Help needy to earn their liv­ing says char­ity head

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY SANDY RASHTY

NEEDY COM­MU­NI­TIES should be taught how to fend for them­selves or risk dy­ing out.

That is the warn­ing from De­bra Brun­ner, the woman be­hind The To­gether Plan which launched last year to teach lead­er­ship and busi­ness skills to Jewish com­mu­ni­ties in the for­mer Soviet Union.

She set up the char­ity af­ter World Jewish Re­lief (WJR) ended its Gifts in Kind pro­gramme sup­ply­ing goods to Jews in the re­gion for 12 years.

Mrs Brun­ner, a Finch­ley Re­form Syn­a­gogue mem­ber, said: “I used to work very closely with WJR, but then they de­cided to close down the pro­gramme. It’s a great shame that came to an end, but now we have to teach the Jewish com­mu­ni­ties how to stand on their own two feet.

“It’s very dan­ger­ous when they rely on help, don’t know how to in­ter­act with the wider world, and then the help they re­ceived stops. When that hap­pens, com­mu­ni­ties dis­ap­pear.”

Mrs Brun­ner, who is de­scended from Pol­ish and Rus­sian Jews, said her char­ity, manned by 20 vol­un­teers, was de­liv­er­ing aid to around 3,000 people in Be­larus and had launched a pi­lot dis­tri­bu­tion cen­tre in Minsk, en­abling lo­cals to earn a liv­ing by sell­ing do­nated clothes.

“I’ve ap­proached other char­i­ties, but no one is go­ing down the self-suf­fi­ciency route,” she said.

WJR chief ex­ec­u­tive Paul An­ti­coni, said life-skills pro­grammes were at the heart of WJR work in the re­gion.

He ex­plained that Gifts in Kind was stopped be­cause “it be­came harder f o r WJR t o s hi p goods over­seas. Four of WJR’s con­tain­ers were i mpounded i n U k r a i n e a n d Moldova for over 12 months. “We briefly tri­alled an al­ter­na­tive ap­proach, sell­ing clothes to gen­er­ate funds to sup­port our in­ter­na­tional pro­grammes, but the profit mar­gins were too small in a highly com­pet­i­tive char­ity re­tail sec­tor.”

The To­gether Plan will run its first events in the UK to cel­e­brate the cul­ture of the Jewish com­mu­ni­ties from Be­larus next week, in­clud­ing a con­cert and a pho­to­graphic ex­hi­bi­tion.

‘When the help stops, that’s when com­mu­ni­ties dis­ap­pear’

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