Social Impact LIVE: Shlomi Avni and Amy Werman on Wilderness Therapy

November 13, 2019 @ 5:30 pm

Richard Hara is joined by guests Mr. Shlomi Avni and Dr. Amy Werman, who discuss wilderness therapy with youth at extreme risk.



Richard Hara: Hello, I’m Richard Hara, and this is Social Impact LIVE, a weekly conversation with members of the Columbia School of Social Work community. In this week’s episode of Social Impact LIVE, we look at the effectiveness of wilderness therapy as a non-traditional therapeutic method for at-risk youth. We’re joined by two guests, Mr. Shlomi Avni and Dr. Amy Werman.

Shlomi Avni is the founder and CEO of Nirim in the Hoods, an Israeli not-for-profit organization for youth at high risk. Since its inception in April of 2003, Nirim in the Hoods has expanded from a one-city pilot program to a nationwide phenomenon, serving 500 teenagers and 400 alumni in 15 cities across Israel today.

Dr. Amy Werman, LCSW, has been in clinical practice with individuals and couples for over 20 years. Over the course of her career, she has held positions in medical social work, direct clinical practice, research, program evaluation, and social work education. She is currently a full-time lecturer at CSSW, teaching courses on direct practice and clinical case and program evaluation, and has been both participant and consultant for Nirim’s innovative efforts at rehabilitating Israeli youth from troubled backgrounds. Mr. Avni and Dr. Werman, welcome to Social Impact Live.

Shlomi Avni: Thank you.

Amy Werman: Thank you.

Richard Hara: Um, Dr. Werman, you were actually here on our inaugural program last year, um, so it’s great to welcome you back and to continue the conversation about wilderness therapy. But we’re particularly pleased to have here today, Mr. Avni, who as founder can really provide us a unique perspective on how this program originated. Where it comes from and yeah – what was it that sort of brought it to life?

Shlomi Avni: So, actually all the story of our not-for-profit organization starts with a big tragedy of loss of one of our brothers-in-arms in one of the operations that the Navy Seals conducted in one of the collisions that we had with the other side, I would say. Nir was role model in our unit, and was he was a big guy, like a Navy Seal, but with big smile. Incredible human being, and after he was killed, we decided to do something in order to memorialize him. We knew that it must be connected with education, since I don’t think that people realize that most of the Israeli fighters before they join the Army, normally they will have at least one year of volunteering for educational and social causes. Nir, particularly, was going back to his high school and have a vacation in order to speak with the kids. So, we decided to start a new project that will take kids that come from tough backgrounds and put them on the right path.

As a former Navy Seal, we knew that the therapeutic tool that we were going to use will not be a drum, guitar or a – I don’t know – something like this. But it must be something that deals with survival skills with challenges and learning through the experience. And then, incredible thing happened. Nir’s commander, when he was 16, he was a troubled kid. And his father took him out from Israel in order to go through a meaningful process and come back to life, actually. And he took him to the Rocky Mountain Academy, which specialized in taking kids at these ages through survival field trips to get them back to normal behavior. So, this is how it started.

Richard Hara: I see, so, um, can you tell me when we talk about risk – high-risk youth, I mean – what kind of kids are we talking about?

Shlomi Avni: So, first of all we have to understand that Israel as a country is a new immigrants’ country. Since our establishment in 1948 and even before, we are talking about waves of immigrants that come from all over the world. My mother, for example, made aliyah – we say aliyah, not immigration. When you come to Israel you are stepping up to the Holy Land. When you go out of Israel, it’s immigration. So, she came from Morocco with her family. My father came from Turkey. My parents – my wife’s parents come from Poland and Russia and in the ‘70s we are talking about big immigration – aliyah from Russia, then from the former Soviet Union countries and from Ethiopia. So, when you –

Richard Hara: Very diverse.

Shlomi Avni: Exactly.

Richard Hara: In other words.

