They’re the children who can get lost in the shuffle.
They have an ill sibling or parent. Or maybe there’s been a death in the family.
A new afterschool program for such kids is being organized in Teaneck.
Dubbed i-shine, it originated in Lawrence, N.Y. – one of Long Island’s Five Towns – as a project of the Chai Lifeline organization.
It will start in Paramus in October, for children in elementary school through eighth grade.
“The children are picked up from various day schools and brought to Yeshiva Noam,” said Rabbi Ari Zahtz, assistant rabbi at Teaneck’s Congregation Bnai Yeshurun.
“They’ll get a snack, help with homework, fun activities, dinner, and then be transported back to home. It’s volunteer-run, except for a social worker who Chai Lifeline provides,” he said.
Most of the volunteers running the program will be high school students.
“The children love being showered with attention by teenagers,” Zahtz said. “From what we’ve seen in the Five Towns, they develop special relationships with these kids.”
For children who sometimes are overlooked because of their family situation and their overburdened parents, “it helps them to be in the spotlight. It also removes some burden from the parents, knowing their children will be taken care of two days a week.”
Zahtz has not had difficulty finding volunteers. “We’ve spoken at the local high schools. There are well over a hundred high school kids who are interested in helping. Please God, we shouldn’t have that many kids in that kind of situation,” he said.
Adult volunteers – needed for driving – have also come forward.
“The response has been amazing. It’s the community giving to the community in an active sense, not just writing checks,” he said.
At this stage, Zahtz doesn’t know how many children will take part.
“We might start up with a very small group. We’ve tried to get the information to local pediatricians and the social workers in the local schools,” he said.