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Daily Israel Report

Helping Families Avoid Poverty - Recognized by President

Paamonim, which helps families attain financial health instead of simply giving them alms, has received the President’s Volunteerism Award.
By Hillel Fendel
First Publish: 8/10/2010, 4:03 PM / Last Update: 8/10/2010, 6:35 PM

The Paamonim organization, which helps families attain financial health instead of simply giving them alms, has received the President’s Volunteerism Award.

The organization’s volunteers help families leave the circle of poverty, or ensure that they do not enter it, and obtain financial independence. President Shimon Peres noted this at the award ceremony on Monday, and added a word for the volunteers: “Paamonim paves the way towards developing responsibility on the part of the individual towards his community.”

Over 100 Paamonim volunteers and employees were on hand at the ceremony at the President’s House in Jerusalem. Among other organizations that won the President’s Award were the After Me youth organization for good citizenship, the B’Terem traffic safety organization, the Maslan aid center for victims of sexual violence in the Negev, and the Etgarim Association for the physically handicapped.

Paamonim was founded in 1997, aiming to go beyond providing emergency help to those in need, and actually helping families avoid financial collapse in the future. Yaakov Yaakobovitch, a young, energetic Torah scholar who co-founded the organization, explained that a family "is like a small business, and not everyone knows how to run one. When a family finds itself in debt of 50,000 shekels, and there's nowhere to turn, we can try to help them - but on condition that they begin to run their family expenses in a totally different manner: no checks, no credit cards, no free loans, and of course no unnecessary expenses."

A major problem is the "Israeli invention of overdraft,” Yaakobovitch said. "In most countries, banks do not allow overdrafts; if there is no money in the account to cover a check, the check bounces. But here in Israel, banks allow you to run up an overdraft of thousands of shekels - on which they take hefty interest. There's only one bank that doesn't allow overdrafts, and that is Bank HaDo’ar - the Postal Authority Bank. It also does not have the same numerous and costly fees as the other banks do... In my opinion, there is no need for a young married couple in their first few years of marriage to have a checking account in any bank other than Bank HaDo’ar... Regular banks at first seem very friendly, but most people don't realize how much they actually cost."

The goal, according to Yaakobovitch, is to help families realize where they can and should cut back: "We know that financial problems are a major source of domestic strife. I tell husbands and wives that they should sit together to review their expenses and income, and calmly see how much they spend and where they can cut back. Cell phones for children, for instance, cost a lot of money!  Even a car must constantly be checked to see if owning or using one is cost-effective.  Where do they do their shopping, etc. Families have thanked us just for bringing their attention details like these."

In the course of 2009, some 3,000 families were rehabilitated by Paamonim in this manner. Over 2,000 volunteers – up from 1,200 in 2008 – visit and accompany families on a one-to-one basis, and help them organize their expenses and calculate where they can cut back.

Uriel Lederberg of Beit El, Director of Paamonim (pictured above receiving the award from President Peres), said at the ceremony, “Receiving this award is a significant achievement for our organization and its volunteers. Paamonim’s success stems primarily from the broad support we have merited to receive over the years from many partners and volunteers, and we hope that we will continue to work together to help many other families live normal, balanced and responsible economic lives.”

Teaching and Guiding
On the educational front, Paamonim representatives delivered 340 lectures and workshops on family finances throughout the country in 2009. In the course of that year, 2,190 new families began the Paamonim “one-on-one” course, compared with 1,430 in 2008. Nearly 80 families that completed the process received loans totaling two million shekels, and 689 families still in the midst of the rehabilitation process received grants to the tune of 1.89 million shekels.

Together with the Torah and Land Institute’s Nedivei Eretz Fund, 48 families received aid of 844,000 shekels, contributing to the erasure of 4.5 million shekels’ worth of debt.

In the course of 2009, special funds were opened for 525 families, in the framework of which nearly 4 million shekels were raised especially for them.

For more information, visit www.paamonim.com/paamonim.html. Photo by Yisachar Roess