Wednesday, September 10, 2014

How ALEH HaNegev Coped Under Fire

The innovative ALEH Negev-Nahalat Eran rehabilitative village, located in Israel’s southern region, is a multi-faceted facility that provides severely disabled young adults the opportunity to live a rich and productive life within a safe environment. They were faced with extreme difficulties during the recent war in Gaza and their report of this period makes for compulsive reading. 

Now that things have calmed down, even as we return to normal routine, we look back with pride at the way ALEH’s staff, administration, volunteers and friends all came together during Operation Protective Edge.

Here are a few highlights of the past few weeks:

Over 230 ALEH residents, all with intellectual and developmental disabilities, were living in shelters for over 6 weeks.

Over 140 rockets were fired at the Ofakim area, where ALEH Negev-Nahalat Eran is located.  Three rockets landed within the village itself – the last one half an hour before the final ceasefire went into effect.

National Service girls moved into the village, making themselves available 24/7 to help during a siren and to run various activities within the shelters.  ALEH Jerusalem’s dedicated National Service Girls also began sleeping in the facility, serving as staff reinforcement at night in case of siren warnings.

Staff attendance remained at nearly 100%.  Everyone – from caregivers to paramedical staff and maintenance workers -- continued to come to work, despite the fear and danger, demonstrating a remarkable sense of responsibility and commitment.

Residents were treated to special activities by professional entertainers at least 3 times a week, bringing joy and laughter to the crowded shelters – clown shows, music and movement fun, puppet and theater etc.

ALEH’s Special Education Schools opened their doors daily throughout this time, both for residents and for the attending community children.

Despite the rockets, ALEH Bnei Brak accepted more children.  A 3-month old infant was just welcomed into Aleh Bnei Brak's Infant Ward for as long as necessary.  She was transferred from the Barzilai Medical Center in the south, where she had been in an underground reinforced shelter together with all the other hospital patients.   Another 3 children from the rocket-ridden communities in Ashdod and Tifrach have joined Aleh Bnei Brak's special education school….   
Aleh Negev-Nahalat Eran’s outpatient Rehabilitation Center was open throughout this period. Therapists came to work daily to serve the patients who braved the trip to the village in order to continue the treatment and therapies so vital to their rehabilitation.

A Day Camp for children of staff members was opened at ALEH Negev-Nahalat Eran.  Some 35 children whose parents are caregivers, secretaries, school assistants and maintenance workers attended the daily day camp, where they were close to their parents in a safe environment.  The camp was staffed by parents and volunteers from all over Israel.

Workers received ongoing emotional support from the ALEH’s social worker staff and psychologists.  They were also treated to medical massages, hot meals and various incentives during their shifts, activities and special shows from some of Israel’s famous entertainers.  We plan to treat them to a day of recreation as a gesture of appreciation for their dedication during this critical time.

While dealing with the immediate day-to-day ramifications of the war, we must also plan for the short and long-term future.  It is clear that there is a lack of extant resources and an urgent need for more comprehensive medical, paramedical and rehabilitative services in the Negev/southern region.  To that end, a Rehabilitation Hospital is being planned onsite at Aleh Negev-Nahalat Eran, to respond to the hundreds of residents of the Negev region who will require in-patient rehabilitation. 

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