When we arrived back in Sderot we joined up with a British group and met with a group of Sapir College students that volunteer in the bomb shelters with kids from the community. They receive full scholarships in return for 8 hours of community service a week but as we discovered, they become so committed to their work that they put in far more than the 8 hours to the point where they sleep with the children in the shelters.
What amazing young people in this country. Be it Ayalim students or those that volunteer in the shelters. The strength that they show strengthens everyone that they come in contact with, including us.
Our next visit, yes, we had a very busy day, was at the extreme sports centre with kids from the Etgarim program. The centre has an indoor climbing wall donated by a Toronto teen using her bat mitzvah money. What a mitzvah to give these kids a place to go and get some distraction from the stress outside!
We had a discussion circle with the kids where we learned of their hopes, dreams, anxieties and how they cope. Many live in Sderot but go to school outside of the city but they know they have a shoulder to cry on or someone to lean on with the staff of Etgarim. I'm proud to be able to support programs such as Etgarim, Ayalim and the Sapir scholarships.
Finally, we met a family that is undergoing post traumatic stress disorder and is being treated by NATAL, an organization funded by UJA Federation through UIA Federations Canada. Along with us was Ronni Berger a NATAL psychologist who helped describe the services provided to families such as the one we met. The mother, Chana, is constantly in a state of anxiety even with medication. She can't leave the house and is basically not functioning. They have 3 children, all of whom are suffering from the same disorder.
Chana received counselling from NATAL a while ago and was progressing toward a positive outcome. However, when the war started 2 weeks ago she relapsed and now requires intervention once again.
How sad. When we hear on the TV or radio that there were no casualities but just minor injuries or trauma, we think all is well but it isn't. These "casualties" are real. They may not be physical but real nonetheless.
Finally, we had dinner in Herzeliya with Judith Recanati, the Founder of NATAL. What an amazing woman! Israel is lucky to have someone of her commitment and ability.
That's it for today. I'll report again tomorrow.