Honoree Spotlight

Dr. Chaim Peri: Building a Community

Dr. Chaim Peri has always known that he wanted to make a positive impact on the lives other at-risk youth having experienced hardships as a child himself. His very name, “Chaim,” means “life” in Hebrew, and he has taken that connection to heart. Today, he is the director at Yemin Orde Youth Village in Israel where he has acted as an educator and mentor to thousands of traumatized young people. For many of them, he has brought new meaning to the word “life;” students who were once filled with anger and sadness about their past have transformed into enthusiastic, hard-working leaders — an integral part of the community at Yemin Orde.

“A common mark of confident adults is the decisive influence, during their formative years, of a mentor,” said Chaim in his book, Teenagers Educated the Village Way. “If we have had such an influence, we are well aware of the difference it has made in our life.”

On the Ground
Dr. Chaim Peri – 1998 Humanitarian Award

Impact to date:

Houses 500 at-risk youth from over 20 countries.


to give at-risk and immigrant youth the highest quality care and education.

Words of Wisdom:

“The ultimate purpose is that they are connected at the end of the process. They belong.”

Chaim’s early childhood lacked such a mentor, due to a confluence of bad circumstances. His mother, a Hasidic Jew, was only 17 when she fled from Germany to Israel to seek protection from the rising Nazism that had already begun to spread through Europe. There, she worked multiple jobs to get by on her own. She also began trying to obtain entry permits for the rest of her family, all of whom were still trapped in Germany. However, her attempts were thwarted when her family was moved to a refugee camp in Poland. Shortly thereafter, she discovered that they had been killed by the Nazi regime. Devastated by the news, Chaim’s mother suffered a mental breakdown, and she was moved into a mental asylum.

Without the assistance of his wife, Chaim’s father felt he could no longer adequately take care of his young son. Chaim, then a toddler, ended up living in an institution for homeless children until he nearly died of typhoid and his grandmother took him in. He later returned to living with his parents, though his mother was in and out of asylums and his father remained distant.

“It was a childhood in which I lacked any model of parental wholeness,” wrote Chaim in Teenagers Educated the Village Way. “I could see only brokenness. And yet, this shattering, this hole where the center should have been, sharpened my intuition…and has thus guided the development of my educational thinking.”

Driven to help other young people who had experienced similar childhood hardships, Chaim became a youth educator, and eventually the director of the Yemin Orde Youth Village in Israel. For more than 30 years, Chaim has touched the lives of thousands of at-risk children and shaped Yemin Orde’s philosophy and methodology. The common phrase, “it takes a village to raise a child” is taken seriously by Chaim and other workers at Yemin Orde, believing that a child needs to be provided with a larger sense of support and community in order to recover from past wounds.

“Our vision at Yemin Orde has been to ensure that behind each child is an educational community designed to reproduce the basic outline of humanity’s lost village,” said Chaim in Teenagers Educated the Village Way.

In 1998, Chaim received one of our first World of Children Humanitarian Awards for his dedication to troubled youth at Yemin Orde. 15 years later, Yemin Orde now houses 500 at-risk youth from over 20 countries.

Tellingly, once youth graduate from Yemin Orde and go on to serve in the army or pursue further study, they often return “home” to Yemin Orde on weekends or holidays. Chaim has played an integral role in fostering this strong sense of community, and looks forward to continuing to bring new young people into the Yemin Orde family.

“The ultimate purpose is that they are connected at the end of the process,” said Chaim in the PBS documentary, The Visionaries. “They belong.”

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