Newly Launched Australia Program Shows Tweens Local Poverty

Photo courtesy Twelve Batmitzvah program
Photo courtesy Twelve Batmitzvah program

A unique Jewish coming of age program for 11-12 year old girls, Twelve, has been launched this year in Melbourne, Australia, in response to a growing desire of many parents to show their tweens firsthand what poverty and disadvantage looks like in Australia. Over 50 families, or 100 participants, have signed up for the yearlong program to roll their sleeves up and get to work with their daughters to help people in need.

The Twelve Batmitzvah program is now in its fifth month and is showing no signs of slowing down, with an equivalent barmitzvah version (“Thirteen”) launching in 2016 and a growing waiting list for 2016. The program provides girls and their parents with monthly hands on volunteering experiences, exposing them to different social issues in the Jewish and wider communities. The aim is for the group to experience firsthand the power of giving and kindness. Participating charities in the program include Royal Children’s Hospital, CBD homeless shelter Youth Projects, Jewish organisation C Care, child welfare organisation Alannah & Madeline Foundation and the Ardoch Youth Foundation, supporting disadvantaged children.

Moran Dvir, Founder of Twelve in Melbourne, said, “As parents, we all want to show our children another perspective of life and for them to understand that while difficult social issues exist in their communities, they can create a positive impact on someone doing it tough. Lectures don’t work; kids need to experience their own happiness and awareness while helping others. We take each family on a shared journey where we open their eyes, hearts and minds to real life issues like youth homelessness, isolation in elderly people, food security or sick children. Whether they are cooking someone lonely, making scarves for homeless people, visiting elderly people and spreading cheer, children can certainly effect change in their own communities, and this is the key message of Twelve.”

During the program, the girls have repeatedly expressed their gratitude for their own lives and families, while helping those less fortunate than them. The group has undertaken varied activities including a garden working bee for a homeless women’s shelter, restocking an outreach bus for at risk youth, visiting residents at Jewish aged care home, making scarves and food for homeless youth, cooking and delivering meals to people in housing commission flats and packing backpacks for children entering emergency foster care. The sessions are interspersed with interactive workshops that engage and explore social issues and philanthropy.

Volunteering has many proven benefits including connecting us to our communities, encourages selflessness, boosts self-confidence, helps combats depression and teaches gratitude.