Helping out: Paul Harney, far right, at a bar mitzvah for one of the boys he helps sponsor at an Israeli orphanage. *Photo supplied
Helping out: Paul Harney, far right, at a bar mitzvah for one of the boys he helps sponsor at an Israeli orphanage. *Photo supplied
Big-hearted Paul Harney may not have any children of his own but he is a father figure to 100 homeless youngsters who have no family.

The 40-year-old donates both his time and money to the Zion Blumenthal Orphanage in Israel.

He has visited the homeless boys, aged between seven to 10, at least once a year for nine years and is probably the closest thing they have to family.

Mr. Harney says he likes nothing better than seeing the children's faces light up when he walks into the room.

Many of the youngsters' parents are addicted to drugs or alcohol, others are mentally ill or desperately poor.

Most of the children grew up with little or no parental guidance, while others were abused physically and emotionally.

Mr. Harney sees himself as the adult role model the children never had.

He said: "The younger children are excited to see me as whenever I show up I am bearing gifts.

"I am just happy the staff provide a safe family environment for these traumatized children, some of whom have been orphaned by war."

Rather than just being a refuge, the Jerusalem orphanage aims to be a home with the security of a loving family.

Mr. Harney enjoys seeing the boys, many of whom he has watched growing up, placed with families around the country.

He first visited the orphanage as part of community outreach work when he was studying Hebrew scriptures in Jerusalem.

Mr. Harney is no stranger to charity work, having been involved in relief projects for 16 years.

He has helped feed the homeless in Bolivia and worked with youth groups in Denmark and India.

He finds all charity work rewarding but more than anything else he likes "to help children".

Mr. Harney, who has his own therapeutic recreation business targeting at-risk youths and seniors in Bermuda, said: "Combining my student days with my private and personal relief efforts, I've been to the orphanage more times than I can recall."

Mr. Harney's last visit was in December when, alongside two Bermudian friends, he handed over a selection of toys, slippers and pyjamas in time for their Hanukah celebration.

The home, founded in 1900, is the oldest active orphanage in Israel. It is located on an acre of land in the heart of Jerusalem, with an on-site school where the boys "receive the special attention they require to become healthy, wholesome citizens".

As well as lessons, the children take part in community service and weekly country walks.

The orphanage is built around an open courtyard, which houses a playground and includes a rooftop petting zoo and square foot gardens.

Mr. Harney describes it as a "warm place" despite its size.

Its founder, Rabbi Abraham Yochanan Blumenthal, and executive director Rabbi Baruch Rakovsky both live on site. Mr. Harney described the residential counselling and teaching staff as "caring and professional".

The orphanage is in desperate need of new furniture and Mr. Harney hopes to help pay for replacements.

Mr. Harney said: "The chairs and tables which the boys use for meal times are beyond repair."

A local distributor will replace the orphanage's tables and chairs for $3500. Mr. Harney has already raised $1000 through a dinner bingo event but is pleading for help to raise a further $2500.

The orphanage's beds will also eventually need to be replaced, at a cost of about $7000.

Mr. Harney plans to maintain his relationship with the orphanage and hopefully to "extend assistance to other facilities in other locations".

If anyone can help the Zion Blumenthal Orphanage, email Paul Harney at Bermuda.overseas.relief.agency@gmail.com or pharney@northrock.bm

For more information on the orphanage visit www.zionorphanage.hs