Shlomi Avni: And when you put all these mentalities together, in the same small place, in which still fighting for surviving and fighting for existence, you are getting a lot of social challenges. Now, these kids, in particular, they are cut in between two pressures. In one hand is the original mentality. From where they come. From where the parents come. And in the other hand, the Israel, the more than Israel social mentality and the communities expecting you to behave in a specific way. And sometimes there is a conflict between these two pressures. And then suddenly you see a lot of kids who are looking at themselves as failures. School system doesn’t know how to deal with it. The parents don’t know how to deal with it. Sometimes there are even language barriers because the parents are not even talking Hebrew yet. And then this is the place where we can intervene and take these kids to a different path.

Richard Hara: So, we’re talking about kids who maybe come from poorer neighborhood or have been marginalized in mainstream society, possibly?

Shlomi Avni: Most of them, yes.

Richard Hara: Who have struggled, maybe, you know, even with problems with law enforcement and things like that. Is that what we’re talking about?

Shlomi Avni: Yes. Most of them are coming from tough neighborhoods with very low socioeconomic background. Most of them are not part of the – let’s say the school system. And most of them, of course, are already you know in this stage or another with – playing with the police and the other law forces.

Richard Hara: So, at risk. Yeah.

Shlomi Avni: Yeah.

Richard Hara: I’m just – we’ll get into I guess the specifics of how you recruit from you know – um – these neighborhoods to come to your program, but what, exactly, is the program? I mean what – what does it do? And what do people in the program do? Maybe Amy, since you’ve sort of seen it from the outside, can you tell me?

Amy Werman: So, it’s very much a case management model. Um, the participants can be referred from Social Services, from the educational system, from the law enforcement system, and when – ah – when they get within Nirim, the instructors, they’re called – you know the mentors – um, really – ah- take care of them in every aspect of their life. They’re like a liaison, so they work with the law enforcement, they go to the schools and help them in their schools. They help their families. In every relevant part of that child’s life, that’s where the instructor will meet them. And it’s voluntary. Okay? That’s one thing I really want to emphasize. This is never forced on a child. If they buy into it, then the services are offered. Besides the case management, there’s this wilderness therapy piece. Which is sort of like the – the big intervention and that happens like four times a year. There are big missions they’re called. Outings into the wilderness for like four nights. And the kids are presented with sort of like calculated challenges that they can master.

Richard Hara: Okay, good. Um, that’s a great overview of what’s in the program. I’m curious, now, can you give me an example of a youth who found his way into the program? I mean how do you get people in? I mean, you’re not sort of – how does that happen?

Shlomi Avni: Well, normally we would say that we are working in two parallel methods. The first method is to go you know to the – we are entering the specific city. Of course, we must get the approval by the mayor and by the City Council that we are starting to implement our program. Normally, we will go through the Welfare and Education systems and get the data and information regarding specific names that they would put on the list and would say that this is the toughest cases that they have to handle. This is where we are going.

In the same time, the instructors will start wandering across the streets, across the hoods, because the kids are there. And the first stage sometimes – the kids will think that maybe we come from, you know, police detectives or something. But then they see that we are with t-shirts with the logo of the amuta, of the NGO, that’s called Nirim, and the batwings which are the Israeli Navy Seals logo is there. And then they would ask what hell the Israeli Navy Seals are doing in our neighborhoods? And then we’ll give them the story of Nir and why we are here. They will give a lot of respect since we are talking about a soldier who gave his life for the country. And what we suggest to them is that we are here to hear whatever problems you have or whatever challenges you have, and if we can help, we’ll try. And step by step they are starting to engage and to feel confidence in talking with us, because we are sitting with them, the same benches, in the same places.

I should say that sometimes you know you enter the hood and they are sitting on a bench with a few bottles of vodka. And then there is a question, because – you know – you come to create the right intervention. So, what would happen is that we’ll come with the – this mattress with you know some coffee and tea and cookies and sit like 20-30 minutes from the bench and tell them you can drink your vodka there. We are not here to tell you to do or not to do, but if you want to speak with us, you have to leave the bottles there and come here. This is our perimeter. Here we can have a coffee. You can have a tea. We can talk. We can play. Sometimes we have outdoor games that we bring. Of course, they find it very attractive, because it’s the first time that someone actually come and not say immediately stop drinking and it’s bad. It will come later, but this is the way of – you know the first engagement with the kids. And once there is the first, basic confidence, then the process can start.

