Faced with a deficit due to a lack of government funding, the Etgarim nonprofit organization, dedicated to the empowerment and social integration of people with disabilities, is launching a national fundraising campaign to keep their programs and activities alive. The fund drive will take place from May 30 to June 7 with a goal of raising NIS 3 million.
Etgarim was founded in 1995 by disabled IDF and rehabilitation personnel, and has been active for over 28 years empowering children and adults with disabilities and helping them to integrate in society through outdoor activities and sports.
Over recent years, the association has faced such challenges as the coronavirus pandemic, a decrease in government support and delayed government budgets. Nevertheless, it did everything it could to make sure its members kept their routine and activities.
However, last year the association did not receive funding and is now operating without budgetary support from the government. Due to the recent lack of funding, they may not be able to continue to function.
Etgarim struggles to continue with lack of funds
“In the past year, significant budgets from several government ministries were delayed and reduced, and on the other hand, the various costs rose sharply,” said Nir Hacohen, CEO of Etgarim. “Nevertheless, we are determined to continue challenging activities. This is our duty and this is our mission. We are going to continue our activities, because the members don’t need to understand the problem or worry about the government ministries. We decided to continue and we will do whatever we can, because at the end of the day it’s the change [in our members’] lives that’s the most important thing.”
The association has a wide variety of programs, including 14 sports that range in adaptability so everyone is able to participate, no matter their age or disability. The programs cater to different physical, cognitive, communication, mental and sensory disabilities.
Participants include 5,000 children and teenagers and over 1,000 adults with an additional 1,400 volunteers every year – many of whom will participate in these programs for life.
“Each one of us knows someone with a disability,” Hacohen said. “When you think about this person that you know, you understand that they should be proud of their community and our activity is the basis of being part of the community.”
Nati Gruberg, Etgarim center manager, was involved in a motorcycle accident in 1999 and says Etgarim changed his life. “There was a guy from Etgarim in my rehabilitation program and he presented Etgarim’s bicycles, and I was like ‘that’s not nice for us to hear,’” Gruberg said. “However, he said they had special bikes and I was interested.”
Gruberg shares that when he sat on the bike and saw the people around him, he forgot he was handicapped. “I was like part of everyone and I was so amazed,” Gruberg said. “People ask what is the most meaningful moment after the accident and this is the one. It was a very emotional and special moment. I never left Etgarim.”
Etgarim welcomes everyone, no matter their disability. Gruberg worries what will happen if they don’t receive the funding. “I can’t imagine how it is going to affect [the members] if we stop this,” Gruberg said. “It’s going to affect the families and surroundings. It’s going to affect society.”
Although they are pushing hard for additional funding and new contracts from the government, Etgarim has never failed to be there for their members. “We are still working during this time,” Gruberg said. “We are continuing to empower people and raise money to make everything happen.”
Gruberg shares that he thought his life was ending after his injury and says his story is a prime example of the mission Etgarim strives to accomplish.
“Almost 80% of people with a disability stay home, because they don’t feel like they are contributing,” Gruberg said. “I want you to know that Etgarim changed my life and I feel meaningful and useful for other people.”
He says the volunteers are inspired and empowered by the members of Etgarim. “We’re not only giving them the power to believe in themselves,” Gruberg said. “They are also an inspiration for others.”
For more information and ways to contribute, visit the link: https://bit.ly/3oq8vty