A legacy lives on

Dealing with the loss of their own child, a couple establishes the Talia Trust for Children in her name, leading countless kids to better lives.

The family that runs together... Marilyn, Doron, Benjamin, Maurice and Jeremy Hyman at the Jerusalem Marathon (photo credit: Courtesy)
The family that runs together... Marilyn, Doron, Benjamin, Maurice and Jeremy Hyman at the Jerusalem Marathon
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Tragedy struck the Hyman family in March 2005, when their youngest child, Talia, 21, was killed in a car crash.
At the time, life had been good for Marilyn and Maurice Hyman, who had made aliya to Haifa from England in 1979. Their three sons were married and the family was expanding, with frequent celebrations of the births of grandchildren.
Over 800 people attended the funeral, and during the shiva the family was amazed by the number of visitors, from the synagogue community, colleagues and a large circle of friends. But above all, they discovered through these visits and websites lamenting Talia’s death how many lives had been touched by this very special young woman.
From early childhood, Talia suffered from specific learning difficulties and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and in her teens developed psoriatic arthritis. After ninth grade, there was no suitable education framework for her in Haifa, and Marilyn and Maurice explored every channel, looking for appropriate education systems while hoping for a cure for her difficult disease.
Talia was very determined to lead a normal life, and at the time of her death was studying to complete her matriculation exams at what today is called Ariel University. She was hoping to eventually study social work.
THROUGHOUT THE grief and shock of that terrible period, Marilyn and Maurice learned more and more about their daughter.
“She was determined to know her rights and to fight for them,” says Maurice.
Through her enormous efforts to gain recognition for her disabilities, Talia built up a huge network, and her parents found 400 numbers in the memory of her mobile phone. To the outside world, she smiled and reached out to everybody. Indeed, the Hyman family had a strong tradition in community outreach and voluntarism, a lifestyle handed down to the children.
So out of their sorrow and pain, Talia’s parents established a charity, the Talia Trust for Children, primarily to assist youngsters with learning difficulties to equip them with the tools necessary for coping with the existing education system.
Eleven years on, Maurice says that during that emotional rebound in 2005, he and Marilyn had no idea how to start or how little knowledge they had about health and education in Israel, and the gaps between rich and poor. They never dreamed about what they were getting into, and today, their life is spent not just administering the trust and organizing fund-raising events, but traveling all over the country to meet with educators in disadvantaged areas to see how the funds can best be spent.
The projects financed by the trust require a lot of cooperation with school counselors and principals, and personal contact demands a great deal of time.
“We have no paid staff, and our network of volunteers works together with us to make sure that all donations are used to the maximum,” explains Maurice, who as a qualified accountant is proud of the fact that there are no overhead costs.
One part of traveling through Israel that brings them joy and satisfaction is attending the graduation ceremonies of children who otherwise would have had no hope of obtaining a suitable education.
“The key is assessment for pupils with learning difficulties so they can get appropriate preparation for examinations,” says Marilyn, “as these assessments cost money that many parents cannot afford. There is no protocol for municipalities to provide funds, and the Education Ministry is providing less and less help. For the entire country, there is only a budget for 1,000 psycho- didactic assessments.”
If a municipality does provide assistance, this does not extend to a child who is at a school outside that area, for example in a residential facility where they need specialized help. “There is no consistency and different school frameworks have varied levels of financial help,” she adds.
In 2015, the Talia Trust financed 59 assessments in six high schools in such underprivileged areas as Kfar Bialik, Kfar Hassidim, Bnei Brak, Lod and Hadera, involving children aged 15 to 16 who were not achieving at desired levels, often with poor self-image and with little chance to even sit for the matriculation exams. In the past, the trust sponsored similar projects in high schools in Rishon Lezion, Pardess Hanna, Or Akiva and Haifa.
“The aim is to reach them earlier and get them assessed in seventh to ninth grade, so that the school can use the results to provide the best preparation for them,” says Maurice. “The psycho-didactic test costs up to NIS 3,000, which has to be paid for by the parents, so it is obvious that in some cases they won’t be able to do so. If parents are fully employed they are asked to contribute, but for many the cost is prohibitive.” Talia Trust is aiming to fill that gap.
In 2015 the trust set a target to provide remedial education to 60 schoolchildren in three special primary schools, the first in Kiryat Shmona, using the Feuerstein method for younger children – to acquire study tools that other children achieve by themselves, building their self-confidence, which is vital to succeeding educationally.
Now in its second year, a project at the Ephraim Zemach School in Tirat Carmel financed jointly by the Talia Trust and the municipality uses therapists and educators from the Pa’ot (Infant) Center in that town. The trust was also a partner in a first-grade project in Sdot Negev for two years, adapting to needs in specific areas.
To enhance visio-motoric skills and programming, the first-grade children played out a “reality” show, “landing on the North Pole.” They discussed the place, made a model of an igloo, created snow out of shaving foam and connected all the words associated with cold. Others created plasticine shapes of animals from the North Pole.
The Talia Trust has now been approached by three additional schools in Jerusalem and Hadera.
Among the many overseas donors to the Talia Trust is Jewish Child’s Day of the UK. The Hyman family also established Talia Trust UK, which supports the Israel activities as well as some in Britain such as Club Tikva, providing a nurturing environment for children living in Manchester who have social communication issues such as ADHD or Asperger’s, a different population from those in the Israeli projects.
“We went through all this testing and looking for remedial teaching with Talia, so it is very close to our hearts,” says Marilyn. “We had the resources to seek extra help,” she continues, though pointing out that there is a population out there whose children will not receive adequate education and qualifications for their future.
“Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development studies show that Israel has one of the highest gaps between the rich and the poor,” notes Maurice. “There is such a difference in municipal support in poor areas. Compare Kiryat Shmona to Jerusalem, which has funded poor neighborhoods.”
Supporters of the Talia Trust from all over Israel recently completed the Jerusalem marathon. “We had 50 participants and 20 more supporters organizing food and drink and handing out T-shirts, and the proceeds of the marathon paid for 20 assessments,” recounts Maurice.
Initially the donors and volunteers came from the English- speaking community, but gradually the network has widened and attracted more civic- minded veteran Israelis.
As most of the Israeli donors were living in the North, the trust set their first projects in the poorer northern towns.
The children who are provided with assessments by the Talia Trust also have a commitment to do some community volunteer work, and each student is followed up so that the organization can share in their achievements and challenges.
“Problems can be detected in primary and middle schools,” explains Marilyn, “but the psycho- didactic tests that qualify children for remedial teaching are only done in high school.” This can then allow for a special curriculum, extra time during examinations and the use of a dictionary.
The Hymans proudly inform Metro that by the end of 2016, the Talia Trust will have helped over 1,000 children over these 11 years, at a cumulative cost of around NIS 1 million.
With the growing achievements and outreach of the Talia Trust, a budget of NIS 200,000 was set for 2016. Growing awareness of its aims and achievements is through personal connections, and Marilyn sends regular newsletters to 1,100 contacts in Israel and overseas.
“We do need to delegate and recruit more volunteers throughout the country for liaison with each project and the educators,” says Maurice, who with his wife works tirelessly and runs the office from their home. “We are looking for those who have a knowledge of the educational system and proficiency in both Hebrew and English.”
The loss of Talia leaves an enormous gap in the Hyman family, but they find some comfort in the success of the project named after her.
“When you lose a loved one, you have supernatural force to keep her alive and cannot fail,” concludes Maurice. “We have had the community behind us from the start, and endless support from our friends and our own family.”
For more information: www.taliatrust.org or Taliatrust@012.net.il.