Richard Hara: Interesting. Interesting. Um, I have more questions, but I also want to remind our audience that if you have a question, to please write it into the box on Facebook Live. So, that we can bring it up here on the screen – screen to ask our guests. So, it seems like the program has been successful. It’s been growing. I mean what’s been the benefit, Amy, that you’ve seen for participants in the program?

Amy Werman: So, in Israel, if you have not gotten a high school diploma, if you haven’t successfully gone through high school and you haven’t served in the military, those are two sort of rites of passage that enable you to be a participant in Israeli society. Okay? So, when you go out and you get a job, you’re always asked what unit were you in? It shows a certain commitment to the country and a certain responsibility. Okay? And if you don’t achieve those two criteria, then it’s very hard to integrate into the social fabric. And in my tracking Nirim’s outcome data for a long time, I’m happy to say that 90% of youth in this program go through high school and get a diploma, and 90% go into the military and not just the military, but in elite units of the military. And this really makes a difference in their lives, their trajectory.

Richard Hara: Mhm. That’s a tremendous track record, and congratulations on being able to do that kind of work. I’m curious about just the content of the wilderness therapy. You’re going out there and what exactly are you doing? It’s sort of like cutting down trees? I mean how does it work, and what’s the therapeutic benefit, so yeah.

Shlomi Avni: I think that the first thing to say about the wilderness therapy is to maybe to mention the motto. The motto of the wilderness therapy in our program is the following: Now, you are my kids. And I’m your instructor.

Richard Hara: Okay.

Shlomi Avni: And this is the first wilderness therapy – we don’t call it like this, by the way – we call it Survival Mission.

Richard Hara: Survival Mission.

Shlomi Avni: Because for the kids it’s – you know. To talk with them about therapeutic —

Richard Hara:   More real, right? Yeah, sure.

Shlomi Avni: —language, it’s not the right thing to do at the beginning, but it’s a survival mission. We will go together – me as your instructor, and you as the group, as the kids. We know how it starts. We don’t know how it will end. For sure, we’ll be together. We’ll carry the same bag. We’ll eat the same food, and we’ll sleep on the same rocks. Whenever a good thing will happen for this experience, we will sit in a circle in the middle of the desert and talk about it. Whenever a bad thing will happen, or less good thing will happen, still we have the option to sit in a circle and to discuss about it. This is the main motto of what we are doing. What I want to say is that it doesn’t matter if you are going to focus on navigation or cutting trees and building a camp or whatever, because you can do a lot of things when you are in the nature, apparently. The main thing is the connection that we can create, first, between the mentor – the instructor – and the kids. And the second is the connection that is there between us as human beings and the nature.

There are a lot of proofs about what’s what happened to us as human beings when we are outside in the nature. And it’s amazing to see the first reaction of the kids when we get to the first survival mission, and Dr. Werman was participating in a few of those, because normally it’s very stressed. Because when you go out of the neighborhood you go to the bus, you pack a bag, you got all the – you know preparation and the different sessions that prepare you to the mission. And it’s still sterilic – I would say. Once you are off the bus and the bus is not there, then you are in the middle of the desert with your bag and this is what there is. You want to walk? We will walk. It will take five days. You want to stay, you don’t feel like walking, okay? Might take seven days. So, the main thing now is that anything that we do, any action, will get a reaction from the nature. So, it’s better to start walking now so we’ll get to the camp in the right time to make our food and to prepare to a cold night. Because if not, we will have to – and again, the main thing is the instructors are there in the same conditions, and then you know whatever happened, there is a bond that is created between the people.

