Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Drumming on Heart Strings

Hospital Wing & Teenager
Wing (below)

It was a privilege to visit, together with a group visiting from the UK, the village of Aleh Hanegev, located not more than a few kilometers from the Gazan border. The UK team had raised funds to finance the equipment in a room dealing with seriously disabled teenagers.

Aleh believes that every child, regardless of the severity of the physical or cognitive disability, has the right to benefit from the best available care and develop to his or her fullest potential. The first home was established in 1982, and today Aleh is Israel's largest and most advanced network of residential facilities for children with severe disabilities.

Approximately 650 severely disabled Jewish children are receiving top quality medical, educational and rehabilitative care at branches in
Aleh cares for children with medical conditions such as autism, cerebral palsy and Down syndrome, as well as genetic disorders including Tay-Sachs, Canavan disease and Rett syndrome. Many of them are learning how to overcome their handicaps and do the things that other children do, such as climb on jungle gyms, splash in the pool, finger paint, sing and dance. Others are learning how to eat and how to get dressed by themselves. They are also discovering how to communicate with the outside world, and some of them are now able to say those three important words: "I love you."

One story really touches the heart strings:-

“Avi’s birth was extremely traumatic, with serious complications resulting in a lack of oxygen as he was born. Unfortunately the damage was irreversible and Avi was left severely cognitively and physically disabled in addition to being blind.

His parents, without the resources to provide for his very specialized needs, brought him to Aleh. There, they hoped, Avi would be cared for, loved, and maybe even learn to respond to those around him.

At Aleh, Avi was indeed loved and cared for. His specialized feeding needs, daily medical care and therapies were all meticulously provided, and Avi grew into a beautiful boy with soft brown eyes. Unfortunately, however, those eyes were often glassy and remote.

Avi was completely engrossed in his own restricted world. He spent hours repeating the same activity or motion again and again. Aleh’s staff tried numerous approaches to connect with him, but he seemed unable to break through the barriers of silence surrounding him.

Until one day, when a miraculous breakthrough occurred in the form of Shai, an Israeli drummer with a heart that matches his incredible talent. Shai plays with Israel’s most popular bands, including performer Danny Sanderson. Looking for a way to share his unique blend of music, song and joy with vulnerable children, Shai began volunteering at Aleh on a steady basis.

Working with small groups of children at a time, Shai paid special notice to each child’s reactions and responses to his beat. Suddenly, little Avi caught his attention as he rhythmically tapped on his drum. Sitting in his wheelchair, calm and relaxed, Avi was copying his beat exactly with the palms of his hands!

The two continued playing together, as the celebrated drummer and the disabled little boy found a common language and connection that broke through all barriers. Week after week, Shai and Avi joined together in creating a concert of love and hope, of feeling and spirit. And the two have been best friends ever since.

The miracle of Avi’s breakthrough has led to his growth and development in every area. Today Avi smiles at familiar faces. He is a more active participant in daily activities. The concert of his life plays daily, as we witness his spirit come alive again with every music session.”

This is the real, compassionate Israel. During the visit we were told of the reaction of the staff, which consists of Israelis, Palestinians, Bedouin and Christians, to the outbreak of war in Gaza in 2008-9. The staff obviously had their own opinions of the war but at a staff meeting they joined hands and agreed that politics would not enter the walls of the center, the treatment of the occupants was paramount. Now, that should be newsworthy, but of course it ain't

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