• Yad l'Yad - National Volunteer Network for Homebound Survivors

    Background

    Aging brings its share of daunting challenges, but for older adults who are homebound for physical or emotional reasons, this stage of life becomes virtually intolerable. For many seniors in Israel, these challenges are frequently coupled with the long-term effects of having lived through the horrors of the Holocaust and the unrest of war.

    Need

    Approximately 30% of Holocaust survivors are housebound, with a high percentage of these indicating that they are lonely. Reducing loneliness has an overall impact on an individual's wellbeing – including their physical and cognitive abilities and emotional health.The current framework of social services cannot meet the need for companionship and stimulation experienced by thousands of Holocaust survivors, especially those living in peripheral areas. Yet the growing proportion of homebound survivors, and the accompanying loneliness, demands a national response.

    To address this need, the Ministry of Finance-Holocaust Survivors’ Rights Authority established a national task force and decided to develop the national Yad l' Yad (Hand to Hand) volunteer support system.  

    Program

    In 2016, at the request of the Task Force, Eshel, which has extensive experience working with survivors, and homebound survivors in particular, agreed to assume the lead role in developing Yad l’ Yad.

    Yad l’ Yad aims to alleviate loneliness among Holocaust survivors by building a network of volunteers who will visit survivors on a weekly basis. Eshel is working to promote cooperation and resource sharing among various NGOs that work with Holocaust survivors. In general, cooperation and the sharing of professional and financial resources among NGOs is limited. Many of the NGOs who already have volunteers working with survivors lack the resources to expand the scope of their activities to meet the current demands.

    The program, which was launched in July 2017, will directly impact 5,000 homebound Holocaust survivors within the first three years. Eshel anticipates reaching 2,000 survivors during the first year of the proposed three-year pilot program, 3,500 in the second year, and 5,000 in the third year. An extension of the program beyond three years will be discussed after an evaluation of the program in the third year. The program is being developed on the assumption that of the homebound Holocaust survivors in Israel, which currently comprises 30% of the survivor population, 50% would accept the services offered by the program.

    The innovative aspect of this initiative will be a nationwide campaign to recruit 5,000 volunteers who will serve as the backbone of the program. To enable the professional recruitment and retention of volunteers, two regional coordinators and ten volunteer coordinators will be hired in the first year, with each regional coordinator responsible for five volunteer coordinators, who are in turn each responsible for 200 volunteers. A team head will be further responsible for twenty volunteers each, with each volunteer coordinator overseeing ten team heads.

    The professional staff will work with volunteers to devise a customized program to meet the needs and fulfill the desires of the vulnerable survivors. Where possible, volunteers and survivors are matched based on mutual interests or other common factors.

    The primary challenges facing Eshel include methods to enhance collaboration with NGOs, build a sufficiently effective and professional infrastructure, and develop a national volunteer-based model that is suitable to the target population and which may be later adapted to other groups of older adults.

    Through the Yad l’ Yad initiative, Holocaust survivors in Israel will not be abandoned and live out their final years with dignity and companionship.

    Outcomes

    • Enrich and improve quality of life

    • Reduce social isolation and loneliness

    • Promote social relationships 

    Contract dates

    2017 - 2020  

    Partners

    Ministry of Social Affairs and Social Services, The Holocaust Survivors' Rights Authority, Matav NGO