Richard Hara: Yeah, it sounds wonderful. I mean there’s that component of being in nature, but there’s also being part of group, I think, which is an important part of the experience. I’m just curious – I’m thinking about trying to lead a kid, or teenagers as a group, and there must be challenges there. I mean are there fights? I mean does that ever happen? And how do the instructors deal with that?

Shlomi Avni: Everything is happening.

Richard Hara:   Everything is happening, yeah.

Shlomi Avni: First of all, let’s say we are doing a few things. First of all, we are trying our best to prepare them to the experience. We are checking the bags to make sure that they are not bringing alcohol or knives or – and then when we are going to the survival missions, normally we will be a lot of adults there, instructors, volunteers, ex-Navy Seals or ex-different military fighters that they join us as volunteers. Then you know for example for a group of 15 kids you will have around five to seven adults with them. So, it’s – you know you can control the situation. So, even if there is – because it’s not that you are 15 kids who are walking together in the same phase. Some – you know there are three here with one instructor and another two with the volunteer. Another three want to walk faster with, control it. So, this is another thing. And again, the next is when you are there, is to control. To be on top of whatever happens. A lot of supervision of other well-experienced social workers that know when to step in and –

Richard Hara:  Okay, so there’s structure, but there’s also a certain flexibility, right? So, that people can sort of be present in the moment, work through whatever needs to be worked through, right? And hopefully take away something that will help them in their – their outside coping, right?

Shlomi Avni: I’ll give you an example that we have in almost any survival mission. These kids that come and say I want to go home, or a group that wants to go home, and we’ll open the map. Tell them, okay. Home is in this direction. Start walking. Sometimes they look at it, they look at us, say – you are crazy, and they’ll continue. Which is for us the simple case. In other cases, they will start walking. So, two instructors will go with them. At some point they will stop, and then they will sit and talk, and then they’ll come back. This is – again the idea is when you’re in nature, if you know to control the different situations, you can – you know – in a flexible way, let them feel – let them leave the nature, and when you control it, every time you are bringing them back to the – you know to the course you want to follow.

Richard Hara:   Right. Yeah. And out there, you know, you don’t have complete control, right? So, you do have to work things out.

Amy Werman: I would just add two things. One is that what’s unique about this experience is that the therapy part is in the processing. And the instructors, everything that happens in the wilderness gets processed. And that’s the opportunity for the youth to see their growth. Okay, what did you learn from that? The other really interesting thing about it, like Shlomi was saying, is that nature delivers the consequences. So, if like a group is deciding we’re not getting up and getting ready for a hike this morning, you know and we get up very early at like 5 or 6 o’clock, and then the sun starts rising. And it starts to get real hot and all of a sudden, these kids who have been making like ruckus for an hour they pack up their bags and you see them running to – to complete the hike. It’s not the mentors who say you better do this or else, they’re just totally chill with the kids, like you want to sit, we sit. So, nature is ultimately the one delivering the consequences.

Richard Hara: Interesting. Yeah. Just to expand on – on you – you’ve worked as a consultant for Nirim. And could you explain a little bit more about your role at or with Nirim?

Amy Werman: So, I – I’ve worn many hats. I guess originally, my first – my first hope was to be able to go on the missions and evaluate them. So, the first time I went on a survival mission, it took me about 5 minutes – you know – after I had my researcher hat on that we started the mission, where I said wait a minute. This is really overwhelming, and I ditched the research hat and said okay, I have to have this experience. And so that was transforming for me. But I also speak with the instructors when I go over to Israel to hear about what their challenges are. And make recommendations. And also, in terms of just organizing evaluations. Helping Nirim find ways to evaluate what they’re doing.

Richard Hara: Okay, and as an academic and researcher as well, you can provide us further perspective in this model of Wilderness Therapy, and we have questions coming in from the audience and specifically, how does this model differ from American Therapeutic Wilderness Programs? Are they similar? What’s the difference?

Amy Werman: Um, they’re very similar. I was at a Wilderness Therapy Conference in Utah in August, and there were many presentations, and there’s a lot of overlap. I mean the strategy is basically the same where there’s this – you know this going out into a novel environment, being presented with challenges, and group process. The one thing that I think is really unique about Nirim in the hoods is that the recruitment process is very interesting. When the instructors embed in the neighborhoods and these kids go up to them and become interested. The autonomy and the empowerment piece of that is so strong.

