Esther, a 15-year-old girl in the ninth grade, is in her second year at Stepping Stone.
Her parents emigrated to Israel from a country in Africa about 15 years ago. Esther’s father works in security for long hours and is hardly at home. Her mother works mainly in cleaning. She has two brothers aged 6 and 3.
Last year, Esther came to Stepping Stone and her behavior was characterized by extreme shyness, minimal social interaction and low participation in the Centre’s activities. The Stepping Stone team worked diligently to get closer to Esther, and slowly she opened up. Yet she continued to stay quiet in group forums.
At the beginning of this year, Esther shared with a Stepping Stone social worker that she experienced violence at home, both physically and mentally. She began to give an open account of the past several years and the difficulty that the violent responses, especially from her mother, posed to her. Despite these challenges Esther is an outstanding student at a reputed school in Tel Aviv, and she takes great responsibility in helping her brothers grow up, making sure to help foster a warm home environment for them.
Thanks to this safe environment at Stepping Stone, Esther’s willingness to share her story has allowed her to be more open and expressive with her feelings, something she had not been able to do for a long time. According to Esther, she had never, until her time at Stepping Stone, told anyone about the violence she experienced at home. Just being able to open up made her feel more safe and secure.
Today, several months after she shared her story, the Centre’s staff are seeing positive changes in Esther, both emotionally and socially. She now makes connections with her peers, laughs more frequently and is more at ease. Esther continues to share her feelings with the social worker in the Centre and has agreed to ask for help or to consult with the staff when she needs to. According to her, the violence at home has stopped, following a police investigation.
Today, Esther is more expressive, enjoys personal hobbies such as writing and playing, and allows herself to strive to develop and advance. Stepping Stone has enabled her to open up about a painful secret and to receive protection and security from caring professionals. She also enjoys the ongoing encouragement to develop her own path and to be uniquely herself.
ABOUT STEPPING STONE FOR AT-RISK TEENAGE GIRLS
This multifaceted program addresses the specific and serious needs of at-risk teenage girls, ages 13-15. Participants in the program are referred to Stepping Stone by municipal social welfare authorities in the areas where the program is offered. The majority of these teenage girls come from homes with parents, who for various reasons, cannot provide them with either financial or emotional support. The Stepping Stone program’s unique structure ensures that staff members are able to provide each teenage girl with individual attention and substantial academic and emotional support.
*Names and photos have been changed to protect the privacy of these individuals.