In 1997, SPNI launched its immigrant youth Multi-Cultural Orienteering Program to counter the unfortunate by-products of immigration: high-levels of upper school attrition rates, vagrancy, low self-esteem, teen pregnancy, and drug abuse. The majority of participants, between 800-1,000 children are from Ethiopia or the former Soviet Union. The program has had phenomenal success in reversing the difficulties these children face as new immigrants.
The program’s success is attributed to:
- An emphasis on the immigrants’ Jewish heritage to help build a positive self-image
- Iinclusion of participants’ parents
- Intensive nature and hiking build a love for and connection to the land of Israel
- Highly trained adult counselors who work with small youth groups (15-20 participants), facilitating follow-up with schools, families and government agencies
Eight years of experience have proven the program’s value as an integrator of at-risk youth into mainstream Israeli society. Ninety eight percent of recent Orienteering graduates have enlisted in the Israeli army and 79% complete their high school matriculation exams. Additionally, a 2003 Bar-Ilan University study showed that program graduates emerge with stronger connections to Israel, Israel’s history, themselves and each other.
SPNI’s goal is to never turn away any interested child, be it a new immigrant or underprivileged child.