Ben-Gurion University was created over 40 years ago with a founding mandate to go beyond its gates and work to promote social equality and development in the region. It was a mandate that the University founders took to heart, encouraging students and faculty to live in and work within the community.
There was no firm blueprint or plan how to proceed. Nor was it clear at the time if anyone would folow up to ensure that steps were actually taken. But the founding spirit of commitment and caring came to shape the very nature of the University - giving rise to hundreds of different outreach programmes that are active across the Negev today.
Students and faculty are often found outside the university campuses making significant contributions to many of the surrounding communities and villages. Through the University's Community Action Unit and other social service programmes, more than 40% of the student body volunteers in the heart of disadvantaged neighbourhoods.
Open Apartments Programe
Each year about 125 students live in 65 rented apartments in Beer Sheva's disadvantaged neighbourhoods rent free. In exchange for living free-of-charge the students literally leave their doors open to neighbours and devote at least eight hours a week to community involvement through mentoring, organised programmes, classes and field trips.
Each apartment becomes a base for a wide range of activities and at any given time there are a 100 different student-initiated projects underway. These include homework help, after-school sports, dance, music and handicrafts lessons for kids, as well as Hebrew and English lessons, computer training, conflict resolution instruction and help with writing letters or filling out welfare forms for adults.
Through neighbourhood clean-up days, instruction and just plain friendship, the students serve as role models for the residents and create bridges of communication between the University and the local community, making a lasting difference in the lives of individuals and families.
Perach (which means “a flower” in Hebrew and is also an acronym for “tutorial project”) is a nationwide mentoring and tutoring programme that started at BGU, and has served the Israeli society for over 20 years. From a small and modest experimental project, Perach has developed into the largest tutorial organization in Israel (and probably in the world), in which almost 20% of all Israeli students and 45,000 children are involved, as well as hundreds of staff members who work on a regular basis. Due to its wide spread international contacts; it is serving as a model for national programmes in other countries all over the world.
At BGU students are paired with underprivileged children and youth in exchange for scholarship assistance. One-on-one tutorials are given four hours per week to 3rd graders through to 12th graders.
We are also very proud of the Ilan Ramon Youth Physics Centre that you can read about in more detail here.