Steven Hoffen, a 14-year-old New Yorker, is a shining example of what can happen when we combine the powers of innovation, cross-cultural collaboration, and support from multiple organizations to create change.  

When Steven first heard about the Sindyanna of Galilee, an Israel-based nonprofit staffed by Jewish and Arab women who share a vision of working together in peaceful coexistence, he wanted to get involved however he could.  

Despite having never made a film, Steven filmed the documentary “Growing Peace in the Middle East” to document Sindyanna’s efforts and help fight food insecurity and hunger. And he did it all during the pandemic lockdowns, from thousands of miles away. Subsequently, he founded the nonprofit Growing Peace Inc. to contribute to the cause, with the mission to further tolerance, empowerment, and food security through hydroponic farming.  

“I feel that hydroponics is something that can make a real difference in people’s lives in an authentic, tangible way,” says Steven. “It allows people to have fresh produce, gain financially by selling the surplus food, feel proud and also profit from their efforts.” 

Growing Peace Inc. raised 100% of the funds to install a hydroponics system at a food bank in Tel Aviv for asylum seekers. It is the first of its kind in the country and addresses a relatively little-known humanitarian crisis amongst the 35,000 Eritrean and Somalian asylum seekers in Israel with no access to government benefits or support. These asylum seekers have no status (not even as refugees) and have been hit hard during the pandemic as they work primarily in the hospitality industry, which is among the hardest hit.

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