Massaging their egos

Kedma Spa volunteers offer beauty treatments to underprivileged women, giving them a chance to raise their self-esteem.

Nails 521 (photo credit: Courtesy of Kedma)
Nails 521
(photo credit: Courtesy of Kedma)
All women love to be pampered, whether it’s a 20-minute manicure during a lunch break or a full day at a spa. For most of us it’s a treat, but for some women it’s a therapy that changes lives.
Since September 2008, volunteers have been coming from all over the world to experience Israel and participate in the Kedma Spa program. This spa’s interns offer spa treatments to underprivileged women, including single mothers and battered women who live in shelters. Places visited include the WIZO battered women’s shelter, the Beit Alicia Old Age Home and the Ethiopian Home for the Aged.
Last year, more than 20 volunteers provided spa treatments to a group of battered and abused women at the WIZO underground shelter in Jerusalem. More than 25 women had the chance to enjoy manicures, pedicures, massage, facials, and makeup applications – many for the first time.
Traumatized, emotionally scarred and often overseeing the needs of their children, many of these battered women have neglected themselves. While clothes and shoes are always welcome contributions, women at these shelters have intangible needs as well, most importantly the need for selfesteem and encouragement. A free mini-spa treatment is sometimes the impetus these women need to start loving themselves again.
For former Kedma Spa intern Arielle Birnbaum from the US, it’s all about pampering. “Many of the women were overwhelmed with expressions of gratitude for the spa, as well as the sensitivity of the spa students. One woman gratefully commented that ‘I didn’t even do this kind of thing for myself when I was a bride. This is amazing.’ I can’t even count the number of times women have said to me as I’m giving them a manicure, ‘I feel like a princess.’”
The Kedma year starts every September. Volunteers are selected from different annual programs and are carefully interviewed. The spa begins the year with a specialized training program. Volunteers learn how to give professional manicures, pedicures, mini-facial treatments, evening makeup and some basic massage techniques. Courses also involve lectures on compassion, how to handle specific women in different situations, elderly clients and the emotional needs of the battered and underprivileged. At the end of the school year, each volunteer receives a diploma stating certifications in the beauty field.
Offering safe, nurturing touch to these frightened women is an unforgettable experience. Former spa intern Rena Berkovitz, also from the US, says, “We’ve begun to feel like pros, and by now the women view us as beauty veterans. The appreciative smiles on their faces as we apply their facial masks or massage their backs make it all worthwhile. It is not uncommon to hear comments like ‘How many years have you been training?’ ‘Do you do makeup for special occasions? or ‘God bless those miracle hands of yours.’”
Kedma is an international student organization that operates from a young student center in a Jerusalem neighborhood. They work with university and yeshiva students, assisting disadvantaged communities in Israel while actualizing the concepts of social justice and tikkun olam (repairing the world) through innovative programming.
Projects are not limited to the spa. They also have a traveling choir that performs for underprivileged populations, a medical clown internship, therapeutic arts and crafts carnivals, bone marrow campaigns, humanitarian aid campaigns and various other programs.
“[We] try to develop creative social action projects that are unique and greatly appreciated by both the volunteers and the recipients,” says Meital David Bonchek, Kedma’s executive director. “We operate mainly in Jerusalem and send about 100 volunteers weekly to assist underprivileged populations in institutions, welfare centers, hospitals and nonprofit organizations.”