13 year old Rachel, part of the ITEC’s social impact programs, trains at the Marjorie Sherman Israel Tennis & Education Center in Ashkelon. She lives in Sderot, eight miles from Gaza, and has experienced the fear of missile attacks that would come on a regular basis. Yet, the commute to the ITEC is well worth it, as she dreams of one day becoming a tennis champion.
Rachel started playing tennis at four years old after emigrating from Russia with her parents, who really wanted her to play tennis. Shaya Azar, manager of the ITEC – Ashkelon, says, “Rachel is such a hard worker. Despite all the difficulties that she faces in life, she always keeps her positive attitude and her smile. Rachel maintains unwavering focus on her tennis and her friends as opposed to the security threats she faces.”
The ITEC – Ashkelon has become a place of refuge for Rachel. She says: “Coming to the ITEC – Ashkelon helps me a lot because it allows me to maintain a daily routine and to feel safe. Living in Sderot, even the most basic things such as playing outside with your friends can be dangerous.”
Rachel is able to play tennis thanks to a scholarship she receives from the Israel Tennis & Education Centers. There are over 1000 children at risk who are in a similar situation as Rachel and, thanks to the financial help they receive, they are able to participate in tennis and fitness programs in Centers around the country. Through a network of holistic welfare programs that teach discipline and self-control, improve self-confidence and provide community role models, the ITEC is able to help children at risk mature into independent and responsible adults.