October 7, 2010 / 29 Tishrei 5771
Shlomit Bicha was born in Israel and grew up in Ashdod, but she was raised on the stories of the hardships her parents endured fleeing Ethiopia in the 1970s and flying to Israel on a secret mission. "I am Israeli in all respects, but I am also Ethiopian - those are my roots," says the 29-year-old Shlomit.
At the young age of 18, as part of her IDF service, she began work as a police officer in Ashdod and ended up staying on the force after her service had ended for another year. The experience was eye opening because she was suddenly exposed to a darker side of Israel.
But it was the children on the streets who changed the course of her life. "I saw so many kids on the street and I always wanted to know how they ended up in this situation. Why were they taking drugs and loitering outside instead of being at home with their parents?" says Shlomit.
"Working with the children in Youth Futures touched me deeply. I decided
to devote my life to helping children at risk before it is too late."
Since she was the only Ethiopian officer on the force at the time, when she reached out to these youth, they responded favorably. "We had a connection," she says.
Sadly, once they were sent home, they disappeared. "These children touched me in a significant way. I decided that my task in life is to help other children before it is too late," she says.
After working with youth at-risk for four years in different parts of the country, she is now pursuing her dream by working as a Trustee for the Jewish Agency's Youth Futures program, an unprecedented program that pairs mentors with youth at-risk so that they are able to bridge critical educational and social gaps to succeed in life. Currently, she is responsible for 16 youth between the ages of 10-11 in Bat Yam.
As a Trustee, Shlomit's job is to be a constant source of support for her young charges, helping them with everything from school work to pursuing their dreams.
A lot of her work involves bridging the communication gap between parents and children, many of whom are also Ethiopian. "The child turns to me because I also came from a place just like them and I understand them," she says.
"As a Trustee, my goal is to guide these youth and give them the tools they need to succeed. Youth Futures really does work. It really does change lives."