2020 was no doubt one of the most challenging and complex years we have ever known.
The COVID-19 pandemic had an adverse impact on the health, financial and emotional resilience of many people across the globe. Its implications, however, for disenfranchised population groups, such as asylum seekers and undocumented pepole, have been especially acute and widespread.
Immediately following the outbreak of the pandemic, we acted quickly to adapt Mesila's services to the new reality that was imposed on us.
During the last year, Mesila staff has worked around the clock to meet the most basic needs of thousands of members of the community, primarily in the form of direct financial assistance and emotional support.
We have also made all pandemic-related information published by various government agencies accessible to the members of the community, in addition to coordinating the assistance extended to all the organizations working in this field.
At the same time, we continued to provide extensive social services to all Mesila clients and promote and implement projects that meet the needs of the community as they arise.
I am proud to present the major highlights of Mesila's activities in 2020.
Miri Barbero-Elkayam, Director of Mesila
and Mesila's staff
Illustrations: Amit Rimon
Annual Report 2020
Mesila is the largest center in Israel. A unique municipal unit providing direct assistance to approximately 10,000 children, women and men from asylum seekers community and too other undocumented people, as well as indirect assistance to more than 20,000 people.
Mesila's vision is to improve the quality of life asylum seekers in Tel-Aviv, in all aspects of their lives.
Mesila's services focus on the most vulnerable segment of the asylum seeker community: at-risk children and their families, children with special needs and their families and survivors of slavery and human trafficking. We are committed to improve the quality of life of children in early childhood and strengthen the existing forces within the community.
Mesila’s activities are developed and implemented in direct partnerships with the community leaders and community based organizations. The organization’s programs emphasize a localized approach to addressing to needs of the community while maximizing the community’s strengths and assets; therefore, we are able to identify culturally contextualized areas where we can expand our specialized services and assistance.
Mesila staff is comprised of 45 women, most of whom are social workers and pedagogical guides. We are assisted by 90 volunteers, who receive guidance and extensive training.
Approximately 60% of Mesila's operations are funded by the Municipality and the Ministry of Social Affairs and Social Services, and around 40% by donors and partners.
The Tel Aviv-Jaffa Municipality
Ministry of Welfare
Treating Children and Families At-risk
In 2020, our social workers treated about 1,200 children at-risk, with an emphasis on children subjected to neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse and extreme poverty.
The treatment program for a family can include individual and group parental guidance, individual treatment for parents and children, tutoring for children, art therapy and more.
Main characteristics of children and families treated:
65% of the parents treated are single mothers.
26% of children reported suffering from violence by their parents.
232 parents reported severe emotional distress and/or physical disabilities or other ailments.
None of the families and children assisted are eligible for governmental social security allowances.
The unit's main challenges are the minimal available means for assistance alongside the extreme poverty of most families in treatment.
Treating Children with
Special Needs and their Families
About 360 children with special needs (including siblings) are
This involves locating these children, providing them with social care, instructing their parents on how to realize their rights, diagnosing their special need, finding suitable educational settings, assisting with health insurance and holding therapeutic support and leadership groups for the parents.
The most common special needs treated at the unit are: autism, delayed development, physical and mental disabilities, complicated illnesses, and Down’s syndrome.
Providing Assistance to Children in Early Childhood
The early childhood team works with the "babysitters" (pirate daycare centers) serving the community.
In 2020, the team provided pedagogical training and guidance to 17 babysitters with about 400 children.
Most "babysitters" are overcrowded with very low standards, have insufficient communication, lack of stimulation, poor nutrition, many safety hazards and an unprofessional staff. There have been over 10 deaths of infants at these settings in recent years.
Mesila annually provides pedagogical training and guidance to 20 "babysitters" with about 600 children, including:
Weekly individual, on the job pedagogical guidance that is comprehensive and intensive.
Courses and seminars for caregivers.
Tools and information for parents.
Improving physical conditions.
Placing of long-term volunteers from various disciplines.
The unit also specializes in early detection of children-at-risk and children with special needs, advancing the transition from “babysitters” to municipal government day care centers, and providing orientation to municipal kindergarten staff.
The Paramedical Treatment Center
Established in late 2018, the paramedical treatment center treated about 250 patients in 2020. The center offers children under Mesila’s care:
Art therapy – Personal and group therapy, use of artistic tools to access the emotional world of the client. This occurs alongside verbal processing of the content.
Occupational therapy – Particularly suitable for children with delayed development, motor difficulties, attention deficit disorder, and more. The ultimate goal is to increase the participation, independence and quality of life of the child in day-to-day functioning, learning, playtime and social activities.
Speech therapy – Treatment of language disorders and developing preschooler's communications skills. Focuses on improving communication skills with one’s surroundings.
In 2019 we opened the therapeutic dyadic playroom, which provides a much needed response to the children and parents we treat in terms of their physical, developmental, cognitive and emotional needs.
The National Center
For Survivors of Human Trafficking and Slavery
250 male and female survivors of human trafficking and slavery and their 150 children are treated at the center.
The center treats recognized victims of human trafficking and slavery, survivors of the Sinai torture camps who were kidnapped and tortured for ransom.
Most of the patients suffer from severe medical problems, PTSD, depression, financial debts due to the ransom payments, difficulties in establishing a family and social isolation.
Work at the treatment center includes: personal therapy sessions, advocacy, accompanying clients to meetings with municipal, medical and government entities, financial and material assistance, social activities and group therapy sessions.
Advocacy and Support
Mesila's Advocacy and Support Center received 9,869 applications in 2020.
The main issues were the following:
* Approximately half of the families turn to us on more than one issue
The center mainly assists with the realization of rights, initial social assistance and advocacy with an emphasis on:
Children's rights: educational, health and social.
Education: help with registering for municipal kindergartens and schools, orientation for educational staff toward multicultural work and more.
Women in the cycle of violence: providing initial social assistance, referrals and contact with battered women's shelters, the police, Israel Prison Service and more.
Families in the process of separation or divorce: help with family courts, mediation and agreement on visitation rights and alimony, and paternity tests.
Health: Promoting and assisting with the acquisition of health insurance for children, assistance with medical appointments, registration in the Health Ministry, the filling out of forms, counseling and communication with institutions and authorities.
Mapping and promoting policy changes, working with shelters of women in the cycle of violence and welfare departments in various cities.
People who turn to us often share a range of financial, emotional and health problems.
Managing Mesila’s Facebook page to publish important content to the community.
Establishing groups of agents of change for preventing domestic violence and advising on family planning.
Organizing activities and publishing videos to increase the protection of children in the community.
Developing services and providing support for community initiatives.
Organizing activities for children.
Placing, operating and supporting 90 volunteers.