The physically, mentally and emotionally disabled are a reservoir for
volunteering for other handicapped people and the general population, but they
need help to suit themselves to such work.
This was one of the
conclusions at the annual conference of the Leir Institute for the Management of
Volunteering at Yad Sarah’s Jerusalem headquarters on Monday.
Itzkovitz, director-general of the Welfare and Social Services Ministry, said at
the beginning of the eighth annual meeting that the disabled need to be
integrated into the community, and one of the best ways is to help those who
cannot work for a living to volunteer. As ministry data show there is a decline
in volunteering in the country, the disabled – who are more eager than healthy
people to give of their free time to help others – should be utilized both in
the IDF and in civilian life.
Sigal Friedman-Gamieli, who established the
Leir Institute, said that many successes of volunteering have already been
noted. But more must be done, she said.
Tamar Barnea, head of
rehabilitation at the Joint Distribution Committee in Israel, said that studies
have shown a third of disabled – constituting over 230,000 people – want to
Among those with serious disabilities, more than 200,000 want
to do voluntary work, she said. Those who cannot easily leave their home can
help out, even using the phone. Among the possible projects are recycling and
other ways to improve the environment.
Ahiya Kamara, the Justice
Ministry’s equal opportunity commissioner – who himself is naturally deaf but
able to hear and lectured skillfully using his pair of cochlear implants – said
that even though the economic situation of the disabled is generally worse than
average, they tend to volunteer more than the general population.
also donate money, even though they have a low employment rate and much lower
He noted that disabled people volunteer for his office to report
violations of laws meant to give the handicapped a fair chance, such as having
access ramps to buildings and braille texts. A booklet is being prepared by his
office, with help from disabled volunteers, to teach small businesses how to
make themselves more accessible to the disabled.
He added that while some
are unable to work at a paid job, volunteering can serve as training for
eventually becoming a wage earner. They must be helped to realize they deserve
wages and, after they have proved themselves, demand them, Kamara said.