World WIZO Update: Omicron and WIZO Projects & Services

wizo nsw safety net campaign

Dear Chaverot,

I trust this finds you all keeping well and safe.

I have received this very extensive latest update from World WIZO and I urge you to please take the time and read this and share it with your members and executives.

The huge surge in coronavirus infections caused by the Omicron variant has inevitably caused disruptions in WIZO’s institutions and services. Throughout the WIZO system, they are making great efforts to minimize these disruptions, and to do all they can to keep the children, youth, women and elderly we care for safe and protected. Staff and volunteers in the headquarters in Tel Aviv, and wherever else possible in the system, are doing as much work as possible by zoom, and from home.

Today is Tu Bisvhat and like everything else during the pandemic – it is nothing like normal.  Still, WIZO finds ways to celebrate!

Below please find a summary of the effects of the Omicron surge on our activities, projects and services.

WIZO and Omicron – January 16, 2022

Day care centers

The Omicron virus variant raced across Israel over the past week with around 50,000 thousand people testing positive for COVID-19 over the weekend and around 194,000 Israelis in quarantine due to exposure to an infected person. This surge in the infection rate has affected the operation of WIZO’s network of day care centers forcing the closure of three day care centers (where the director and caregivers tested positive) and the closure of individual classrooms (in around 25% of our centers). Some of the caregivers have had to stay home to supervise their own children who are in isolation.  With the ever-changing COVID regulations and the increase in confirmed cases, every day presents new challenges. In day cares that are short-staffed, the cook starts working at 5am and then assists in the classrooms as do the directors and the regional supervisors. Every measure is being taken to keep the centers open including assistance from parents too at different hours of the day.

Schools and Youth Villages

As Omicron infections mount, more and more staff members and students are required to go into isolation.  We are preparing for the inevitable, as within in the next two weeks the Corona wave should reach its peak with hundreds of thousands of Israelis in isolation. Most of our schools and youth villages are gearing up for remote learning as per the directives of the Ministry of Education.  Many of the residential students remained in the dormitories while the external students are at home.

Projects operated by the Division for the Advancement of the Status of Women

Jerusalem Shelter – At the time of this writing, 16 women and children are infected with the coronavirus. Three children from the shelter attend a neighborhood kindergarten where there were recently confirmed Coronavirus cases. The shelter is currently operating according to a policy of total isolation for each family in their living quarters. The staff work with the children on Zoom, every day each family receives games and arts crafts supplies, and all meals are delivered to the rooms. The counselling with the mothers is done on Zoom, as best as possible, taking into consideration that the children are constantly present. The situation in general demands a lot of flexibility. It is not easy but the staff is dedicated and work around the clock. A catering company provides one hot meal a day. The staff prepare food for the other meals and families in the neighborhood indulge the women and children in the shelter and supply cakes and other special treats.

Legal aid bureaus – they have moved to a hybrid model that offers consultations on Zoom as well as face-to-face meetings.

Mine and Only Mine and The Invisible Children programs – continue to operate with training sessions and workshops for both high school students and professionals conducted on Zoom.

Safety Net – Since many of the children are not vaccinated, the regular group activity has been suspended. On the other hand, the mothers have continued participating in a parenting workshop facilitated by the Adler Institute a leader in family relations, in all six WIZO centers where the Safety Net program is operated. In the future, a program for occupational vocational rehabilitation will be offered too.  With the surge in isolations and a break from the normal school routine, these mothers are forced to stay at home to supervise their work routine is disrupted as a result. Sadly, without a support network to fall back on they have no choice. These are very brave and amazing women and WIZO tries to help them as much as possible.

WIZO Parents Home

Thankfully, there are no cases of Corona amongst the residents. Some of the staff members have needed to go into isolation. Any visitor (family member and other) to the home is required to do an antigen test before entering the premises and this has proven to be very effective in keeping the residents healthy and infection free. Thanks to the “Mothers & Fathers Resilience Program” initiated in 2020 by the Ministry of Health and Professor Roni Gamzu when he was National Coronavirus Project Coordinator, PCR and subsequently antigen kits are provided to residential homes for the aged free of charge. This has been a lifesaver, as with the rush in demand antigen kits are now in short supply.

Last week, 4th booster shots were administered to over 100 residents and staff of Parents Home.

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