Located in Tzfat, One People One Heart assists single mother families in poverty and crisis to move towards emotional and financial independence.
Joan Laurence has been dedicated to helping battered children and their mothers for over 28 years. Understanding the dire need for creating a safe haven, she set up the Loving Children’s Program (1991-1996) in her home, becoming a surrogate mother to abused young immigrant girls from the former Soviet Union. Joan soon realized the importance of the mother child relationship and also founded the Mother Child Healing Hostel. Within this framework, the mothers came to stay with their daughters in Joan’s home and received essential skills for rebuilding their lives together with their children. Eventually, after the mothers got divorced, all the children returned back to their original homes. In 1997, Joan created the innovative New Start Hostel to prepare young unwed, pregnant women to become loving mothers. These women were at risk, as were the children in their womb. They came alone, without emotional support and even sometimes threatened by the father of their child and their parents. Here they were given a room in our house to carry out their pregnancies and gain the necessary skills to succeed as single mothers. All these programs took place in Joan’s personal residence with over 100 participants involved.
After years of creating surrogate families for abused women and children in crisis, Joan saw there was a growing need to provide more comprehensive services for a large needy population. In 2006, she established One People One Heart as a haven for single mother families in emergency situations, bringing them into a loving community to heal emotionally and gain valuable vocational and economic skills. Through this innovative program, these families can move from despair, poverty and crisis towards independence and dignity. Joan has an MA from Stanford University in Urban Planning and Community Design and an MA in Psychology - Families and Human Development from Skidmore College.
Dina Tavilla is a social entrepreneur and community organizer. In 2006, she teamed up with Joan Laurence and created the One People One Heart program for single mothers. In step with the “family- type model”, Dina is now the surrogate mother to many single mother families. Dina created the Holistic Center curriculum based on her creative background and her belief in utilizing the arts in the healing process. Many mothers come to the Holistic Healing Center, traumatized from abuse and overwhelmed with insurmountable problems. Some are hardly functioning from the overbearing stress of their desperate situation.
Dina is the warm, listening ear and shoulder to lean upon. Her background in therapy and imagery helps the women to accept and face their pain with strength. Many of these mothers were distressed from seeing their children hungry and feeling incapable of changing their circumstances. They would send their children to school with an empty lunch box. Early on, Dina made connections with major non-profit organizations that became our partners. Working with the help of these partners, she is able to provide emergency food when necessary, especially during the holidays, as well as warm winter coats, blankets, children’s shoes and heaters. Recently, she initiated the vocational training HUB, as a place where single mothers and other women from the community can learn professional skills, especially in high tech. Business advisors and mentors encourage and assist the participants to build their own businesses. Our goal is to break the cycle of poverty by empowering our mothers to support their children with dignity.