By: Adina Gitomer, Year Course '15-'16 participant and Tel Yehudah camper alum and staff member
I am volunteering at the Holland Center in Jaffa, a kindergarten for disabled 0-3 year olds. Going into it, I was nervous because I'm considerably awkward with babies (I don't have the baby talk voice or any related skills) let alone those that don't speak any English. I'm here to say now that I've been doing okay with that-- I have really gotten down the whole "hand them a toy and watch them put it in their mouth and then hand them a new toy". Most of the day is spent playing with them, which is largely consistent with the description I just gave (they seriously put every toy in their mouth; I once observed a boy methodically taste every single blue cylinder block, about 6). I have zero information on any of their disabilities and although I can take a few guesses, it doesn't change how we interact-- they just want to play and laugh like any other person their age.
Everyday for about a half hour, there is organized playing time where the class is split into small groups and a staff member helps them through games and puzzles. My second day, I was sitting with a group and one girl, Nor, was trying to take a toy out of a box. She was struggling a lot and instead of helping her physically, the teacher just kept telling her that she could do it. She then added "you know you can do everything." This stuck with me and has truly given context for the rest of my time there. The school's underlying purpose is to empower the kids and work with them to overcome their disabilities-- not to limit their activities because of them. Of course, they give them the attention they need (each kids has a customized chair, they take them out for specialized exercises, etc.), but they aren't obsessed with the fact that they are disabled. And that is why I believe in the program.
I'm looking forward to becoming even more integrated in the classroom and to strengthening my connection with each kid.