David Agaev is 35 and married with 2 kids. He has a Master’s Degree in Education and is the Founder and Director of a project called Loft, which works with homeless people in Tel Aviv.
“The project includes a network of seven apartments in the center of the country, which temporarily houses about 100 homeless people who are: mentally ill, require drug replacement therapy and high-dose drug treatment,” says David. “The objective is to rehabilitate these men in regular neighborhoods through healing and recovery processes until they are fully integrated into the work place. Unfortunately, this is currently a population that the State ignores and does not support.”
For a number of years, there has been close and special partnership between Leket Israel and the Loft, where residents of the Loft receive fresh and nutritious food every day and participate in the “Nutrition for Life” workshops run by nutritionists.
For David, the project is a real mission, which enables him to provide his residents with what they lacked in their childhood. His story begins in 1995 when he emigrated with his family from Uzbekistan to Bat Yam. His immigration to Israel came with many difficulties and forced the family to start their lives anew and to cope with a difficult social and economic reality.
“Russians suck” are the first words he learned in Hebrew at school. In the ‘90s, in Bat Yam, there weren’t a lot of new immigrants and they were thought of as foreigners and outsiders. As an 11 year old child, who didn’t speak Hebrew or English, and who suffered from ADHD and learning disabilities – learning Hebrew was impossible.
Pretty quickly he fell in with a group of kids who came from a similar background to his and they became a little gang. The violence, drugs and alcohol all blurred the pain he was feeling and slowly he found himself more and more on the streets. He ran away from his parents – the “family framework” was already useless to him. He lost his belief in the framework and mostly he lost his self-esteem and self-confidence.
By the time he was 14 he had 34 open cases with the police and at 14 a judge sent him to a juvenile halfway house. The essential change in his life began when he met a counselor in the hostel, who for the first time gave him what he really needed: an attentive ear, love, a sense of belonging and uncompromising boundaries. This counselor made him understand that he was part of the community, and equal to everyone else in Israeli society, which restored David’s confidence in society and in himself.
When he was 18 he was accepted into an elite unit in the IDF and finished his service with honor. After completing his military service, he began volunteering in various therapeutic organizations for youth-at-risk. He soon became an employee in the halfway house he had lived in. It was while he was working there that he encountered the important work of Leket Israel.
“The most important achievement in my life was realized with the opening of the Loft Project – a social initiative for the homeless,” says David excitedly, “this is my heart, in which I implemented my many years of study and was able to realize my dream, and give the residents everything that I lacked in my youth: a home to live in, rules and boundaries.”
This cooperation with Leket has three important implications for the lives of our residents: economically – receiving fresh and cooked food satisfies the needs of the residents, so that the necessity to spend money on food decreases dramatically. With the money saved he is happy to be able to spend the money on the tenants’ essential dental treatments, basic equipment and more. Health-The food delivered is nutritious, and contributes to reducing health risks and helps them feel better and vibrant throughout the day. But most importantly, mentally, the quality of the nutritious food we receive every day has a positive effect on the residents’ sense of value and self-image. It makes them feel they’re worth something and to me that’s the most important thing.
“My goal is to continue to expand the project’s activities and to help those who feel abandoned by society,” says David “I know that working together with Leket Israel and providing quality food in increasing quantities will pave the way into the hearts of more homeless people, enable me to increase the therapeutic process and restore their self-esteem and feeling of belonging in the world.”
Leket Israel is an organization that provides nutritious food to tens of thousands of needy through its partner agencies around the country. Loft is one of the 200 associations selected to work with Leket based on specific criteria set by the organization. Leket’s nonprofit agency partners receive food from Leket and sometimes also nutrition workshops and infrastructure support. In return, the nonprofits are required to maintain ethics and human dignity, to ensure the safety of the food donated and to distribute food free of charge to people in need.