Sari Revkin

Organization: 
YEDID - The Association for Community Empowerment
Year founded: 
1997
Country: 
Israel
Website: 

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Through a national network of Citizen Rights Centres, YEDID empowers low-income Israelis of all ethnic and religious backgrounds to break the cycle of poverty and reach self-sufficiency by accessing their rights and economic opportunities.

Focus: Social and Economic Rights, Homelessness Prevention, Affordable Housing, Financial Literacy
Geographic Area of Impact: Israel
Model: Leveraged Not-for-Profit
Number of Direct Beneficiaries: 27,200 (2012)
Annual Budget: US$ 2.7 million (2012)
Percentage Earned Revenue: 2%
Recognition: Social Entrepreneur of the Year, Israel, 2008

Background
Although Israel has a booming economy and entrepreneurial spirit, there is also a growing social gap between the rich and poor. The poorest members of society are under-represented in the labour force, and are under utilizing government benefits. YEDID was created to promote access to rights and equal opportunities for economic advancement, while ensuring a participatory democracy for all Israeli citizens regardless of race, religion or language.

Innovation and Activities
YEDID (“friend” in Hebrew) was established with the goal of empowering disadvantaged people by giving them access to justice as they break the chains of poverty. Through its 16 Citizen Rights Centres, located in major cities and small towns throughout Israel, YEDID seeks to turn the personal struggles of individuals in poor neighbourhoods into active initiatives that have a personal impact on their lives. It also advocates for changes in public policy that can affect the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in similar circumstances.

Since its founding in 1997, YEDID has helped over 275,000 Israelis break the cycle of poverty and successfully change public policy on issues concerning homelessness prevention, labour, healthcare and social security.

At the individual level, YEDID provides free legal assistance, information and advice on issues concerning housing, healthcare, consumer fraud, education, employment and other social issues. The organization defends the rights of the disadvantaged, and has helped tens of thousands who faced eviction from their homes. It has helped clients overcome and refinance bad debts, avoid repossessions and imprisonment, learn financial literacy skills to avoid future problems, and break the cycle of poverty in families.

YEDID’s Community Empowerment Initiatives provide the skills and information necessary to help people raise themselves out of poverty. Empowerment courses include financial literary, job readiness, grassroots community organizing and leadership development.

YEDID also advocates for affecting changes in national policies, regulations and legislation on a broad range of issues, including homelessness, labour law, welfare and healthcare. For example, legislative change was enacted in response to a campaign to provide solar hot water heaters in government-owned public housing, resulting in decreased electricity bills for tenants and a reduced carbon footprint for the environment.

The Entrepreneur
Sari Revkin earned a Master's in Social Work from the University of Maryland, and received professional training at Baltimore’s Welfare Rights Organization, before immigrating to Israel in 1983. For 14 years, she provided capacity building to hundreds of non-profit organizations as the Chief Executive Officer of SHATIL, the New Israel Fund’s Capacity Building Centre for social change organization. As an optimist imbued with a social justice ideology, she founded YEDID fifteen years ago and currently serves as Executive Director, helping to provide access to economic opportunities and social rights for people living outside of Israel’s mainstream society. Recognizing the need to ensure the sustainability of YEDID, Revkin reached out to the private sector to provide YEDID’s services for a fee as part of their on-site Employee Assistance Programme. In addition, she entered into a unique collaboration with a world-renowned jewellery design centre to develop a jewellery artisan school for new immigrants, and helped launch the school's first cutting edge social enterprise.