A Summer of Passion and Humanity in the Promised Land
United with Israel / Shoshanna Kervin
Volunteering at a facility for disabled children and young adults gave a Canadian the opportunity to satisfy her two great passions: Helping those less fortunate and supporting Israel. She was struck by the “unparalled diversity” and “spirit of inclusion.”
Though numerous influences have shaped my life, thus far, there are two specific ideologies that continue to guide my hand most: an unquenchable desire to help others and a profound love of the State of Israel. This summer, these two ideologies meshed seamlessly for the first time in my life, resulting in a transformative internship experience at ALEH Negev-Nahalat Eran, a residential facility for children and young adults with severe mental and physical disabilities.
But like many of life’s most important experiences, the road to this fulfilling and inspiring episode began at home.
Growing up in British Columbia, Canada, I developed a longing to help others by watching my parents’ lovingly integrate foster children into our family structure on a regular basis. While the warm and tender environment within which I was raised allowed me find a deep appreciation for my good fortune, the acts of kindness performed by my parents taught me how to look out for those less fortunate than I.
From a young age, I sought out opportunities to volunteer with young people who could use my help. During summer vacations, I shadowed a girl with Downs syndrome and volunteered in a home that cared for individuals with varying levels of Autism and severe physical disabilities. My love for Israel developed much later in life, but quickly became a full-blown passion.
Though I was raised Christian, I would occasionally have in-depth conversations with my father about Judaism and the Land of Israel, two of his chief interests. His fascination began when he came to terms with the prevalence of global anti-Semitism. Having been raised to stand up for the truth, he chose to stand with Israel, a highly moral country that is often unjustly condemned. Following years of conversations with my father, I, too, began to see Israel as a light amid the darkness, and I was curious to learn more.
After university, I decided to spend some time in Israel, immersing myself in the culture and experiencing Israel as an Israeli. My father and I traveled to Israel and volunteered for the Israel Defense Forces through Sar-El, the National Project for Volunteers for Israel. Although I didn’t expect much from the experience beyond quality time with my father, I returned home with a deep affinity for and fascination with Israel. The fact that Israel continues to thrive despite its seemingly countless adversities and adversaries amazed me. And following last summer’s war, I felt a certain responsibility to read up on Israel and dispel the unjustified negative images disseminated by the media in discussions with my friends and family.
From the moment I left Israel, I knew that I would return. ‘Race, religion and background didn’t seem to matter’
This spring, I returned to Israel and joined a six-week Ulpan program at Ben Gurion University to learn Hebrew. I ended up extending my Israel experience into the summer by tacking on another short stint with Sar-El followed by three months at ALEH Negev, the crown jewel of Israel’s largest network of facilities for children with severe physical and cognitive disabilities. At ALEH, I utilized physical therapy techniques to advance the children I worked with toward independent mobility, a very rewarding task.
From my very first tour of the therapeutic village, I was struck by the unparalleled diversity represented within the groups of ALEH’s residents and staff members. I observed Jews, Christians, Muslims, Bedouins, and individuals of virtually every nationality working, learning, and healing together. Race, religion and background just didn’t seem to matter.
This spirit of inclusion and acceptance shapes the philosophy by which patient care is developed and provided. Rather than attempting to shoehorn every child into a one-size-fits-all rehabilitation program, ALEH tailors the programming to each patient’s unique needs and abilities, creating individualized experiences that allows each child to develop to his or her fullest potentials.
Thankfully, this philosophy spills over to volunteers as well. The paramedical staff, who accepted me with open arms, guided me through my internship and provided me with an exciting and enriching professional environment in which I was able to utilize my preexisting skill set to treat residents. But my eye-opening summer internship was more than just an opportunity to gain valuable work experience: it was the first time that I was able to embrace my two greatest passions and become the best version of myself.
Now that I know so much more about Israel’s long-standing tradition of kindness and its capacity for acceptance of individuals of all religions, races, nationalities, and abilities (and have witnessed this acceptance firsthand), my two passions don’t seem so disparate after all. In fact, it makes perfect sense that my true identity was forged in southern Israel.
Surrounded by angels in the Promised Land, I learned the true meaning of inclusion, altruism and humanity. Posts are contributed by third parties.
Shoshanna Kervin was born and raised in Port Hardy, a small town on the northern tip of Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada. Following her summer volunteering experience at ALEH Negev-Nahalat Eran in southern Israel, Shoshanna enlisted in the Canadian Armed Forces.
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