It’s a constant refrain at the wedding and the whole week of celebrating parties. Boneh bayis ne’eman b’Yisroel . The couple will build a new home based on Torah values. A home of yiras shomayim (awareness of G-d). A home of chessed.
To build, one must have bricks. One chosson (groom) brought his ‘brick’ to the wedding itself. He had begun forming his ‘brick’ many years before when he became a volunteer for Ezer Mizion’s Special Needs Division. Both at camp and during the school year, he devoted himself to the needs of this very special little boy. Ariel became the pillar that the child and his beleaguered parents would lean on. Ariel would call to find out how his special little friend was doing only to find he had a bad day at school when another child grabbed away his cupcake and gobbled it up. Moments after the phone was hung up, Ariel would appear at the door with a cupcake in hand and his trademark smile, accompanied with a loving hug. Should there be a family simcha (celebration), the parents knew they could count on being able to leave their child with Ariel where they were assured of his receiving the love and attention with all of his needs met.
And, of course, there was camp where Ariel was his counselor. They knew their son was fortunate. Ariel was his counselor 24/7. Every moment of the day. A bunk consisting of one child who basked in his counselor’s love from getting him dressed in the early morning to a goodnight hug at dusk with tons of activities during the day geared just for him.
And now Ariel, at the cusp of building his own home together with his new kallah (bride), made sure to bring his ‘brick’ with him to the chasuna (wedding). As always, his special friend remained close at his side with Ariel keeping an eye out to be sure he had a great time. During the kabolos panim, the dancing and even at the chupah, there he was the first ‘brick’ of their new home. May he and his kallah work together to create many more bricks and may Hashem look down at the home they are building and smile with nachas.
In 1988, Ezer Mizion opened Israel’s first summer camp for children with special needs. Since then, the network of Ezer Mizion special needs summer camps has grown to include 7 camps, over 1,500 staff members and volunteers and over 1,200 children with physical handicaps, brain damage, cerebral palsy, Down’s syndrome, autism, blindness, deafness and emotional disorders. For these youngsters and their families, Ezer Mizion’s summer camps are the highlight of the entire year.
The camps, called “B’Lev Sameach” – literally, “With a Happy Heart” – have a full schedule of exciting activities, outings and recreation from morning to night, with all meals and transportation included. The children enjoy live entertainment, trips to amusement parks, zoos, and beaches, and visits to the Kotel and other special places. All of the children are paired with individual counselors who shower them with one-on-one attention, care, and love.
It’s a giant network. No matter what the need, there always seems to be someone to fill it. Ezer Mizion’s Linked to Life with its thousands of volunteers listening for the ping, anxious to help out yet another family in need. Recently it was a Down Day. But it wasn’t long before things were looking up indeed. A woman in Tzefat had a Down syndrome baby. That threw her and her entire family into a whirl!
Relatives from Jerusalem, through Ezer Mizion, arranged a bunch of luxurious treats for them on Thursday afternoon. But how to get it all the way to Tzefat? The woman was coming home from the hospital on Friday. That will be the toughest time for the family: sharing the news and the meaning of it with the other kids, while ushering in the Shabbat, and so on and so on ….
Within minutes, a volunteer was found to take the package as far as Haifa. From there, there was a volunteer for after Shabbat to Tzefat. But that wasn’t good enough, because we wanted it to get there before Shabbat…
On Friday morning, we posted a request. The ping was not long in coming. “Just a few minutes ago I decided to drive to Tzefat for Shabbat. Perfect timing. I’ll take it!”
It was a lot. .More than he expected. Their car was fairly full but the family wanted very much to partake in the mitzvah and stuffed the packages on laps and every available inch.
An Ezer Mizion branch in Tzefas is holding their hands now, providing babysitters, hot, beautifully prepared meals and a listening ear. Their biological extended families may be in Jerusalem but they have discovered many ‘family members’ right here via Ezer Mizion.
