skills in a highly supportive and empowering environment. In order to be maximally effective, a plethora of things have to come together seamlessly. The instructors have to be interpersonal superstars. They need to bond with each kid by understanding the specific challenges experienced by each kid. There is daunting amount of follow-up and documentation, endless communication with the child and his parents, brainstorming, celebrating triumphs and supporting setbacks. Needless to say, while all Geerz instructors and assistants are highly accomplished cyclists, this is not the most important factor in a gifted instructor. A Geerz instructor must, first and foremost, be an educator. This starts with the Geerz unique and proprietary curriculum.
The Geerz curriculum contains 150 separate life lessons (five years of Geerz programming!), gleaned from the the famous Jewish text "Pirkei Avot". Pirkei Avot contains a wealth of ancient Rabbinic wisdom about how to develop outstanding character traits. The Geerz curriculum utilizes these lessons in a highly creative fashion by incorporating them in a biking skill. The ancient texts come to life and lessons that might be dull in a classroom are filled with adrenaline as they become practical applications in the trails. That in itself would be challenging to master even if the curriculum was uniformly applied across all our groups. The reality, however, is significantly more complex. Geerz groups receive customized curriculums tailored for the specific nature of that group. For example, kids who live in the Gaza periphery and suffer from PTSD encounter different challenges than those kids who grow up in youth villages and experience feelings of abandonment. There is no one size fits all when it comes to optmizing the impact of the program on so many diverse groups.
The Geerz curriculum is continuously being revised and refined to reflect an incredibly fast-changing world. The methods that were effective 10 years ago may not speak to kids today. Our team of educators, instructors and administrators strive to ensure that the curriculum is always current, relevant and inspiring.