Israel News

Living as equals among equals with disability

In part 2, Paul Calvert spoke with Kalman Samuels from Shalva about the types of disability their clients have, their successful volunteer programme, and the difference their disabled clients are making in the world.

Paul: What sort of disabilities do the children have here?

Kalman: We have every kind of disability you can possibly think of. This begins with Down Syndrome, which is quite prevalent, Fragile X, Autism, and Cerebral Palsy. There is almost nothing you can mention, even things like Progeria, which are terminal illnesses. We don’t see that often, but we have our third and fourth case since we opened. Sadly these children will not make it past 24-25 years of age. We also have children that are challenged in severe situations with wheel chairs. All really difficult situations from a young age so we are caring for everything that you can think of.

Paul: You must need a lot of volunteers. Do you have a lot of volunteers, and do you have people coming in instead of going into the army?

Kalman: They do. We have an amazing set of volunteers. We could not operate this place without the army of volunteers that come.

The volunteers are high school kids who come once a week. They’d love to come more, but we can’t get in the way of their education. They fall in love and they are in the after school programme. They are working with peers, so it is amazing inclusion, where healthy typical young people are working with children of their age. We have about 180 a week.

Over and above that there’s an institution in Israel that is basically a Peace Corp. It’s designed for young women where there is a mandatory army service, but they do not want to go to combat, yet they want to serve their country. So they serve in a Peace Corp. They serve for two years and they are recognised by the army.

Living As Equals Among Equals With Disability

They serve in things like hospitals and Shalva. We are one of the biggest partners in this programme in the area that we work in. We have 75 such young ladies and six young men, who for medical reasons couldn’t go to the army, but wanted to do volunteer work. They are a source of hands on. We train them very quickly and very thoroughly all through the year, so they become literally semi-professionals. They are 19 year-olds with endless energy and help make this place work.

I would not be able to afford what we do without the addition of the volunteers and the Peace Corp.

Independent of that we have almost 400 employees, so it’s a large 12 million dollar budget. The Government gives us fees for services and with some income we generate about 6 million dollars, but I have to make sure that I raise the other 6 million dollars.

Paul: Do the clients that come here pay to be here?

Kalman: The clients all pay.

Living As Equals Among Equals With Disability

The nice thing is that the Government gives us fees for services for every child almost, in this programme. So if for example in the afternoon programme, just throwing out numbers, the Government gives us $300 a month for the child, now that is a joke, because it costs us probably $10,000 a year, but the family is assessed and billed by the Government and they participate at the level of their income for what the Government is giving. So every family is paying, but because of the fact that they are paying the Government and they are not paying directly to us, and we don’t have to get involved in finances, it creates an extraordinary positive environment of love rather than of anything business related.

Click here to read the rest of the article on Cross Rhythms.