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Monday, January 19, 2015

Chesed Mission 2015/5775: Day 6

We started the day by visiting Aleh, an institution that cares for children with severe mental and physical disabilities. Despite their challenges, Aleh attempts to give them as much of a normal life as possible by engaging the children in activities such as singing and painting. I went to a room known as "technology class," where the children were given iPads and were able to play instruments using a special app. The way the teachers interacted with the children was amazing; they acted with so much enthusiasm, ensuring that every child engaged in the activity, even if they were hesitant in the beginning. I was paired with a girl named Shirley, and the way she smiled after "playing the piano" was absolutely amazing. After about a half an hour, we switched rooms, and I went to dance with some of the children. Although I was intimidated at first, after watching not only the teachers, but also the other students on the Chesed Mission interact with the children, I soon joined in. I can't even begin to describe how I felt when I finally got one girl to dance and play the tambourine with me.
Afterwards, we went to Schneider's Children Hospital, where we went around giving gifts to patients. While it was upsetting to see so many children in the hospital, their attitude change was amazing when offered a gift . But it wasn't only that- the astonishment and gratitude of the parents when they realized not only that the gifts were free, but also the fact that we came all the way from America to give them, was amazing. Some of us went to the Oncology Unit, where one mother gave out bracelets in support of her daughter, who is fighting Leukemia. We took pictures wearing the bracelets and sent them to the mother, who told us how much she appreciated and needed the support.
Next we went to Afikim, an after school program for at risk children. Each of us paired with a child from Afikim to complete an art project with them. I worked with an energetic nine-year-old named Noa whose comments and intelligence kept me laughing the whole time.
After a short break, we then proceeded to visit an army base with Standing Together in order to give gifts and say thanks to the Israeli soldiers. We danced and sang with many of the soldiers. We also gave out hotdogs and drinks to uplift their spirits. After talking to some soldiers for about a half an hour, I turned around to see a soldier, Itzick, who I had met last year at a different army base. After getting over our initial surprise, we soon began to talk about what had happened this past summer, and when I told him that American Jews followed the news and pray for Israeli soldiers every day, he was shocked to hear of our dedication. It was truly amazing to see the shock and happiness on his face when he realized the level of dedication and connection that American Jews have for Israel, and how much we appreciate the soldier's service. And the level of excitement of Koral, a girl I had met last year, was absolutely incredible. For me, the excitement of the soldiers not only validated our trip to the base, but also, when coupled with today's trip to Aleh, really validated the entire Chesed Mission in general.
 ~Shani Zenilman