Aleh is Israel’s largest network of residential facilities for children with severe physical and cognitive disabilities. We provide 650 children in Israel with high-level medical and rehabilitative care in four residential facilities.
Aleh is their home and their family – 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Aleh Negev-Nahalat Eran is our southern branch, located just 15 miles from Gaza, near the town of Ofakim. It provides a high standard of residential and therapeutic care, special education and opportunities for integration, serving as home for life for young adults with multiple disabilities and cognitive impairments. These people are the weakest segment of society, but Aleh encourages them to grow beyond the boundaries of their disabilities and extend the limits of their potential.
Aleh Negev also provides professional employment opportunities in a relatively weak socioeconomic region; this is one of the reasons that the Village has been recognized by the State of Israel as a National Project.
Some basic facts:
- 135 residents aged 0 to 50
- 42 students in the special needs school
- 230 medical, paramedical and management staff, 23 of them from the Bedouin community.
- 23 National Service young women
- Hundreds of volunteers (annually)
The Village has come under rocket attack for more than a week. So what are the challenges?
Needless to say, the residents have zero understanding of the situation. Over the past week they have been exposed to the sounds of dozens of rockets exploding in the area. The most they can comprehend, perhaps as a Pavlovian reflex, is that they are rushed into a bomb shelter every time they hear a siren.
The challenge is twofold: first, rush them into the bomb shelter within 30 seconds of the sound of sirens.
Some residents are bed-ridden, some are confined to wheelchairs, and even those who are physically capable of walking on their own do not understand the urgency or know where to go; they must be personally guided by a trusted care-giver. The second challenge is to take every precaution to shield them from further psychological damage.
The staff faces its own set of personal challenges: they leave their own families at home while they dedicate themselves to residents; they work under stress of sirens and need to protect themselves from bombings; they put in many extra hours to help cope with the special situation (24 hours a day).
Management’s challenge is to keep the Village operating while safeguarding residents and employees round the clock. It needs to enable employees to cope with this stressful situation, with special regard to their own children, their socioeconomic situation, and prevent potential stress issues stemming from the mixed cultures – Jewish majority and Muslim Bedouin minority, who happen to be fasting this month due to Ramadhan. This is achieved through intensive work with psychologists, social workers and sensitive leaders. As a result, all staff has stuck to its posts and the Village has been operating as close to ‘normal’, at least as far as the residents are concerned.
If you have skills that would enable you to volunteer at Aleh Negev during this time, or would like to learn more about our work, please contact me at email@example.com, or feel free to learn about other ways to help by clicking here.
Reuven Avital is an alumnus of the Wexner Israel Fellowship (Class 6) and a Board member at Aleh. As a nonprofit organization, Aleh relies on fundraising and government grants in order to provide the best possible care for residents and outpatients. Reuven is a retired Senior Manager in the Office of the Prime Minister. He is currently involved in the management of hi-tech and medical device companies, as well as leading several not-for-profit organizations dealing with Jewish-Arab relations, underprivileged youth, Ethiopian immigrants and people with severe cognitive impairment. Reuven can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.