The 'Adopt a Saba’ project brings students and the elderly together

Hundreds of students from Israeli universities and colleges are joining the initiative founded to support the aging population: “We want to reach all campuses in Israel, but we need help."

Lee and Saadia meeting as part of the "Adopt a Saba" project (photo credit: Courtesy)
Lee and Saadia meeting as part of the "Adopt a Saba" project
(photo credit: Courtesy)
When Lee, an exceptional student with dozens of academic assignments and social responsibilities, heard about the project Adopt a Saba (Grandfather) she understood that she found just what she was looking for.
Her story embodies exactly what the project tries to initiate - a connection between two populations. A couple of months after Lee lost her beloved grandfather, she joined the initiative: “When I started ‘Adopt a Saba’ I asked the organization to connect me with a grandfather. I lost my grandfather and it was hard for me to digest that someone so significant in my life was gone. When I met Saadia, I understood how much he wanted to share and tell his stories. One time when we met, I told him about my grandfather and I found out that Saadia knew him. This was closure for me. We are listening to and experiencing a generation that is disappearing.”
For eight years, the Adopt a Saba project has incorporated hundreds of students all over Israel. The project creates a connection between the generation that experienced the hardest times abroad and during the formation of the state and the young generation, which holds fate and future of the country on its shoulders.
The purpose is simple - to create a connection with the elderly, to be present for them and even do activities with them outside their homes. Students participating in the project are assigned to an elderly man or woman who lives in close proximity and meet once a week at the elderly person’s home for two hours. What happens at the meetings differs for each pair according to what they enjoy.
The project, which includes over 100 pairs of students and elderly people, was founded by Gilad Gosher when he was a student. "When I studied in Jerusalem, we lived in communal houses," he said. "Usually, an elderly man who lived in the home for over 20 years managed the place, and I wondered who is in contact with him. There wasn't always someone with him. So, I had an idea to take two populations and unite them.”
The project is spread out in a number of communities in Israel, with the will to expand. Currently, the project takes place in Jerusalem, Rehovot, Beer Sheba, Haifa, and new addition Emek Israel College. The organization is proud to announce that this year they “breached” a wall, and are successfully active in the Arab society.
But like any volunteer body, the organization is lacking financial and managerial aid. Gosher added: “We mainly need a strategic body to support and help us. We want to expand our vision to all Israeli campuses, and reach a far higher participation rate in the periphery. We received help from the Matanel Foundation and other organizations, but we need more help in order to expand our project. We need an organization to adopt us, a strategic social foundation, and we don’t have that yet. We want to find a mom and dad, and not constantly live a hand-to-mouth existence. We are financially a very thinned-out project and everything we do is with scholarships and volunteering. In terms of manpower, we are very effective and our students’ big hearts play a major role here. We are even looking for retirees for the Board of Directors. We want help, and we will be in existential danger if we cannot get support soon."
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