Thirteen years ago, Helping Hand Coalition partnered with GAiN (Global Aid Network), an international organization established in Germany by Klaus and Claudia Dewald, to aid survivors of the Holocaust and World War II veterans throughout the Land of Israel. Pairing a German individual or family, mostly Christians who have a heart for the Jewish people, with those who were affected by the events of the Holocaust, the GAiN Sponsorship Program is a project that has built a bridge between Germany and Israel. Assisting more than 350 people, the program has continued to grow over the years, sparking joy and gratitude in the lives of both the survivors and sponsors.
Three to four times a year, Helping Hand Coalition visits the survivors and veterans in a meeting place, or in their homes if they are too ill to travel. At these distributions, grocery cards, gifts from their sponsors, or other donated items coming on a container from Germany (medical supplies, disabled equipment, clothing, shoes, etc.), are given to those involved in the program.
On March 8th, a two-day grocery card distribution in the south of Israel began. Warmly greeting each survivor by name, Sebastien Petrone, manager of the program, not only handed out the envelopes containing the grocery cards but spent time asking each person about their lives, family, ongoing illnesses, and scheduled operations. One at a time, the survivors took a seat at the table and explained their latest updates while Sebastien wrote down each response on a piece of paper to send to their sponsors along with an updated picture of the survivors. Love shone on the faces of the ghetto survivors as they spoke to Sebastien, adopting him as their grandson after thirteen years of partnership.
“The people in this program are like coffee. Their lives were bitter, but the sponsorship program has added sweetness, sugar, into their lives.” ~ Sebastien Petrone
Each time an envelope was handed to a survivor or caretaker, a smile would spread across their faces as they took hold of the blessing that had been provided by people they once considered their enemy. Despite not having much, a handful of the survivors arrived at the distribution with gifts for Helping Hand Coalition’s team, determined to not only receive the blessings but give a blessing in return.
The most touching part of this week’s distribution was hearing that, despite the language barrier, some of the survivors keep in communication with their sponsors. The program has turned strangers into friends, and, on a few occasions, sponsors have even come to the Land to meet the people they have been aiding, creating memories that the survivors hold dear and continue to talk about at each gathering.
Helping Hand Coalition has many active projects currently operating in the Land of Israel that is connecting the world to the survivors of the Holocaust and giving the survivors a platform for their voices to be heard. The GAiN Sponsorship Program is just one example of the incredible work that is happening to ensure that the people who paved the way for this generation to live in Israel are taken care of and not forgotten. Standing with them until the very end, this program is more than a way to aid those in need; it has become a platform where history is being changed, and a new generation can spread love rather than hatred to those who have experienced so much.
If you want to keep up with regular updates about the GAiN Sponsorship Program and the other projects Helping Hand Coalition is working on, please click the FOLLOW button at the top of your screen to join Helping Hand Coalition on this journey! If you are interested in donating towards the work happening in the Land, please click here!