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Special Needs Dream - a Reality

Fuad and Mahmud at the center

Six years ago, a little girl from ESRA's Hadera Techushon paid a visit with the group to the Riding Therapy Center at Kibbutz Magal for their end of year party. The kids had such a great time that the little girl asked: "Why can't we come here all the time?" In July this girl and her friends stood (or sat in a wheelchair) on the stage in front of hundreds of people who had come to celebrate the successful completion of the renovation of the clubhouse.

The club began operating five years ago, based on the idea of ESRA's Techushons for children with cerebral palsy and other disabilities. This same girl, Liat, delighted the audience with her stand-up show. Next to her sat Gil in his motorized wheelchair. He had just finished singing a song he had written called "From my disadvantage, I find an advantage".

These two children are the most representative examples of the club's "members". The club was established on March 15, 2010 as part of the Meshualim Foundation of the Tlamim Center at Kibbutz Magal. The idea was to build a unique club (Techushon-de-luxe) which would operate outside of community center buildings, and would provide social and therapeutic activities for children with physical disabilities and behavioral problems. The challenge was taken up by the director of Tlamim, Shlomi Zahir, whose dream of establishing a treatment center for people with special needs to help their integration into society started with an amazing partnership with the organizations Ilan, ESRA, Matan and the Ministry of Social Welfare. And the rest is history…

Today the club members, 26 children and adolescents aged 6-21 from both Arab and Jewish settlements in the area, visit the center twice a week for three hours, coming straight from their schools. Upon arrival they are welcomed by Rimona Mizrachi, the coordinator of the club. After a hot meal donated by Ginger Catering of Kibbutz Magal, the children begin their day's treatments that include therapeutic horseback riding, dog training therapy, animal therapy (both wild and domestic animals) and garden therapy. The members are divided into small groups that operate alternately in order to give an optimal solution for each and every child. Treatments are carried out by qualified and experienced therapists working at the center.

The idea underlying the therapeutic approach of Tlamim is to empower the children through positive experiences in order to be able to integrate into society. The therapy is for the animal and not the child. Children are required to ride the horses, train the dogs, take care of the animals and look after the gardens. As they do so, they are required to do things that they would not normally want to do on their own, but have to do for the sake of the animals. Their close contact with their chosen animal becomes very important to each child. And the results are obvious. Medical operations have been cancelled due to the significant physical improvement of some of the children. Parents started receiving their first hugs and kisses from their children. Children who did not speak began to talk. Their self-confidence improved. These are just a few examples that we see as we stroll through the center.

Another example is Fouad, 21, of Kfar Kara, completely paralyzed from the waist down, and wheelchair-bound. This is his last year in the club, although we are working to accept him as a member of staff at the center. During the last six months, Fuad, together with his dog-training therapist, ran a group once a week in his village at a school for children with severe behavioral problems. Fuad received a Certificate of Appreciation from the director of the school and the director of the center.

In July, a unique project with the group reached its conclusion - Project Xmagal. This project was undertaken by the barmitzvah children of Kibbutz Magal to raise funds to renovate the clubhouse. The group filmed a video presentation of the club, and travelled around the country spreading the word about its needs. They were received by Members of Knesset, leading public and cultural figures, large companies and anyone who would listen to them. They appeared on TV shows and lectured in various centers. A fundraising platform was established on the "Funding" website and the money flowed in! At the end of the forty days of massive recruitment, including help from afar (a Canadian youth group joined the project), the clock stopped with the total of NIS 152,808. This amount was used to carry out a complete renovation of the clubhouse.

Liat sings

The children of the center then put on a show for the kibbutz community that has supported the club since its inception, and for donors, family and friends, to celebrate the successful completion of the project and the renovation of the clubhouse - - The children paid tribute to all those who helped them along the way. 

Enthralled by Gil’s song

Of all the different pieces the children performed on stage, the one that stood out was by Gil, 14 years old, almost totally paralyzed and in a motorized wheelchair. Gil writes songs and stories, and he recorded a song he wrote with the help of Gadi Altman, a singer and guitarist. They enchanted the crowd with the moving words of the song:

I was born with muscular dystrophy,

So what if I'm tied to the ground by four wheels,

I'm not disabled, I am a racing driver

And most of the time burn up the roads.

With two rear wheels in the air,

It makes me feel amazing!

Nothing will stop me, no one can best me

In the end we both breathe the same air.

So it turns out we're not so different,

Apparently we're not so different...

It's time to break the stigmas,

Look at a man at eye level.

I'm tired of being different,

It is time to understand,

That every difference has its similarities.

Whenever I come to a new place

They look at me as if I landed from the moon,

Like looking at me strangely like an alien

Just because I'm sitting in a motorized chair.

Do not underestimate or pity,

I live with all my strength breathing the air

Loving life, admiring tricks,

So come on man – it's time to realize….

I made the disadvantage an advantage,

Now I am a strong flame, burning the microphone!

Tossing and turning all night to expose the truth,

Looking for words that tell the truth

About that burning look – I'm here to stay, I'm here to stay,

The stage is the closest place to shine.

So put your hand in mine and let's go together,

Let's quickly change the dream to reality,

Access to all can be perfect.

Meanwhile I'm singing and celebrating with all

Because I changed the disadvantage to an advantage

Now I am a strong flame, burning the microphone!

You can see the performance on YouTube at 



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Monday, 02 October 2023

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