43 My Piece of the Puzzle – Israel My Piece of the Puzzle (MPOP) runs a free summer overnight camp in Israel using underprivileged “teens-at-risk” as junior counselors for “children with special-needs.” In addition, they work with all of the campers and junior counselors during the school year via regular meetings and activities. MPOP believes that every child deserves the chance to feel successful and loved. The “special-needs children” go up and down the autistic spectrum, some have Down syndrome, others have Fragile X syndrome. The goal is the same with each of the two populations, and that is to prepare them to function successfully in today’s society, while having fun. The program is run by a carefully selected staff of volunteers, offers a wide range of activities such as swimming, zip lining, ropes course, sports, camping, and workshops in art, music, drama, cooking and dancing. Using “teens-at-risk” as junior counselors for “special-needs children” is another example of how HOT and its partners use leverage in their programs. The special-needs population always has staff on hand to help them. The “teens-at-risk” learn responsibility and the pleasure of helping the “special-needs children.” A true Win-Win! This summer, MPOP had 36 children (18 special-needs and 18 teens-at-risk) at camp. Their goal is to have no less than 40 and as many as 80 children next year. Additionally, this winter, they are working with four schools (two special-needs and two at-risk) where the students of each special-needs school will be paired off with students from an at-risk school and groups will meet twice a month during the school year. Hopefully the experiences at camp will result in the “teens-at-risk” being empowered to move forward with their lives and escape what could otherwise be an endless cycle of poverty. In fact, if all goes as planned, many of them will come back as volunteer full counselors and be the staff that will make the expansion of the program possible. As for the “special-needs children,” in a perfect world, the interaction with the “teens at risk” will help them move forward too. They will still be limited by whatever disability they have but camp will teach them that they can be part of a group that goes beyond other “special-needs children.” At worst case, the “special-needs children” will have had a wonderful, fun experience. MPOP’s wish list includes: • $2,755 for 40 meetings of 20 kids each during the school year • $4,132 programming for youth at risk during the school year • $8,264 overnight trip meals, guiding, entrance fees, transportation, etc. • $11,550 for 14 (7 pairs) additional campers at $825 per camper