13 year old Levi Mekonen is part of the Addison Reserve Project for children at risk at the ITC – Beer Sheva. Levi comes from a broken home with many financial difficulties, but thanks to tennis and the ITC, he has learned to smile again.
Levi’s parents divorced when he was very young and his father moved to a city an hour away from Beer Sheva. There were long periods of time, when the young boy and his brother did not have contact with their father. The break-up was very difficult for Levi, as he craved a male role model in his life. Yet everything changed in the summer of 2011, when Levi was given the opportunity to be a part of the Addison Reserve Program at the ITC – Beer Sheva.
The Addison Project is a summer program that gives children at risk the opportunity to participate in various activities at the ITC – Beer Sheva. The aim of the program is to provide participants with an alternative normative framework that promotes a healthy lifestyle; to expose them to the world of tennis and to create an opportunity for them to continue to partake in sporting activities; to raise awareness regarding the implications of substance abuse and to instill values that will strengthen the resilience of these young boys and girls. The project ended in September, but Levi is one of six children who have remained committed to playing tennis and to coming to the ITC.
At the end of the program, Levi was chosen as the MVP. Yaniv Sakira, manager of the ITC – Beer Sheva explains: “Levi is a truly amazing child and his smile will melt your heart. He came to the Center a little lost and without the possibility of enjoying any extracurricular activities. Tennis has really given him something positive and healthy to focus on and I am sure he will continue to improve and to develop his tennis and his life skills”.
Thanks to Levi’s wonderful on-court results and positive off-court attitude, he was chosen to represent the ITC in the upcoming exhibitions in the United States. In order to arrange his passport and visa, Yaniv got in touch with his father. Yaniv: “I was stunned to hear how excited his father was. A few weeks after I spoke to him, Levi and his mother told me that they had been in constant touch and that he was starting to rebuild his relationship with his father. I get goose bumps when I think that thanks to the ITC, this amazing young boy has his father back in his life!”
Levi explains: “I love tennis so much. I always have so much fun when I go to the Center and I want to keep playing so I can get better. I am so excited to travel to the United States to meet all the people who help me achieve my dreams”. Levi’s mother Allam, said: “I want to thank the Israel Tennis Centers for everything they do for my son. Levi has never been outside of Israel and it is such an amazing opportunity for him to be able to travel to the United States”.
Jonathan David, a supporter and sponsor of programs for children from Ethiopian descent, says: “Getting kids involved in this kind of thing and building their self-image is probably more important for their development than anything else”. Dvora Marsha, a graduate of the Program for children of Ethiopian descent and one of the ITC’s most promising young coaches, adds: “Coming to Israel wasn’t easy for the Ethiopian people, but for me coming to the ITC was the most important thing in my life. In the beginning when it was really tough, the ITC was like a family to me and they let me feel like I belong somewhere”.
The ITC is so proud of Levi and his accomplishments. He, along with Dvora and many others are tremendous examples of the difference our social impact programs can make on the lives of children.
About The Israel Tennis Centers Foundation (“ITC”):
The ITC is a non-profit organization (formerly known as The Israel Children’s Centers is a 501 (c)) that works to enhance the social, psychological and physical development of Israeli children through the medium of sport. We provide a healthy and structured environment for children from all walks of life, teaching values of cooperation, persistence and tolerance. Thirty-five years after the inauguration of the first Israel Tennis Center in Ramat Hasharon, the ITC has expanded throughout Israel and has nurtured and empowered more children and adults than the original founders could have ever dreamed. Currently one of the largest social-service agencies for children in Israel, the ITC operates 14 Centers throughout Israel’s periphery within socio-economically disadvantaged neighborhoods. The Centers are complete with cutting edge facilities and tennis courts that serve over 20,000 children. For additional background please visit: http://www.israeltenniscenters.org