Aid Organization for Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Israel


photo: Ira Shraberman


The Assaf youth club is a perennial project which aims to provide a solution for 14-19 year-olds from the refugee community. It is open two evenings a week and offers a supportive and safe atmosphere.

The boys who attend are wrestling not only with the difficulties of adolescence but also with problems of language, identity, culture, forced migration, loss and trauma. The club is a haven of stability and support for them. It keeps them  safe from the dangers of the street and offers a social and educational framework where they can absorb democratic values and learn ways of tackling the traumas of the past and the current difficulties.

The objective is to create a supportive warm and pleasant milieu which enables social encounters among the boys and with older volunteers. It is a familial framework and the boys see it as a kind of home.

The boys who attend the club meet with Israeli volunteers as well as volunteers from the refugee community. All the volunteers are trained by the Assaf team and receive professional support throughout the year, including the methodology of work with youth at risk. This professional training enables us to operate a wide range of activities which respond to the various needs of the boys.

The social activity of the club enables the boys to enjoy a protective and supportive framework where they can share and work through their past experiences and the problematic encounter with the realities of life in Israel. Through theatricals, games and talk they learn Hebrew and English. They draw, converse, play computer games, all of which give them the opportunity to express themselves and formulate their inner worlds according to their tastes and through professional direction by the talented and dedicated volunteers.


Courses and activities in the Assaf youth club



Most of the boys who attend regular schools face learning difficulties because of lacunae in knowledge, language and study skills. Assaf offers them help on a group  basis and individual support from time to time in preparing homework assignments.


Adolescence is a difficult time for any boy, and in particularfor  a refugee growing up in a hostile environment, burdened with traumatic memories, uncertainty and anxiety about family members left behind. The club holds workshops on life skills, identity and adolescence in order to equip the boys with tools for dealing with the problems of adolescence in a society where values are often in conflict - tradition versus modern Israeli society, sex education and methods of protection, tools for maintaining dialogue etc.


The club offers the emotional backing which these boys lack in the school system and often also in the family framework: through directt contact with supportive Israelis, to counterbalance the constant negative encounters with hostile Israelis; contact with an adult, a kind of big brother, which differs from meetings with other adults - teachers and relatives; beneficial meetings based on acceptance, help and support, on trust and not obligation. All these help the boys to open up emotionally and share their problems and difficulties..


All religions are represented at the club. The volunteers and the boys learn about religious and cultural festivals and customs and celebrate each festival. Birthdays of volunteers and boys are celebrated together, and create a special atmosphere.


The club runs discussion groups on the everyday lives of the boys, their fears of the planned detention facility in the Negev and of deportation to their countries of origin. Their attendance at a workshop on education for democracy and human rights has led to  increased involvement in decisions relating to the club's activities, participation in political activities and protest marches regarding human rights and refugee rights.


The club tries to hold entertain boys and girls  during the summer vacation. Plns  include visits to various sites throughout Israel which most of them see for the first time.


Seventeen of the boys are members of the club football team, and they have chosen to call it Africa United. Managed by two volunteers, one from Darfur and the other Israeli, it meets outside club hours for training. It has taken part in amateur contests,against teams of immigrants from various countries. The team has done a great deal to empower the boys.


The club often holds movie evenings when the boys together with the volunteers choose movies - light or more meaningful - and then discuss them and their relevance for their lives. On Holocaust Day they brought us a movie about the Holocaust on their own initiative, and an interesting discussion ensued on relevant issues like racism, refugeedom etc.


Because of the need to find a solution for 12-13-year-olds, we have started a separate group headed by a young asylum-seeker who is a graduate of the club together with an Israeli volunteer. There are 10 members who come once a week, and enjoy separate activities adapted to their age and needs.


The club offers a full and rich social environment, but we have found it difficult to integrate the girls. In order to create a suitable social framework for adolescent girls, directed at their unique needs, we have set up a special group for them.

In addition to the problems which beset refugee adolescents and asylum-seekers in general, girls face unique problems: the exposure to modern permissive Israeli culture which is at odds with traditional  familial and cultural norms, leads to confusion as to their social status and they are often defenceless against exploitation and abuse by others.

The group is intended for girls aged 10-14, who meet once a week with a volunteer instructor, who is an experienced social worker. The togetherness creates an atmosphere of acceptance, trust and security, and provides an enjoyable experience. In this safe place the girls can raise issues which trouble them as asylum-seeker adolescents, such as questions of identity and belonging. They can talk about their feelings, learn social skills, develop confidence and apply it outside the group.