Shlomi Avni: Yeah. I think that another thing that it’s – I’m less familiar with the Outward-Bound programs in the states, but for us the survival part, the Wilderness Therapy is a key component, but it’s not the only component, because we are taking these kids for a long process. In our agenda, in our – we see things as if you take a kid when he’s 15, 16, 17 sometimes, it’s not to take him for one month or three months or one survival field trip. It’s not enough. We take them, actually, for around 2 to 2-1/2 years of process. When they enlist to the Army, we continue mentoring them through the process of the service, and then we are still with them as graduates in order to help them, because they don’t have the back – you know the backup from the families, normally. So, it’s either a scholarship for the university or to help them find the right and decent jobs. So, we are there for them through the whole – actually it’s like – it’s become a family.

Richard Hara:   So, covering a whole spectrum of needs over a longer-term period of time. Wonderful. Specifically, what ages do you serve? Is the program? I was thinking about this, too. For boys and girls?

Shlomi Avni: So, the ages are 12 to 18. This is when you start. Normally, the groups will be at the same age, so that you can find kids at the age of 12 and 15 same group of course. It is for boys and girls. When we started, we – we have groups that consisted of boys and girls, but then we realized that it will make more sense to try and start the process with only girls group and only boys group, and after a year – year and a half – the different stages, there is a time we start to put them together. But again, it’s – we’re monitoring and controlling it because at the end, it’s a personal process that you have to go through. The team is a tool. It’s not the target.

Richard Hara: And there’s no reason to think that girls aren’t as interested in nature and also these kinds of experiences of survival skills and so on, right?

Shlomi Avni: What – what will happen with the only girls group is that the sessions of sitting and talking, it’s amazing. It comes very fast. And once they start talking, they are sharing a lot of information – very personal information – about their background, about the different pathologies, so normally when we are taking an only girls group, we’ll have more social workers so we can – because once a boy or a girl they share their personal story, sometimes very tough stories, you have to be focusing on how to take it and to proceed from this point, because now they are sharing. It’s out there. We have to do something with it in order to – you know to help.

Richard Hara:   Yeah. So, where do you see this program going in the future? What are your goals and aspirations with this?

Shlomi Avni: When I go to sleep at night, I don’t think about the kids who are part of the program. I think about the kids who are not part of the program. In English you would say that whoever says one soul it’s like they save the world entire. And we say the same in Israel, so for me, personally, the main goal is to make sure that the program will continue to expand, welcome more kids from different regions of Israel, from different backgrounds. This is the main thing.

Richard Hara: Mhm. And Dr. Werman from your perspective, is there something in Nirim’s model that we can take here to the United States? I mean particularly when we’re trying to work with youth at high risk who maybe aren’t as amenable to traditional approaches? For help?

Amy Werman: Yeah, well, I can speak personally to that. I mean having had a clinical practice for a very long time, and having experienced Wilderness Therapy, I really wish that I was able to take my clients out into Wilderness because it’s such a – more intensive process. It’s so much more authentic because you’re seeing a person 24/7, you know when a person comes to your office 45 minutes a week, you’re not seeing the whole person. You’re not seeing how they interact with their – their peers. Their family. This is you know right there on the spot. I think the major issue of adapting it in the United States. It is being done, broadly, in the United States. Financially it costs about – between $500 and $600 a day to do Wilderness Therapy in the United States.

Richard Hara: Okay, and that’s – that’s a barrier that’s an issue that you know we need to look at if we’re going to be trying to either disseminate this kind of program or scale it up. You know. We have a lot of questions, um, left, and we’ll probably go over our usual time, so if that’s okay with people, we’ll see if we can get in as many questions as possible since I think people want to hear much more about this program. How many kids do you see on average?

