The fragile five year old sat on the bench of Sunlight Mission in Santa Monica. She looked up as the stately, attractive Daphna Edwards Ziman walked in. Their eyes met. The girl jumped up from the bench and grabbed the lady's hand. At that moment, Daphna was hooked.
In Hebrew, it's called B'shert or fate.
"I had been searching for something, I didn't know what. No matter how successful I was, there was still a vacuum in me. My soul called out to her and I knew that I had to help the child. I returned several times, teaching her the ABCs and taking her places. I didn't know at that time, but I was mentoring her. I knew that I had to help her and soon I realized how many more like her needed the same help."
That young girl eventually became Daphne's daughter, but the Israeli philanthropist knew there was something more that she could - she had to - do. "As my friend, Hillary Clinton said, "It takes a village to raise a child." "I wanted to help children who had nothing, who had lost everything. Hillary and I came up with The Day of The Child." It was then that Daphna Edwards Ziman created Children Uniting Nations.
"The American family, as we knew it, no longer exists. We are a nation of single parents, singles and seniors. In LA county alone, we have 56,000 kids who need help." These are kids who are either homeless or in the foster care system. "They need someone to give them love, trust and consistency. Many of these children flit from home to home and school to school, never knowing one person or one family for any length of time. There is no one that they can trust. No one looks them in the eye. No one remembers their birthdays. Can you imagine the trauma? Can you imagine the damage that does to them?"
Every year we unite thousands of mentors and children together. There are three types of mentors. The Lifeskills mentor, the academic mentor and the occupational mentor.
Unlike Big Brothers/Sisters (who do a wonderful job), the Lifeskills mentors do more than just take the child to the movies or the park once a month. Many of these kids have never been to the mall. They don't know how to shop for bargains or balance a checkbook or accounts. These are what the life skill mentor teaches their kid.
Studies have shown that children who have suffered trauma have suppressed cognitive ability. They must be reached and taught through other means. The academic mentor, who usually signs on for a minimum of one school year, is trained in neurobiology on how to teach these kids. They go into the classroom with them and are able to translate the work in a way that the student can understand. Then every week, they go over the curriculum and break it down. This way, 90% of the children with an academic mentor stay in school and escape the crime/juvenile hall rat race.
Because not every child is able to find success in academics, we want the children to be knowledgeable about other pathways in life. The occupational mentor teaches them job skills - what it means to hold a job and to stay responsible while on the job, how money is earned and how you bank it. Thanks to Bloomingdale's Michael Gold, employees of that company are urged to become mentors.
"We have many success stories of mentors and their kids -- many end up adopting them or at least staying in their lives a long time (if not forever.) But it takes a special type of person to be a good mentor. We do background checks on the applications and make sure that the mentors are stable - no more than two job changes in a year, no more than two moves in a year."
People who, for some reason, can't sign up for mentoring, can contribute. Monies received go to help pay for things like transportation, food, clothes, and school supplies for the children . It lets them know that someone cares about them.
Join Daphna and the staff of Children Uniting Nations on November 18, 2012, for this year's Day of The Child, celebrated on Santa Monica Pier, where another thousand children will be united with loving mentors. Hosted by Sinbad, at the Santa Monica Pier, it will be a day of fun for all.
Mentoring isn't an easy thing. It takes a commitment and only special people can handle it. Are you one of those special people? If so, call 323 944 0500 or go to the site at www.childrenunitingnations.org and see if you can volunteer or contribute. They currently are in desperate need of blankets and money to help these kids. Please call and let them know you care and join us for Day of the Child.