Disability Awareness Month: A life mission to make people smile

The Inspiring Story of Raphael, who despite having Down Syndrome makes music around the world.

Raphael Chaim Moshe lives a full life while coping with Down Syndrome (Courtesy Shalva Center)
Raphael Chaim Moshe, a waiter and a member of the Shalva Band, was born in 1991 with Down syndrome. Raphael is not one to feel sorry for himself though. The fact that he has Down syndrome does not define him.
From Raphael's perspective, despite his disability, he is equal to everyone else.
"I want people to get to know me in different ways – that I work, that I'm a member of society, that I socialize," he said.
Raphael works at Café Shalva, an inclusive café located within the Shalva National Center, where he performs all sorts of duties, including working behind the bar, waiting tables and working at catering events. 
"What I like most," says Raphael, "is working with people. I am a very social person and I respect people."  People respond to his smile and respectfulness in kind.​​
After his shift at the café, Raphael turns to his avocation – participation in the Shalva Band.  The music room where they rehearse is his favorite place.  Participants in the band are paid employees, and Raphael supports himself through both jobs.
Performing on stage allows Raphael to fully express himself by making people smile.
Shai Ben Shushan, musical director of the Shalva Band, described Raphael's progress within the band, beginning as a drummer, and expanding to become the master of ceremonies at events.  Raphael looks to advance in life, said Shai, and working in both the café and the band help him do so.
"Don't be afraid to be different," says Raphael. "Just feel that you are really equal."
February is Disability Awareness Month.  "At Shalva, we don't talk about disabilities.  We talk about different abilities," said Avi Samuels, Chairman of Shalva. " It's wonderful to live in a world today that is making such progress towards acceptance and inclusion. May we go further and become an even better society that includes all of its parts as full members of society."
Shalva, The Israel Association for Care and Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities provides an all-encompassing range of services for thousands of individuals from infancy to adulthood and their families. Non-denominational and free of charge, Shalva's programs offer a host of therapies, inclusive educational frameworks, social and recreational activities, as well as respite and family support.