A Dream Come True for Orthodox Families with Special Needs Children.
(photo credit: KKL-JNF)
Thanks to Friends of JNF Canada, over 20 Hareidi families with special needs children went for a two day in the Judean hills. On Tuesday, August 23, they visited the Ilanot National Arboretum in Central Israel.
“I have never seen Shlomo so happy and free as he has been on this outing,” said Aharon, a father of seven from Neve Yaakov. Aharon was talking about his adopted son Shlomo, a seven year-old special needs child who is hyperactive and has communication problems. “Being in nature, crawling in ancient tunnels, he feels a part of things and loves every moment. For our family, this is like a dream come true.”
Aharon and his family were one of twenty families from Jerusalem’s Ramat Shlomo and Neve Yaakov neighborhoods who were invited to a two-day KKL-JNF summer camp, including sleeping over at KKL-JNF’s Nes Harim Forest and Field School
. Each family had an average of ten children, with at least one child with a physical or mental disability. After crawling through caves and spending an unforgettable night at Nes Harim, the group of over two hundred visited the national arboretum in KKL-JNF’s Ilanot Forest
, where they learned about trees and spoke about their experiences.
According to Nechama Zilber, special needs coordinator of the Ramat Shlomo community authority, “most of these families don’t have cars, so it’s really not possible for them to go outdoors. We’ve been participating in wonderful KKL-JNF sponsored activities for the past couple years, but this is the first time the families have slept over. For families with special needs children, that takes a lot of foresight and organization, especially since the children have different disabilities. We also needed to plan activities that are interesting for the other children and the adults. KKL-JNF, especially Dudu Ashkenazi, has done an unbelievable job of making this possible.”
Ten a half year-old Hodaya, who has Cerebral Palsy, is the daughter of Ganya Katzman from Neve Yaalov. “To try and organize a trip like this for our family would be an absolute nightmare,” Ganya said. “This is the first time we’ve done such a thing as a family, everyone feels comfortable and the atmosphere is wonderful. This is also the first time my other children feel that having Hodaya is a privilege for them, since it’s thanks to her that KKL-JNF invited us to this amazing summer camp.”
Dudu Ashkenazi, Training and Activities Director at the KKL-JNF Education Division
, envisioned the project and was responsible for organizing it. “Meeting the needs of the ultra-Orthodox families in terms of food and other religious needs was quite challenging. To be honest, we were quite apprehensive at first about taking on such a responsibility. This community is used to more structured and urban environments, and activities in nature are very unusual for them.
“I especially want to express our gratitude to the Toronto Golf Club, which raised money for this activity at their 2015 gold tournament. If not for their support, this activity would never have happened. Usually, when we organize an activity, we have to cut expenses in order to meet our budget. With special needs children, you simply can’t afford to cut expenses, it’s too dangerous. Thanks to the Toronto Golf Club, we were able to invest in everything we needed in order to make this trip such a success.”
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