Grantee Highlight: Adopt-A-Safta
Learning From Our Elders: An Intergenerational Care Program Goes International.
The Sephardic Foundation on Aging (SFOA) has been providing key support to the Adopt-A-Safta program for three years, granting a total of $105,000 to the Am Israel organization. This funding has allowed Adopt-A-Safta, which pairs Holocaust survivors with young volunteers to provide care and friendship, to blossom into an international, government-supported network of intergenerational programming. From staff expansions to meal deliveries, SFOA’s funding has had an enormous impact on Adopt-A-Safta’s ability to provide widespread, quality care.
2018: New Beginnings
Since starting up in 2012, the Adopt-A-Safta program of Am Israel has scaled across Israel, largely thanks to grant funding from SFOA. Founder and CEO Jay Shultz was able to hire staff for executive and volunteer management and in turn curate significant partnerships in Israel, including with the Ministries of Finance and Welfare, thanks in-part to SFOA’s initial funding.
In 2018, SFOA granted the Adopt a Safta $10,000 to expand outreach to Holocaust survivors in Israel’s Central Region. The funds were used for the salary of a program coordinator who collaborated with Macabbi Health Fund to train young adults in their 20s and 30s to help improve the physical, mental and emotional well-being of the participants through warm, sustained friendships.
This is the core model of the Adopt-A-Safta program. “It’s not short-term volunteering,” Shultz said. “It’s much more than just one day. We’re building relationships for life.”
2019: A Global Reach
In 2019, SFOA increased itsfunding to the Adopt-A-Safta program sevenfold to $75,000, and the results were marvelous. The Israel-based team was able to use the funds to increase the scope of the program director and volunteer coordinator and to hire additional staff to assist with data management, website content, marketing and social media.
“We were very Tel Aviv and Jerusalem focused,” Shultz said, “but now, thanks to SFOA’s investment, we’re launching globally.”
The program just partnered with Shalom Corps, a volunteer program for Jewish youth, that will allow it to build relationships with entirely new networks of young people across the country. Most recently, the program has been pivotal in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and global quarantine orders.
2020: Life-Saving Impact
When Israel went into lockdown in early 2020, Adopt-A-Safta was forced to stop all in-person visits between the elderly and volunteers. In response, the organization ramped up international efforts for phone call volunteers and errand runners and, with a special $20,000 grant from SFOA, were able to make special preparations such as care packages and meal preparation kits around important holidays like Passover.
Now that in-person visits are slowly returning, volunteers are providing life-saving support and care to their elderly counterparts. “Our volunteers are the first eyes on our elderly individuals,” Shultz said. “They see if the fridge is empty, a wheelchair is a bit broken, etc.” Perhaps even more importantly, however, volunteers provide the emotional support needed to stay mentally healthy and stave off the detrimental, physical ramifications of loneliness and isolation among older populations.
Creating Lifelong Relationships
Adopt-A-Safta is a program with a simple model: pairing the young and old to form lifelong, intergenerational connections. Now, this model is expanding globally. Thanks to a vision, some creativity, and generous grants from SFOA, over 3,000 elderly Holocaust survivors are less lonely. Moreover, over 3,000 young people are reaping the benefits of intergenerational connection. According to Shultz, however, it’s just the beginning. “I read an article 10 years ago and it broke my heart. I thought of a solution, and now it’s being carried out all over the world,” Shultz said. “This is not a one-time thing. We’re building families.”