Dr. Chaim Peri, director emeritus of Yemin Orde Youth Village in Israel, believes in the power of unconditional love to transform the lives of at-risk and underprivileged youth. For 27 years he put his philosophy into practice at Yemin Orde, a residential facility located atop Mount Carmel, just south of Haifa. In 2006, Dr. Peri launched the Yemin Orde Initiatives to disseminate the Village’s unique methodology and compassionate approach to other youth and children’s villages throughout Israel and around the world.
“My banner phrase is that we must deinstitutionalize the institutions and make residential education the next best thing to home,” said Dr. Peri when he spoke at Maxine Snyder’s La Jolla home Feb. 20. “We must show the children that we will never abandon them. We never expel anyone. We send them out for therapy as needed.”
In Dr. Peri’s experience, children respond mentally and emotionally within nine months of arriving at Yemin Orde, which operates on the principle that “the worse you are the better you can be.”
Yemin Orde, situated on 77 acres with breathtaking views of the Carmel Mountains and Mediterranean Sea, aims to raise beautiful children in its beautiful environment. Five hundred children ranging in age from 5 to 17 call Yemin Orde home. These children come from 22 different countries, including Russia, Ethiopia, Brazil, Sudan and China. All of the children at Yemin Orde are from the lowest end of the socio-economic scale. They have suffered trauma in their young lives: abandonment, separation and abuse.
“We always respect the backgrounds and values of our children and celebrate their cultural differences,” Dr. Peri explained. The Yemin Orde staff consists of 36 bi-lingual families who live on campus. Every child who arrives at Yemin Orde has a staff member who speaks his or her language. By the end of the year, every new arrival speaks Hebrew fluently. By living on campus, the staff creates the sense of extended family. “I raised five children of my own at Yemin Orde, and one of them teaches at Yale,” Dr. Peri said with pride.
Peri’s pride extends to all the graduates of Yemin Orde, who go on to serve in the Israel Defense Forces or perform other national service. Approximately 80 percent of Yemin Orde students continue to university or receive other professional training. This is above the national average.
Elad Koshalev, a Yemin Orde graduate, accompanied Dr. Peri on his visit to Southern California. Koshalev, a native of St. Petersburg, was born to a Jewish father and non-Jewish mother. His parents divorced when he was a young child. His father moved to Germany, abandoning his wife and three sons. Koshalev’s mother sent her three sons to Israel with the hope that they’d find greater opportunities there.
Koshalev arrived at Yemin Orde at age 15. He attended high school there for three years. Upon graduation he served four years in the IDF and became a lieutenant in a combat infantry unit stationed in the West Bank. While in the army, Koshalev formally converted to Judaism.
Now 23 years old, Koshalev plans on attending Technion University in Haifa and studying construction engineering. He credits Yemin Orde with giving him a bright future.
“I’ve accomplished things I didn’t think were possible eight years ago. I now have unlimited possibilities,” Koshalev said. He takes comfort in knowing he “can always go to Yemin Orde for help.”
Yemin Orde gives new meaning to the oft-used phrase “It takes a village.” This youth village has given unconditional love, hope and opportunity to thousands of children. Dr. Peri hopes to spread Yemin Orde’s recipe for success throughout Israel and the world. Prior to visiting San Diego, Dr. Peri was at a youth village in Rwanda helping them implement Yemin Orde’s methodology. He hopes the Yemin Orde Initiatives will create a globally interconnected network of youth villages — one huge extended family.
For more information or to contribute to Yemin Orde please visit www.yeminorde.org.