Ayalim Ofakim Village, where 29 students and young people currently live. The students study at Sapir College and other campuses in Be’er Sheva. The village is a successful blend of religious and secular individuals, living together in an intimate setting and sharing a community life. This community includes four married couples with children living alongside their single neighbors, creating a unique atmosphere in the village.

Our village in Sderot is the last village the Ayalim Association built. The village was created following a government initiative during Operation “Protective Edge,” as a way of responding to the needs of the local communities with respect to the security situation in the area. The village is located in the heart of the city and can accommodate 72 students. The village contributes to the city of Sderot not only culturally and socially, but also economically, supporting small businesses in the city. The students volunteer in social and educational work with children in the city, as well as teenagers, and other at-risk populations. Through their efforts, the students touch the lives of dozens on a daily basis. Another unique feature of this village is how the students work together with “Knafaim”, an organization that helps empower disabled youth and provide them with the tools they need to live independently.

Our villages in Lod are located in two neighborhoods; Banim Village is located in the underprivileged ‘Sharet’ neighborhood, and Herzl Village is located in the city center. The village was established in 2011 following social protests in Tel Aviv. In the beginning, 11 pioneering students lived in the village and created the college-town atmosphere. The goal of this village is to create the infrastructure to transform Lod into a magnet for students and young Israelis. Today, 5 years after the establishment of the Village, 121 residents have formed a large and meaningful community in the city. The students volunteer, creating educational and cultural programming for children, adolescents, women, individuals with difficulties. They make a difference in the lives of thousands on a daily basis.

At Sderot, 70 students are active in a variety of social projects in their four hours of weekly volunteer work. They cater to a whole range of the population’s needs: they accompany the elderly; mentor at-risk youth as well as youth with disabilities and special needs; provide animal-assisted therapy for people with PTSD; and individually mentor children. Thus, the students are active all over the town and their presence is clearly felt.

At Lod, about 130 students and volunteers are working at various centers around Lod, bringing about a real change. Their projects include an Ofarim Center at the town’s library – our core project and the largest
informal social framework in the town, which serves as a true “warm home” for many of the children. It is run by the village’s students and draws, on a daily basis, dozens of children and youth from the town’s different communities, who come for help with schoolwork, enrichment activities, and social encounters.

In addition, the students tutor children and youth individually via a number of schools such as ORT, Rambam, Levi Eshkol, Ma’apilim and Neta’im (a school for at-risk youth.) The older population is catered to at the Senior Citizens Café, an initiative by our students that is now run in collaboration with other NPOs in the town. The café is open once a week and is important for their emotional and social well-being.

This year, as part of the leadership program, our village leaders met with President Reuven Rivlin, who hosted them at his residence to discuss the challenges the country faces in the 21st century and the critical role of the Ayalim Association.