New AKIM Success Stories

National Service

Shai Jamber made history when he became the first intellectually disabled soldier that gained the title of “an outstanding soldier.” Shai is 27 years old, and from the city of Rehovot. He enlisted three years ago as part of the AKIM ISRAEL’s IDF project: Equal in Uniform. This project includes the intellectually disabled in the army. Shai serves as responsible for the inventory in the fighting equipment center. 

“Shai executes his tasks seriously, with a lot of responsibility and devotion, and pays a lot of attention to the security aspect,” said General Yaacov (Kobi) Barak, who is the commander of the Logistics and Technological Section in the IDF, during the ceremony that was held last week. “He has an endless capacity of giving,” says General Barak. “I check batteries from 08:00-14:00 every day,” says Jamber. He was very moved when he received the certificate of excellence and said that he wanted to enlist because he wanted to contribute to the country and to show what he was really worth. “I am proud to wear the uniform” he concluded. He wanted to pass on a message to his peer group: “that everybody would be like me”. 

Sigal Peretz Yahalomi has stated that the AKIM IDF project helps the intellectually disabled be integrated and included in the community . The soldiers, many of which meet an intellectually disabled person for the first time, realize the value of everyone being “born in His image.” This makes Israeli society a better place.”

IDF Program

Shai chose to be part of AKIM’s unique SAR-EL program. This program, in partnership with the Israel Defense Forces, places young adults (21-30) who have an intellectual disability in the army, allowing them to serve and contribute to Israel’s safety and security via military service.

Job Readiness and Placement

Leonid Rosenberg, 48, has lived in the AKIM Herzliya “Hashar” hostel since 2005. In the past three years Leonid has gone through a long and meaningful process of changing his conception of his capacities regarding self-fulfillment. 

Imagine the following situation: a Russian new immigrant resident, who speaks very little Hebrew, with an intellectual disability. I remember, that in the beginning I had a conversation with him with the help of a translator. 

One of my questions was “How do you feeI in the hostel?” after a long moment of reflection, Leonid answered: “imprisoned.” How is this possible? I remember asking myself. Well, this is the thought that, as far as I am concerned, has marked the beginning of a long way of a personal program of a person who has simply said: “I would like to be independent and free.”

Leonid has worked in the sheltered working place in Hertzliya and wanted to be independent. He was looking for a change. He wanted to work on the free market. This was not easy at all. During the three years there were numerous conversations with him regarding his desire to be independent. His parents were worried but they gave him their blessings. We understood that Leonid had the capacity to be integrated in supported employment and a job was found for him in the Dan Accadia Hotel in Hertzliya. He was trained during a period of a few weeks so that he would know how to get to the hotel independently. 

Today all this seems natural. During the past 6 months, since he started his work at the hotel Leonid gets up at 6 am, gets dressed, gets organized and pops on the bus, then takes another bus and gets to work. He comes home happy, smiling, satisfied and very proud of himself. 

One has to remember that this is a long process with fears of the “unknown”. However, the process has been successful and he has been able to express his desires and to find creative ways to fulfill them. When asked in the beginning of the process what he thinks of it, he answered candidly that he did not know. Today, three years later, his parents are happy to see him get up in the morning and leave by himself to work thus fulfilling his independence.

D., a resident in the AKIM Hashar Hostel in Hertzliya had asked for a long period of time to change his employment. He was refused, due to the Ministry of Social Affairs’ regulations. When this was explained to D. he decided not to give up. He started writing letters, every week to the local authority, to the “supervision” department, asking to change his employement. After a very long time he was asked to present himself to the “supervision,” where he explained his desire of change asking to be transferred from the Day Center to the sheltered working place in Hertzliya. 

After years of insisting, of not giving up, of knowing what he wanted and being persistent with it, he got what he wished for. Finally, he was listened to, the regulations were bent, and today he is a very happy man.

