For me, the Corona broke out 14 years ago, about a year after the birth of my son Jonathan, who turned out to have autism and severe epilepsy. I found myself, along with my family, going into quarantine and isolation from society. I Suddenly found out that in the eyes of society I was "carrying a virus." People keep their distance, as if no one wants to get infected. It is so sudden that your life changes, you feel confined. You find yourself not going to malls, not attending social gatherings and parties. Even the public education system, that had once welcomed with open arms your older children, shies away from you this time.
I still remember, when not too long ago, kids or people with disabilities, were transparent to me as well. I didn't, or couldn’t, bear to see them. I found myself disconnected from the outside world, I was frustrated and anxious. I started researching, but the questions were many and the answers were few. With time, I discovered that, in essence, I was hard wired with what I learned to call "self-love." For the longest time I ached and cried, but I slowly began to dig deeper and finally allowed myself to feel things I had never experienced before. The process is tedious and unnerving, but you ultimately begin to realize that you have developed a new sense, perhaps a spiritual sense, or an inner system that has changed and is attuned to the desires of others, the acceptance of the other, the different.
I recognized that there is a certain relationship and mutual dependency that exists between us all, and decided to create a meeting place - a bridge between two communities. I was struck with the idea of establishing "Ecommunity - Ecology for protected community" - a social business aimed at providing the infrastructure for employing individuals with disabilities. The goal was to rehabilitate electronic-waste, and to create computer renewal projects to employ people with disabilities. With this, we created shared and common interests - "From ecological burden to social asset".
"Ecommunity - Ecology for protected community ", is a recognized rehabilitation entity. We directly employ and pay fair wages to approximately 80 people with disabilities. In "ordinary – non – coronavirus" days, the company seeks out potential e-waste holders and tries to solicit and recruit businesses, companies, government agencies, banks, local authorities, etc. to join Ecommunity in joint ventures. We encourage them to transfer their electronic waste to this initiative, thus promoting the employment of disabled people, alongside helping us to promote educational activities within the scope of environmental - social issues.
Unfortunately, as I had expected, our social enterprise - preaching partnership and mutual guarantee had not yet excited the business sector. However, as fate would have it, in these Corona crazed days, our call center has been flooded with hundreds of orders for refurbished computers. The company now functions as an essential enterprise, we now serve as a way to reconnect people in a time when society feels socially deprived. We will keep providing technological solutions at an honest and affordable price to everyone - from the students using home education systems, to people employed from home, and of course for leisure and enjoyment. Even in times like these, perhaps especially now, we do not neglect families in need or ones that can't afford computers, we donate as much as we can.
Bottom line, during this time, disabled people find themselves "essential workers" and continue contributing to connect people. For us, the Corona crisis illuminated a rare opportunity to say to the Israeli society: "We exist. We are like you. We are essential to you in an emergency, and we will remain essential and part of you always!" Nature requires us to recognize that we are in an interconnected, worldly, dependent system that is constantly moving towards a world-wide connection.
That is why we; human society and the business sector in particular, must act accordingly, with mutual consideration and guarantee. The choice to see people with disabilities - a "virus" or a vaccine, a burden or an asset, depends on society itself. If society wants to be cured or to avoid future crises, it must choose between destructive egoism or be vaccinated with the love of others, there will be no other cure.
The author is Danny Kogan, founder and owner of Ecommunity-Ecology for protected Community and a father for a son with disabilities.