JDC Brings Possibility to People with Disabilities Around the World

October 5, 2010


Israel Unlimited is a strategic partnership among the Ruderman Family Foundation, JDC, and the Government of Israel to meet the needs of Israel’s 700,000 disabled adults (aged 20-64) and to advance independent living and integration of people with disabilities into Israeli society.

Community leader, minority-group advocate, visionary. Dalia Zilberman, an Israeli woman, wakes every day determined to actualize each of those titles. Her own personal struggle to overcome a physical disability does not define this woman; it motivates her. Dalia focuses her efforts on the local JDC-supported Center for Independent Living (CIL), which works to enhance the lives of 1,500 residents who are disabled, ensuring they feel included and empowered. Currently, JDC is running three centers offering peer counseling and employment programs all staffed by people with disabilities as well as volunteers. Dalia’s work with the Center in Be’er Sheva is part of the larger goal of Israel Unlimited to expand opportunities for many of Israel’s disabled citizens.

Through a mobile clinic, JDC’s International Development Program (IDP) provides people with disabilities living in remote areas of Morocco with services such as assistive device maintenance and medical consultation. Additionally, JDC and a local partner have distributed critically needed wheelchairs to hundreds of Moroccans.

As a mother raising two young children, one of Saadia’s greatest concerns is keeping an eye on her son and daughter in the rough and hilly terrain of her Moroccan neighborhood. Saadia is a paraplegic, and for many years she struggled with limited independent mobility. However, all of this changed when she became a beneficiary of JDC’s wheelchair program. In partnership with a local Muslim organization and Morocco’s Jewish community, JDCIDP distributes wheelchairs to needy people with disabilities living without any assistive devices. The wheelchair enables Saadia to fulfill the role of mother, caretaker, homemaker, and to socialize with her community. “My wheelchair—it is like my feet—I won’t go anywhere without it!” she exclaims. “When we go to a family wedding in the village I take it with me in the back of a taxi. My older daughter and son help to push me up the steep places.”

As part of JDC’s efforts to help rebuild Haiti, a rehabilitation center at the State University Hospital of Haiti was renovated and staff trained to provide quality long-term care and prosthesis for amputees and others severely injured, utilizing Israeli expertise from Magen David Adom and the Rehabilitation Center at the Chaim Sheba Medical Center.

The earthquake that devastated Haiti on January 12th caused massive destruction to buildings, homes, and worst of all, to the country’s people. Oscar, an aspiring professional soccer player and technology guru, survived the natural disaster but sacrificed one of his legs to the weight of a pillar that had him pinned for hours. After the amputation surgery, Oscar felt distraught, fearing he would never walk again. Luckily, a friend referred him to Haiti’s University Hospital, where top Israeli medical professionals from JDC field partner Magen David Adom (MDA)/Tel HaShomer Hospital fit him for a state-of-the-art prosthesis. Through rigorous physical rehabilitation which he met with sheer determination, Oscar moved from two crutches to one crutch to walking independently. “The idea that there were people who were going to take care of me—to get me a prosthetic and help me walk on my own—allowed me to dream again,” he said.

Tikvah and Yedid are JDC programs in Eastern Ukraine that enrich the lives of special needs children and young adults, respectively. Both programs, fully funded by World Jewish Relief, use various therapies, social activities, and cultural programs to empower participants to become more independent and to live happy and productive lives.

Most nine-year-old children spend their days carefree and active, moving from home to school to various after-school activities. But not Vlada M., whose aggressive cerebral palsy left her unable to get around her hometown of Donetsk, Ukraine. Vlada’s condition also proved quite onerous for her parents, leaving them little freedom and even hampering their ability to work. However, once their local Tikvah program provided the services of a homecare worker, the family’s situation began to improve. Vlada’s parents pursued employment opportunities, alleviating some of their financial stress. Also, Tikva offered special treatment and rehabilitation equipment that enabled Vlada to learn how to crawl. “Soon, when I start walking, I’ll put on my best dress and come to Hesed holiday to dance Hava Nagila!” says Vlada.

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