On this same Down Day, another Downs baby was born to Netivot parents whose families live in Bnei Brak. A recently engaged Ezer Mizion volunteer ‘happened’ to be visiting her the family of her husband-to-be that Shabbos and spent a great deal of time with the mother, to encourage her and to tell her that we are all here for her. Ezer Mizion’s varied divisions will provide for the needs of the family and those of the child as he grows and Linked to Life will ensure the feeling of solidarity with loved ones in Bnai Brak.
Another ‘Up’ for Downs is a powerhouse Ezer Mizion volunteer from Beitar, a mother of a child with Downs, who visits every family that has a baby born with Downs helping them adjust, opening their hearts and minds on accepting and dealing with their new baby.
Pain is traumatizing but the warmth of a hug to augment the professional services will soothe the agony and provide support until the family is able to go it alone.
Some special children have very special parents indeed! Ayelet Sanens is a person of many facets. She is a pre-school teacher by profession who devotes hours to preparing the presentation of a concept to her tiny charges. She fully understands the educational benefit of breaking down ideas based on her vast experience with her special needs daughter, Tamar. Of an outgoing personality and a sense of responsibility, she is an active member of the community, initiating and supporting worthwhile communal functions. In addition, she tries to publicize, wherever she goes, the need to recycle household items to protect the environment. Often heard from Ayelet by her friends: ‘Don’t buy it unless you need it and, once you do buy it, recycle it when your family no longer has any use for it.’
It’s not often that all of these facets come together as they did in the recent Ashdod Environmental Preservation and Recycling Fair.
Aware of the many special needs children who can benefit from Ezer Mizion’s special summer program in Ashdod, she brainstormed and came up with an ‘out of the box’ idea of promoting her opinions on recycling to raise funds for these kids. Thus was born Ashdod’s amazing Environmental Preservation and Recycling Fair!
Items on display included toys, cosmetic products, costume jewelry, clothing, household items, and more, all tastefully and attractively arranged in booths.
The event brought the Ashdod residents closer together as they rallied to provide a much-needed communal program. In attendance at this charming event, in addition to the local residents, were the Education Department supervisor and other local municipal staff representatives.
The creative event was enjoyed by all, and the proceeds will be put to good use: helping to finance Ezer Mizion’s summer repertoire for Ashdod’s children with special needs. These children have been benefiting enormously from Ezer Mizion’s newly expanded program serving children with special needs in the local area and the surrounding region, under the able direction of Mrs. Estie Koenig.
Ezer Mizion has long been in the forefront of providing services for special needs children throughout the country. Ezer Mizion’s Beit Chana Activity Clubs provide supervision and constructive activity in four major cities in Israel for children with special needs after school hours, weekends and holidays.
Ezer Mizion’s training courses provide Developmental Aides with the fundamental concepts and techniques of speech, occupational and physical therapy, enabling them to provide this therapy under the direction of professionals. .Because early intervention is crucial for children with developmental difficulties, Ezer Mizion offers subsidized physical, occupational and speech therapy to children from birth through age eight. Through Ezer Mizion’s unique Developmental Aide program families are offered these therapy sessions at a minimal cost.
Ezer Mizion’s network of special needs summer camps has grown to include camps to service thousands of children with physical handicaps, brain damage, cerebral palsy, Down’s syndrome, autism, blindness, deafness and emotional disorders. For these youngsters, Ezer Mizion’s summer camps are the highlight of the entire year.
Fifteen thousand hostings by respite programs and twenty day care centers for children are more of the many ways Ezer Mizion attempts to increase the child’s chances of reaching his full potential and to alleviate the plight of families dealing with special needs.
What would you do? What would you do if a fellow Jew stood there in tears begging you for help? If her situation was so difficult that you knew you yourself couldn’t handle it? If your heart ached to offer at least some relief? What would you do? Wouldn’t you say yes? Of course, you would! We’re Jews. Known for our compassion. Continue reading A Special Yes
Special children are unique. Their abilities are unique. Their understanding is unique. Their needs are unique. Should that mean that they cannot participate in the joy of Purim, a day that is often termed ‘the children’s holiday’? is it possible to create a unique Purim atmosphere, geared especially for them?
A ‘Special’ Purim carnival? Continue reading Special Purim Fun