Peres awards prize for volunteerism

David Shporer of Jerusalem and Hannah Laor of Tel Aviv are living evidence that one is never too old to give of oneself and to do for others.

DAVID SHPORER 370 (photo credit: Yosef Avi Yair Engel/President’s Residence)
(photo credit: Yosef Avi Yair Engel/President’s Residence)
A 94-year-old man and an 89-year-old woman were among the recipients of the President’s Prize for Volunteerism at a ceremony held on Wednesday at the President’s Residence.
David Shporer of Jerusalem and Hannah Laor of Tel Aviv are living evidence that one is never too old to give of oneself and to do for others.
Shporer, the recipient of several awards in recognition of the various projects that he founded, funded and developed, has not concentrated on a single element of society, but worked among different sectors. These include helping young people with learning disabilities to achieve results that enabled them to go to university; enabling young people from difficult socioeconomic backgrounds to find jobs and take themselves out of the cycle of poverty; creating a special playground for physically challenged children at Yad Sarah; establishing a means of providing week-long vacations for elderly Jerusalemites who do not have the wherewithal to pay for a holiday; and generally caring for the poor and the infirm.
Hannah Laor, one of the founders of Ilan, the Foundation for Handicapped Children, which now assists thousands of children and adults suffering physical disabilities and neuro-muscular disorders, continues to serve as chairwoman of the Tel Aviv branch of Ilan. She still personally deals with the disabled and their families, visiting them in their homes and doing whatever she can to take care of their needs. Laor has been a volunteer for 75 years, starting with new immigrants to whom she taught hygiene in the nascent years of the state, courting danger by traveling at night through the Jerusalem corridor.
Following the polio epidemic of the 1950s, Laor dedicated the bulk of her volunteer efforts to children who had been left with walking disabilities as a result.
Other prizes were also awarded. Aida and Shmuel Grauman of Beersheba, have for years kept an open home to youth-at-risk and in 1996 took in three sisters, who they raised over a 17-year period, providing for all their needs.
The three sisters are now serving in the IDF.
Luai Abu Swed, a Beduin from the Galilee, served as a teacher in the IDF’S Education Unit and continues to serve as a reservist helping young Beduin soldiers to become absorbed in the IDF and, following their discharge, helps them to find their places in Israeli society. From the time that he was 18 years old Abu Swed has been a voluntary driver for Magen David Adom. During the Second Lebanon War in 2006 he often risked his own life on life-saving missions.
Sheikh Suleman Abu Fares promotes tolerance and coexistence and has dedicated himself to honoring and preserving the memories of fallen soldiers in the Druse community.
He is an active member of Yad Lebanim and on Remembrance Day for the Fallen each year opens his home to the families and friends of fallen Druse soldiers.
Victor Ben-Naim, a former Rotary governor in Israel, a former president of Rotary Migdal Ha’emek and chairman of the Association of Immigrants from North Africa, is the best-known volunteer in the Jezreel Valley. In 1984, he founded an organization for the benefit of children with cancer, and with funds raised over the years, has enabled the treatment of different kinds of cancer in children at the Emek Medical Center.
Adam Fish, a lawyer, is a fervent advocate for human rights who believes that all people are entitled to legal representation. Aware that not everyone who needs a lawyer can afford one, he founded a pro-bono network and takes on a lot of pro-bono cases himself, as do other lawyers working in his office.
Fish also gives free legal advice to novice nonprofit organizations.
Five organizations were also listed among the prize winners.
Or Lemishpacha counsels, comforts and supports bereaved families and provides numerous social, cultural and sporting activities for them so that they can gradually return to their normal life styles.
Haverim Lerefuah is an organization dedicated to saving lives and assisting the sick and disabled by collecting and distributing surplus medications.
Its 4,000 volunteers across the country collect surplus medicines from people who no longer need them and bring them to those who do.
They average 3,000 deliveries of medicine each month.
Over the past five years, Haverim Lerefuah has collected and distributed medicines to the estimated value of NIS 60 million.
Unistream was founded in 2001 by hi-tech entrepreneur Rony Zarom. He initiated a project called Educating Tomorrow’s Leaders with a view to creating an ethical, social, democratic and business oriented leadership to emerge from disadvantaged communities, promoting social change and developing a circle of success, mutual respect, tolerance help for others, and values of coexistence while encouraging young people to realize their potential.
Unistream has 550 volunteers from Israel’s business world who are experts in their respective fields, and have made major contributions to the country’s economy.
They act as mentors, conduct workshops and are role models for the project.
Or Shalom is an organization that helps youth-at-risk by proving residential and therapeutic services for neglected or abused youngsters who have been removed from their homes by social welfare authorities. They are placed in loving family environments in foster homes or in foster therapy homes or therapeutic family group homes run by married couples with children of their own and room in their hearts.
Traditionally, there is also a prize for a young volunteer.
Avior Avraham Abutbul, 18, from Dimona, has been engaged in a variety of volunteer activities from a very young age, especially in matters of green leadership.
He has volunteered for a series of social welfare projects under the auspices of the Dimona Municipality, including unpleasant tasks like picking up garbage in order to keep the city clean.
All the honorees were called to the stage to receive their prize trophy from President Shimon Peres. When it came to Shpora's turn, the president said: “Stay where you are. I'll come down to you. I'm younger than you are.”
The comment elicited a burst of laughter throughout the hall, but Shpora declined the offer and insisted on going up to the stage like everyone else. He merited a huge cheer from the crowd.
Always impressed by the high and wide ranging level of volunteerism in Israel, Peres told the honorees: “You act in accordance with your conscience without orders from above…You have contributed a great deal to build a desirable society. You give to everyone without discrimination, but most of all you give to those who are unable to fend for themselves. You don’t wait for legislation to be passed or budgets to be authorized. You just go ahead and do it.”