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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Chesed Mission 2014/5774: Day 7

Day seven of our non stop Chesed Mission in Israel was a success just like every other day. We accomplished what we came here to do by spreading our love and making many people smile. We visited a day care center, an institution for handicapped children and young adults who are visually impaired, a children's hospital, and a children's home that cares for them when their parents are unable to do so.
Our first stop was to the Emunah Ethiopian Day Care Center where we had fun blowing bubbles and playing in the sandboxes and on the playgrounds with the adorable children. The toddlers and the staff alike were almost as ecstatic to see us as we were to see them. Although some children didn't know how or were too young to speak Hebrew, we were all able to communicate with them in our own ways and ended up having an amazing time. Getting a smile from one of the children by interacting with them was the perfect way to start our busy day.
Next we went to visit Keren Or, which is a center that is dedicated and devoted to caring for and rehabilitating children who are either blind or have severe visual impairment and also have other disabilities. Many of the children are wheelchair bound and/or not able to respond to us which made it a little difficult to interact with them, however we did our best. We were able to get many of them to smile while we danced with them or just spoke to them. Two of the individuals sang for us with their beautiful voices. We also got to see the amazing pool they have where most of the children swim once a week as part of their numerous therapies. There is no better feeling than sitting with a child and finally getting a reaction when they shake their head or smile or wave. Many of us were very lucky to get these responses from these special children.
After a quick lunch in an outdoor mall we arrived at our third stop which was Tel Hashomer Hospital. We unpacked about ten suitcases filled with gifts for the children and then split into groups to distribute them. We went from room to room allowing the children and their parents to decide which presents they wanted. They were all so grateful for the visit and the gift. The parents couldn't be happier that we made their child smile, even during their rough time. For me, one of the best moments on Chesed Mission happened a couple times in the hospital; when a doctor, nurse, or parent comes up to us and asks why we're here and what we are doing. Some of them can hardly believe that we, all the way from New York, care about them and want to help them lighten up their lives.
Our final stop of the day was Beit Elezraki in Netanya. This is a home for children and young adults who have no one else to care for them. For many different reasons these children are either abandoned or are removed from the custody of their parents. They come to Beit Elezraki and are welcomed immediately into a loving and beautiful home where they have many friends and staff who become their family. They live happy lives and eventually graduate from high school, serve their country, and get degrees from various universities. The goal to raise children who will be able to have healthy and stable families in the future is almost always achieved. When we got there we were welcomed by the principal who explained the history of the home and also revealed a plaque on the wall dedicated to Susan Franco for the amazing work she does. Then the boys went to play basketball with professional Israeli players while the girls did some dancing. We then went to eat dinner with the children and afterwards we had a major dance party. Throughout the night some of the kids from Beit Elezraki got various chesed awards and those who are graduating this year got presents. We also provided gifts to the Bar Mitzvah boys. So many of these children just want and need love and we were so fortunate to be able to give it to them. You could tell how much they love to be loved by the way they were acting with us, people they just met. This was a fantastic way to end our day because we had so much fun while doing chesed and making new friends.
Throughout the day on the bus many students got up and spoke to everyone about an experience they had on the trip or just gave an inspirational message. With our trip almost over we want to be able to learn and soak in as much as we can. By sharing these stories and thoughts with each other we're able to sum up our amazing week in Israel and help encourage each other to continue doing chesed and to make sure that all that we learned here stays with us and continues on when we get back to our daily lives. ~Jackie Fried