Chaim Peri writes and speaks ellequently about the work being done at the Yemin Orde Youth Village which serves 500 “at-risk” youth in grades k-12 in a residential community. In an essay called “The Village Way: Boarding schools a communities of meaning” (2010) Peri explicates the Yemin Orde philosophy:
A Sense of Coherence
A major source of inspiration for this process is the work of Prof. Aaron Antonovsky1. His concept of “sense of coherence,” or way of making sense of the world – which he advocated as being a major factor in determining how well a person manages stress and stays healthy – is one of the cornerstones of our philosophy and methodology. Our work assumption is that a coherent perception and outlook on life is a significant resource in handling difficult life situations as well as mundane commitments. Many symptoms prevalent among at-risk youth – imminent frustration, lack of self-control, poor language skills and deficiency in abstract thinking – can be attributed to lacking a sense of coherence.
The Yemin Orde philosophy is a practical adaptation of this school of thought to the field of at-risk child care. The existential early experience of the children entails abandonment and separation, bewilderment in the face of a host of conflicting messages as well as a complete lack of stable life anchors. It is therefore of primary importance that any educational or therapeutic endeavor to cause transformation in the lives of at-risk children must first and foremost create an all-encompassing, cohesive environment to draw all the fragmented components into a unified center of gravity.
Thus, a ‘community of meaning’ comes into being – a concept that we share with the late Kurt Hahn2, founder of the Salem and Gordonstoun schools, who believed that schools of the future must function as ‘communities of meaning’. The ‘Village Way’ is the heading for the education platform used by Yemin Orde educators to create an environment marked by coherence, a potent antidote to the children’s inner brokenness, social alienation and helplessness.
One of the goals of the REAL School community approach is to help develop a similar sense of coherence in communities, families, and students, by working together to find and affirm our shared values.