The Unitaf Model
At Unitaf, we have accumulated a great deal of professional, theoretical, and practical knowledge concerning educational work and care-giving in a multicultural setting. Over the years, Unitaf has become a wellspring for professionals and academics who desire to develop and increase their knowledge on the subject of culturally-sensitive attitudes in the field. The economic aspect of our enterprise, allowing the project to continue, with limited resources, is a worthy model to study and to inspire other non-profits seeking to create independent financial resources for the expansion of their activities.
An educational and care-giving model
in a multicultural setting
We believe that education has the power to change children's social status, and therefore, Unitaf can be seen as an instrument for future integration of the children and their families in Israel's society. Unitaf's employees include women from the foreign community, a choice that creates complexity but also insures preserving the children's culture, language, and heritage as well as providing an opening for enriching and cultivating employment opportunities for dozens of women in the foreign community. It is important to note that we do have not compromised on educational criteria and demand strict adherence by our staff to accepted norms in Israeli day care facilities concerning issues of standardization, enrichment, safety, nutrition and health. There are often conflicts due to this demand which are settled by discussing the issues. This is our way to help the children educated here as well as our staff to strive for meaningful social change of their condition. Thus, alongside a multicultural approach, tolerance, and willingness, we certainly believe in placing limits and unequivocal demands regarding the quality of care. In light of these circumstances, the dialogue at Unitaf is constant and complex and bridges different worldviews, beliefs, languages, and customs. A unique working model has arisen due to this necessity, emphasizing commonality and mediating differences through educational-caring discourse. Our foreign community staff is guided by Israeli educators and an Israeli social worker. The role of the Israeli employees and volunteers is to introduce the Israeli cultural and language component into the work as well as to introduce accepted standards in educational work and caregiving for children. Due to the complex life circumstances of the children we care for, we work according to a model for at-risk children. According to this, Unitaf's preschools and day care facilities operate from morning until evening, and our work with families provides psychosocial therapy and parenting guidance, an integral part of our services.
The languages spoken in our early childhood programs are Hebrew and English. The educational content comes from the cultures of origin of the child care providers and teachers and from Israeli culture, and the holidays celebrated belong to the three main religions at Unitaf: Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, and we try to emphasize the shared characteristics shared of these three religions in our celebrations. The mutual cultural influences created during our years of work have led us to consolidate a distinct organizational culture at Unitaf, that emphasizes dialogue as the basis of our work together and that views the life, shared by people from a mix of different countries and cultures not only as an existential necessity, but as an opportunity to create an enriching and instructive environment for Unitaf's children.
Independent financial model: Unitaf as a social enterprise
Unitaf is an independent business model – 80% of the ongoing operating costs for the day care centers and afterschool programs, including salaries for the caregivers and teachers from the foreign community, nutrition, and perishable equipment are covered by parents' fees and only the remaining 20% are covered externally, by groups such as funds and businesses, to cover the costs of the Israeli staff salaries (social workers and pedagogical guidance and instruction). The ongoing operation of the day care programs covers itself thanks to internal financial resources created by the model. In order to establish an additional day care facility, we need an initial sum designated for the renovation of infrastructure and purchase of equipment, and afterward, the project will maintain itself.
The feminism of emigration: developing financial independence for women
One of the objectives for establishing Unitaf is to provide an opportunity for women in the foreign community to establish a profitable economic business with a social agenda. The participation of women in Unitaf's business model offers a unique professional-economic opportunity for working under the operational umbrella of the Fund for Social Involvement, and these women operate the programs as their business while receiving subsidized support and the professional instruction and guidance provided by the non-profit organization. The women have committed themselves to working according to accepted standards in Israel regarding the care for young children and they have agreed to the close supervision to ensure quality childcare by the non-profit organization (for example, non-use of violent methods, appropriate caregiver to child ratios in the classroom, hours of the center's operation, etc.). This is a feminist enterprise in every aspects, founded on values of communication, family, and maternal concern: it was founded by a woman, it is administered by a staff of women, and provides a solution for its women clients.