Positive Impact

sharon dayanBy: Sharon Hadani Dayan

ALEH’s prisoner rehabilitation program is a perfect example of the positive impact that people with disabilities can have on society at large.

ALEH, Israel’s largest network of facilities for children with severe physical and cognitive disabilities, developed  an award-winning prisoner rehabilitation program that allows those serving long sentences for non-violent crimes to volunteer once a week with ALEH residents in the Negev (southern Israel).

The program is run exclusively at ALEH Negev-Nahalat Eran, a cutting-edge rehabilitative village for Israelis with a severe disability that was founded by Major General (res.) Doron Almog. The village, named in memory of General Almog’s son, Eran, was established to provide a continuum of residential care for children with severe disabilities as they grow from adolescents into young adults.

Prisoners are treated like regular ALEH volunteers and are given multiple responsibilities helping residents in the vocational training center, walking with them in the music garden and the safari, or helping the more dependent residents in the respiratory area. The constant exposure to ALEH residents, staff and volunteers, forces them to recalibrate their moral compasses and refocus their energies outward.

“I feel privileged to offer my support and assistance to someone who cannot even express his thanks through words– but only through the smallest of smiles,” a participant commented. “This smile is what gives me immense strength and fuels the goal I now strive towards: to work to help someone whose soul is pure and untainted, who is certainly more virtuous than I.“

ALEHCurrently, 20 participants from 3 different local prisons are participating in the program- and the numbers are growing.

Major General Almog, Chairman of the board of ALEH Negev and initiator of the program, often says that “our society will be judged by the way we care for our most vulnerable members.”  In this case, some of the most vulnerable members of Israeli society are actively teaching others crucial, life-altering lessons about love and compassion and, in so doing, are improving society as a whole.

Tzvika K., a former prisoner, wrote an emotional letter about his experience to ALEH upon his release. “It’s true that the main purpose of our coming was to volunteer and be the givers.  But as the expression goes, we came to give and left as the recipients.  In just a few days I will be receiving my freedom, but I am certain that the extraordinary, emotional encounter that I experienced here will continue to accompany me in the future, and will lead me to more volunteer opportunities on behalf of the community in my hometown.”

Everyone has what to give and contribute. Sometimes it takes the right partnerships to bring it out of them.

Sharon is ALEH’s Marketing Communications and Corporate Relations Manager. ALEH provides 650 severely disabled children & young adults in Israel with high-level medical and rehabilitative care in four residential facilities. ALEH is their home and their family – 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. See the Prisoner’s Rehab Program in action.

Read our last post: Breaking Down Barriers to Inclusion

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Filed under Disabilities Trends, perceptions of disability

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