Youth Clubs: Transforming Inclusion from Place to Mindset

By Guest Blogger David B. Marcu, CEO Israel Elwyn

“When I was on other trips I didn’t speak with people, but here I learned that it would be boring if I didn’t start a conversation. I prefer for more than three of us to room together so that there are more opportunities to get to know other people. Here I realized that you must have confidence and courage.” — Sarah, Israel Elwyn Youth Club program participant – Be’er Sheva

Sarah was just one of the 150 participants in a recent joint management seminar attended by youths with disabilities from Israel Elwyn’s Youth Club program and by representatives from student and youth councils.

Israel Elwyn’s Youth Club program, operated in partnership with the Ministry of Social Affairs and Social Services, the Ministry of Education, the National Insurance Institute and Ashalim – JDC, offers extracurricular activities for teens with physical or sensory disabilities or complex learning difficulties, who study in the regular education system in small classes or in individual inclusion. The program’s goal is to help them deal with the unique challenges they face upon graduating from high school, when they embark on an independent life as an adult. The issues covered in the program include preparation for military or national civilian service, continuing education, employment (counseling and tools for the world of work, employment choices, skills review, etc.), dealing with pressure and crises, managing money, self image and other topics suggested by the young people themselves.

The Youth Club program organizes groups of youths with disabilities who participate in “normative” youth activities and cooperates with urban youth programs and groups on social activities, youth events and training young leaders. IE’s Youth Club program has a double-pronged aim: fostering the inclusion of youth with disabilities in society, and changing the attitudes of “normative” youth towards people with disabilities. To help achieve this goal, members of IE’s Youth Club program participated in a three-day youth leadership seminar whose purpose was to provide these young people with tools and skills in the field of leadership and in preparing for employment.

The seminar featured icebreakers such as a treasure hunt, plus a variety of workshops and activities: a commedia dell’arte workshop to teach body language and appearance before an audience, a workshop on time management and setting priorities, an activity on dealing with challenging situations, and one on social networking.

By the end of their time together, Sarah and the other Youth Club participants returned home with new knowledge, wider horizons and the knowledge that inclusion is a real possibility in their lives.

— David B. Marcu

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Filed under Disabilities rights, Disabilities Trends, Uncategorized

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