Shlomi Avni: So, in the different programs, these days, we are working in 18 different locations, 18 different cities. And with more than 550 kids, it’s growing as we speak. Because we recruit kids on a normal basis. It’s not that you are starting in the beginning of the year and that’s it. Because there is a chance to recruit through the process and sometimes you know, kids who are coming from boarding schools and there are suddenly in the neighborhood with no one to attend, so we take over.

Richard Hara: I saw this question earlier, and I’ll ask it now. How is the program sustainable – financed? I mean are you reliant on donations? How do you pay the bills?

Shlomi Avni: It’s a good question, first of all. When we started it was 100% donations. These days we have support from the Israel government and different municipalities. It means that around 2/3 of the budget will come from the state government or municipalities, and the rest is donations that comes from either Israel or Jewish donors across the globe. Mainly from the states.

Richard Hara: So, a combination of different sources but great that government has sort of recognized the value of this program and is funding it to a certain extent.

Shlomi Avni: It took a few years to explain – to show, to see what are the success rates and once – you know they got it, it was easy to get the funds, because it is very effective. The results are talking.

Richard Hara: Absolutely. Yep. Yep. What is the social worker’s role on the survival mission? Does the social worker participate in building the shelter, etc. I mean yeah as a social worker I’m curious.

Shlomi Avni: It’s a good question. The social worker is part of the whole process.

Richard Hara: Has to do everything that everyone else does?

Shlomi Avni: Yes. The social worker works with the instructors on a daily basis. The social worker is outside in the hood. The social worker is in the field in the survival missions together with them with the same bag and the same route. The idea is to create this experience and then it’s much easier for the social worker to know how to implement the different methods in order to help the kids.

Richard Hara: Dr. Werman do you want to?

Amy Werman: Yes. If you think about the model, I mean this is – you know and myself as a social worker, I – usually people come to us and we – even if we don’t want to be, we engage them sort of from the top down, and we don’t know their experience. When you’re in the wilderness – right – you have to know what that experience is like. You have to walk next to them.

Richard Hara: Literally.

Amy Werman: Literally – you – in order to understand the process.

Shlomi Avni: It’s important to say that sometimes – you know – the instructors and the social workers are not supermans. So, sometimes they are going through tough moments themselves. And the idea is to be there with the kids and to show them that it’s okay. And then again, the bond is very, very strong.

Richard Hara: Okay, what is the vision for scaling this type of program to different target groups? Are there particular target groups that are most likely to benefit? I’m not sure.

Shlomi Avni: In general, we will be happy to work with any municipality that will take us in, since you know we’re in Israel. When we started the project, we mainly worked with the Jewish communities. These days we have few interventions with other populations from Druze, Bedouin, and even we have Muslim participants. There is a paradox here since the basic of the NGO is a soldier who was killed in action. One of the goals that we put out front is to enlist to the Israeli Army. I can say that we have few Muslim participants that enlisted in the Israeli Army and are part of the Israeli Society. So, for us, we will work with anyone. I don’t think that the people realize how much help the Israeli government are giving to Muslims around Israel in other places. Because for us, if someone is in trouble, it doesn’t matter from where they come. It’s in the Jewish values to help.

Richard Hara: Well, let me see, did – is the program beneficial for youth with learning disabilities? Has that come up in – in the course of your work yeah?

Shlomi Avni: Yes of course. It’s – mhm – most of the kids at the end of the day will come with you know the same package of pathologies. So, we are handling these also. We have a unique program that we are running inside the school system in the – during the day. In the learning. That we take an instructor that is there in the school system every day with the teachers, with the kids. Once a week the kids instead of going to learn in this class, they will go to the Wilderness with the teacher in order to give them opportunity to perform in a different setting. And suddenly a kid who is failing in school is succeeding in the field, outside. And then the idea is to try and take this success, take this experience and to implement it in other – in other way in the school.

Amy Werman: Just to add to that, the Nirim approach is really strength based. The kids entering this program have been told their whole lives, you’re nothing. You’re failures. We don’t want you. You don’t belong in our society. And when they enter Nirim, they’re told what they can do. And when they hear that, that’s the foundation for their growth.