“A Different Way to an Occupation”

AKIM believes that every person should be given an opportunity to join the work force in accordance with his or her abilities. “A Different Way to an Occupation” is a vocational training program operated by the Social Security department in cooperation with AKIM. The program places young adults (over the age of 21) who have an intellectual disability in jobs.

The purpose of this program is to develop the work potential of young people who have an intellectual disability and assist them in finding jobs that fit their skills and abilities. Having these jobs enables people to live as independently as possible within a community to which they contribute and in which they feel like equals.

Advocacy Efforts

Nadra, an Arab woman, has been living in AKIM facilities for many years now. She had a guardian whom she did not like since she was not happy with the way he handled her affairs. He took her money, did not take good care of her, and she felt abused. 

Nadra made a request to the legal department, with the help of the AKIM housing staff, to change the guardian. This was a complicated, long lasting process. Nadra did not give up. After a few years the process has come to an end successfully, to her great satisfaction. She was transferred to the AKIM Guardianship. Nadra, appeared in court, accompanied by her Director, where she spoke to the Judge, and explained to him her motives. She was taken seriously and was treated with great respect. Her request was granted and she is happy.

Advocacy

AKIM fights for the preservation and advancement of the rights of people who have an intellectual disability and their families through legislation, enforcement, promotion of rights and information services. AKIM operates parents’ committees and empowers families with the skills needed to represent their children’s interests and help them succeed.

Working With Communities

Shani Rachamim – a volunteer in the AKIM Petach Tikvah Branch, A friend of Ortal

In the beginning of the year I was on my way to my first volunteering meeting with an intellectually disabled girl, two years my senior. I expected to see a girl who needed me desperately, who looked different, acted differently and who did not understand what was going on around her. I was so wrong. I met Ortal, an intellectually disabled girl with a high level of functionality. She looked completely ordinary. I was a little disappointed. What does she need me for, I asked myself? It took me sometime to understand how and in what way I could be her support and why in fact she really needed our meeting. During our meetings we would play, would listen to music, we would engage in creative work, tell each other our experiences and just hang out together. After two hours of such meetings she looked up at me one day and just said: “You are my best friend.” Slowly I began to see the influence that I had on her: the works that she was doing became better and better with each meeting, she improved in the games that I taught her. When she had problems with her classmates, she would consult with me. She even memorized the lyrics of my favorite songs. 

Today I know what kept me going – the will to be a meaningful part of her life. We grew closer. Towards the end of the school year, Ortal was asked whether she wanted to join the class in their trip to Poland to visit the concentration camps. She did not want to go and nobody could convince her. When I heard about it , I also tried to talk her into it. I know that she is very stubborn yet, this time I decided not to give up. Whenever we met I would talk about it trying to convince her to go on the trip. At the end, she confessed that she was afraid of flying. She has never been on a plane before, and she was not ready to go on a plane now. It took a lot of convincing to get the agreement that she would fly if I would prepare for her a playlist with her favorite songs that she would listen to on the plane. I also wrote her a letter to be read on the plane that would help her not to be afraid. She accepted the deal and flew to Poland. She came back happy with a wonderful stories to tell and she said that finally flying was not a big deal. Since then she flew abroad with her family three times. 

Personally, I had a wonderful feeling of having helped Ortal, and that my intervention has made a difference in her life.

AKIM Branches

Throughout Israel there are sixty-four local and regional branches. Most of the branches are run by parents and volunteers. Branches represent people who have an intellectual disability at a local level while the AKIM-Israel center does the same at the national level. Many branches provide a variety of services such as leisure-time activities, residential facilities, and psychological support for families.

 

Independence

The Residents’ committee of the AKIM Ra’anana Hostel had to choose a location for the summer vacation. They went to Jerusalem, accompanied by the Director of the hostel. They met with the Director of the hotel they wished to check, she received them nicely and had them visit the hotel. They sat with her, discussed the conditions, asked all the questions they had and checked the facility. After that they decided upon the hotel for the summer vacation. It was their choice, their decision, not the staff’s decision.

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