Oshri Ayalo, 9 years old, trains four times a week on the High Performance Program at the Marjorie Sherman Israel Tennis Center – Ashkelon. In one short year, he has fallen in love with the game and dreams of being the first Ethiopian tennis player to represent Israel.
Oshri immigrated to Israel from Ethiopia with his family, who still cope with difficulties adjusting to life in Israel. The young boy and his siblings are looked after by their older sister Rachel since both their parents work fulltime. It was upon his sister’s insistence that Oshri began playing tennis at the ITC. Last year he joined the Empowerment Program for children from Ethiopian descent and very quickly the staff and the coaches realized he had great potential and natural athletic abilities. Due to financial difficulties, Rachel was forced to help her family by working and stopped playing tennis, yet she made sure Oshri continued taking his tennis lessons. Shaya Azar, manager of the Marjorie Sherman Israel Tennis Center – Ashkelon explains: “Oshri is very dedicated to improving his tennis. He is such a positive child, who works hard but has fun at the same time”.
Rachel, his sister, says: “It was very important to me to make sure that Oshri continues to play tennis every day. Not only because I know that he enjoys it, but because he learns so much from being at the Israel Tennis Centers. For both of us, it has become a second home and we enjoy every minute we spend there”. Oshri also explains why he keeps playing: “The Marjorie Sherman Israel Tennis Center – Ashkelon is a place that I love so much. I can play tennis and have fun with my friends at the same time. I would love to one day play around the world and represent Israel”.
Oshri, along with many other children with similar stories, are examples of the difference our social impact programs can make on the lives of children. Jonathan David, a supporter and sponsor of programs for children from Ethiopian descent, explains: “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”.