Richard Hara: We have a question that asks what are the success rates, and I’m a little troubled by that, because it kind of implies that there would be failures, but I don’t think there are any failures, right? You know in terms of people failing the program, right? It may not be a good fit. I mean essentially, you’ve seen benefits and how widespread are they?

Shlomi Avni: We have goals to achieve, and we measure these goals. As I mentioned, the first thing I to stop all criminal behavior. The second will be to go back to school and to perform and to graduate. The third will be to enlist into the Israeli Army and to fulfill a full Army service, not only to start something, but also finish it. And eventually is to be a part – a normative part of the Israeli society. So, you know a failure would be much more, someone that we maybe try to recruit to the group, and we couldn’t. This will be a failure for us.

Richard Hara: In your view.

Shlomi Avni: And we are – you know as a model we are not giving up on any child. But the child sometimes are giving up on us.

Richard Hara: Yeah. So, do you see a majority of participants not having further problems with you know law enforcement? Able to finish school? Things like that? I mean you were talking a little bit about that before.

Amy Werman: Right, and actually we did a recent survey and I don’t have the numbers in front of me, but two things that I remember stand out. In terms of completing a high school education, and in terms of completing the Israeli military, it’s about 90% for each of those. And that exceeds the national rate in Israel. So, these kids are actually out-performing their normative counterparts.

Richard Hara: It’s a great success story. Um, we have two final questions. Does Nirim have success stories of kids you mentor actually going to college and/or starting jobs that improve their lives? I mean have you seen that trajectory?

Shlomi Avni: It surprised us with the first group. The first group in my hometown in Ora Kiva we had 25 kids in the same group, and we didn’t – we had not thought about college or university. It was too far when we started. We looked at how – how to make them come to the – to the activities and how to make them to go to the first survival mission. This is how it starts. And then, you know it was a success story. There were for the process, they enlist to the Army. They – are released from the Army and then realized that 60% went to University. Which is – it was crazy. And once we realized it, we said okay this is another phase that we have to consider. So, today we have a program in the – in the Nirim in the NGO to get funds for a scholarship for the kids. So, not only to – you know – to pay the annual fee for the aca- for the academia, but also to help them live the life in a – in a decent way so they can focus on studying and not on you know provide for themselves.

Richard Hara: Right? Tremendous. We’re down to our last question. If I wanted to volunteer for your organization, as someone in the states, but willing to travel, what are the ways I could help?

Amy Werman: I do have to interject here that I get this question all the time from my students about can Columbia do internships there? You know, we’d like to come for the summer. With spring break. I am actually trying to arrange a travel course next year over spring break, and the course is going to be a semester course on interesting interventions in Israel and Wilderness Therapy Nirim will be part of it. But I am going to defer to Shlomi who makes these decisions.

Shlomi Avni: Mhm. First of all, we are very happy to have volunteers because it’s another experience when you are on the survival mission and suddenly you meet these – someone who took the time in order to come and help you. So, it’s –

Richard Hara: So, you do have volunteers?

Shlomi Avni: Yes, of course.

Richard Hara: Okay. And if someone – you know privately on their own contacts you and – and explores this option?

Shlomi Avni: Through the website. It’s either for the website of Nirim or if you want to make a shortcut, find Dr. Werman.

Amy Werman: Because actually there was three years ago, we sent some kids – some kids – some students on the – on the winter mission. They went on their own expense and they joined the program, and they learned about the technique of wilderness therapy.

Richard Hara: Great opportunity and I’ve learned a lot about the program and the great work that you’re doing. More about wilderness therapy. So, thank you both for joining us here today –

Shlomi Avni: Thank you.

Amy Werman: Thank you, Richard.

Richard Hara:  – on Social Impact LIVE. That concludes today’s episode. We’ll be joined next week by Aimee Campbell for – Dr. Aimee Campbell – for an update on Columbia’s New York State-wide opioid study. So, hope you have a great rest of the week, and see you next time. Bye.