Summer is winding down and with it, Ezer Mizion’s summer camp program. “It’s very fulfilling,” says Aharon Levy, senior Ezer Mizion administrator upon the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Camp Program. This year about 4,000 participated in the day camps and retreats, 4,000 special needs children, special needs young adults, families dealing with cancer, mentally disabled and physically disabled. The common denominator of all the summer camp programs was the tremendous challenge posed every day and each hour of camp, which demanded comprehensive and uncompromising logistics, single-minded commitment, devoted staff and a cadre of enthusiastic volunteers.
“Here where I stand,” says Aharon Levy, “about 400 girls with special needs are enjoying a safe and professional retreat here, which accommodates all their unique requirements. The volunteers –one, sometimes two, for each child– underwent special training that taught them exactly what they would have to do. Before the retreat, they met the child and her parents and got to know her and her unique disabilities – what she is sensitive to and what they must be careful about, so that the days of the retreat would go by with maximum pleasure and safety. Hours upon hours of work went into arranging the exciting program, and the daily schedule was meticulously planned out to give campers a fun experiences to gird them with the strength they need for another year of tough challenges.
“The day begins at six-thirty in the morning, when the dedicated volunteers report to the children’s rooms to help them get organized. At seven-thirty, the dining room opens, and right after breakfast is the morning activity, trips, special programs, water activity, and anything you can imagine to make a child’s dream come true. The day winds down with a calm and pleasant nighttime routine, when each child is put to sleep with a full helping of love and attention.
“The highlight of the retreat is the concluding banquet, when the children see themselves in video presentations and recall all the experiences they had during camp. Then there is the final moment – the tear-filled goodbyes, both heartrending and elevating. Many children refuse to leave; it is hard for them to part from their devoted volunteers and this exceptional experience.”
When you walk around on the site, you understand that organizing such a retreat is no simple matter at all – from decorating the place to bringing in the full range of equipment and supplies. Ezer Mizion takes good care of the volunteers as well. After putting the children to sleep, volunteers sit down to an elaborate supper, accompanied by fascinating, exciting programs, rich with content. But of course, this nightly recompense is just a drop in the bucket as compared to the tremendous dedication and effort they invest in the children.”
As Rabbi Levy points out: “Every year anew, I am awestruck by the sight of these hundreds of volunteers, who dedicate their long-awaited summer vacation to the retreat. I am absolutely amazed at how they can spend days in the company of a severely disabled child. Do you realize how many hours there are in each day, how many minutes? It is hard work! The next day, they do it all over again. And all this on a volunteer basis, with no remuneration! There are very difficult children at camp who are on the go, non-stop, 12 hours a day and need constant supervision! There is only one explanation: supreme dedication!”
Even our extremely busy leaders desire to express their admiration. The Sanzer Rebbetzin and Rebbetzin Koledetzky both visited the camp and spoke of their amazement at witnessing the dedicated volunteers. The Rebbetzins went on to pour their accolades on Ezer Mizion, which does its work purely for the mitzvah , bringing much merit to the Jewish nation.
One of the many letters in our mailbox:
What a great camp and what a phenomenal group of young women working there!
Mira was a bit overwhelmed to see us and started to cry hysterically but she is settling back in to being with us. Rachel said Mira did not cry at all at camp so I know this was just the transition and those are often challenging for Mira.
Rachel, her counselor, was beyond fabulous!. She has incredible energy with a beautiful sense of calm and confidence. Mira had one seizure while at camp and it sounds like it was handled as well as it could have been.
We also had a great week with our boys, which would have been impossible with a special child at home, and our youngest even got to experience one day and night where he was the only child which never happens.
So many thanks!