My name is Ruthie, and though my story may look like magic, it really is about love.
As a new immigrant (olah) to Israel in the early 70's I was full of idealism. I studied Philosophy by day, and volunteered in a poor Tel Aviv neighborhood by night.
The picture-perfect "land of milk and honey" on which I had been raised was taking on new dimensions through this experience.
The Defining Moment
Malka was the little girl I worked with. She was one of 7 children living in a house with an asbestos roof and a dirt floor. Mattresses were strewn around the house which always smelled. For me this was an awakening.
When I asked her when her birthday was, she didn't know. She had never celebrated it before but knew it was sometime in the Spring. This year she was turning nine.
So we set a date and made a party the likes of which she never knew and never forgot. For her it was like magic. Every year, for the next 3 years, we celebrated her birthday with a party of games, sweets, friends and happiness.
I continued working in many capacities with disadvantaged communities for the years to come and specialized in designing informal educational programs and training informal educators.
The Birthday Revolution
The “Birthday Revolution” evolved in the 80's as the standard of living in Israel grew and people began investing more in birthday parties.
Utilizing all the skills and experience I had acquired throughout my career of educational programming and group facilitating, I formed a company called Rich Rach; Birthdays From Another World (www.rich-rach.co.il).
Rich in content and materials and facilitated by well trained and talented entertainers the business was very successful. However these parties were quite expensive. It was only the fortunate children, whose parents could afford them, who enjoyed these elaborate affairs.
An Angel Taps on My Shoulder
It irked me over the 15 years I ran the company that "davka" the children from disadvantaged families who needed more than anyone to celebrate their birthdays, could not.
That’s when I had an inspiration. I decided that I was going change all that and give the underprivileged children, like Malka, an experience that until this time was only available to the more affluent. I wanted to make the magic happen.
I decided to consolidate my experience and knowledge into a "do-it-yourself" party kit that I would dispense for free to all those kids who never celebrated their birthdays before.
My first step was to find a large mentoring organization who has already identified the children who need us, and has the manpower to run the parties. So I went to the biggest of them all, the Perach Tutorial Project of the Weizmann Institute. The idea thrilled them and they were more than happy to host the project.
And the Rest is History...
Now I had to find the funding to produce the Party Kits.
So one morning in December 2003 I woke up and saw that El Al was offering tickets from Tel Aviv to New York for $ 500. It was a sign! The time was opportune to go to the States and try to round up the seed money for the project.
March was cold and snowy in New York but warm and welcoming in the homes of family and friends whose generosity backed the initial investment needed to get the graphics for the party kit.
Once we had that, the support of lots of other people who knew me, and trusted any program with the Weizmann Institute stamp of approval followed quickly.
I raised the money to produce 1000 kits to run a pilot. Within the year 1000 students from the Perach Program gave the children they mentor Birthday Angels Birthday Parties!.
The feedback was so outstanding I decided to make this pilot project a full fledged non-profit organization that would give ALL the needy in children the same experience.
And so we have.
Today Birthday Angels has doubled the number of parties and it looks like another 5000 children in Israel will be celebrating their birthdays this year too.