Self-Conscious and uncommunicative
Binyamin is one of nine brothers and sisters. One day, his father walked into the Kav L’Noar supervisor’s office, and without any introduction, said, “I need help! My Binyamin is being excluded from everything. He has so many siblings and there is never a quiet moment at home, and yet he doesn’t seem to know how to talk to other people. He doesn’t have anything going for him. The huge purple birthmark on his face makes him self-conscious. He gets laughed at all the time. People feel sorry for me having to raise such a weird kid. Please find a space for him in your program- I don’t know where to turn.”
A Mentor Sandwich
Evyatar was assigned to be Binyamin’s mentor. Evyatar had himself succeeded in finding a way through a lot of difficulties in his life, with the help of a mentor. We hoped that this would rub off on Binyamin. Evyatar tried to talk to Binyamin, but sure enough, it was very difficult. Binyamin wouldn’t look at him and had all sorts of irritating tics like drumming his fingers on his nose and humming instead of responding. There was only one thing that he did say loud and clear every meeting, and that was “I need money. I have no money. I must get some money.”
Evyatar was sympathetic. He knew what it was like to be living in a family which had nothing to spare. He knew how all-consuming poverty could be, even for a teen. Recognizing Binyamin’s individual needs, concerns and strengths, Evyatar had a brainstorm. “You need to set up a food stand. Set it up outside your shul between Mincha and Maariv. There are so many people passing through at that time and they are always hungry! They’ll love it!”
Binyamin felt ready to launch his new business
Kav L’Noar gives every mentor-mentee pair monthly spending money to use however they choose. Binyamin and Evyatar went to every store they could find to compare prices, and then spent all their funds on a toaster oven, rolls, sliced cheese, frozen fries and ketchup.
Binyamin was doubtful. “But how would I manage? What if people shout at me? What if they run off without paying?” Evyatar immediately started to role play. “Hey, Binyamin, I want a discount! Remember I’m friendly with your brother. Give me some fries on the house!” Evyatar quickly replied- “so come back on Discount Thursday and I’ll give you fries for 7 shekels instead of 10” They then spent the rest of the week practicing every possible scenario until Binyamin felt ready to launch his new business.
From the moment he opened his stand, Binyamin was mobbed by eager customers. Within a week he had expanded his menu and set up tables and chairs like a restaurant, and within 3 weeks he’d hired two boys to assist him because the line was snaking out the door.
No longer self-conscious
Binyamin was grateful for the extra cash, but it wasn’t the money in his pocket that gave him a new swagger when he walked around his neighborhood. It was the confidence that comes from being accepted as part of the community and from being a success story for the first time. Binyamin’s father said it was like having a different person in the house. Now Binyamin was truly ready to work with Evyatar and develop confidence around other people even without a ketchup bottle in his hand.