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Love Your Neighbour… Starting in Kindergarten!
Breaking News! Rahma is going home!
She beat all the odds – doctors predicted Rahma would not survive for more than a few weeks – and with ALEH’s help, Rahma will now be able to live with her family, and attend a special needs kindergarten in Rahat. We will keep you updated on this amazing success story…
Rahma, a lovely Bedouin girl who lives in the Aleh Negev-Nahalat Eran Rehabilitative Village, is truly a miracle child. Born into poverty and neglect, with severe multi-system medical complications, the doctors’ gloomy prognosis was that Rahma would not survive for more than a few weeks. Then, at 2 months old, a court order resulted in her placement at ALEH Negev’s High Dependency Ward, which enables children who require round-the-clock nursing care and supervision to remain within a warm, familiar surroundings and continue daily routines despite their serious medical conditions. ALEH’s tireless professional staff encouraged Rahma to live as normative a life as possible, offering every opportunity for her to grow and develop her physical, cognitive, and emotional faculties.
Today, Rahma is a happy 6-year old, who against all odds has overcome severe muscular degeneration and learned to sit, crawl, and walk, assisted by a specially constructed walker customized to fit her tiny frame. Although she does not yet speak, she communicates astonishingly well, evinces understanding, and conveys her feelings through body language, facial expressions, and nonverbal communication devices. Her big dark eyes, adorable dimples, neat shiny braids, and captivating smile make an impression on all those around her. She has been ‘adopted’ by Shula and Meir Abergil – a retired Orthodox Jewish couple, who have taken Rahma under their wing, having formed warm bonds of love that transcend background. Read the Abergils’ account of how Rahma has become an integral part of their family. Most amazingly, this child whom doctors predicted would not survive is now integrated in one of the 2 ‘regular’ kindergartens at Aleh Negev-Nahalat Eran. These kindergartens are for non-disabled children of all backgrounds who come from the neighboring communities and towns to enjoy the idyllic atmosphere and quality educational services that Aleh Negev has to offer.
From its founding, Aleh Negev resolved to break boundaries of isolation and preconceived notions, to shatter the stereotypes that people with disabilities face within society. Because their physical limitations made travel difficult, a policy of reverse integration was adopted, whereby residents of the village could enjoy social interaction, normative activities and love from all quarters – by bringing non-disabled people into the village on a daily basis. From that tenet sprung the idea of establishing regular kindergartens on premises, introducing children at a very young age to become acquainted with and accepting of those who are different from themselves.
Jewish and Bedouin children happily interact and play side by side in the kindergartens at Aleh Negev-Nahalat Eran. We have been blessed with remarkable success stories here: Amana and Nag’i, who came from at-risk backgrounds and progressed in their development until they could be integrated into mainstream life in their respective communities. Here we have seen the amazing advances made by Lian – born prematurely at 24 weeks, with slim chances for survival. Like Rahma, Lian has made strides in development that are truly astounding. After years of being fed through a gastro tube, Lian learned to eat by mouth and delights in the flavors and sensation of real food – and just recently, she took her first steps!
Rahma props her walker at the doorway of the kindergarten every morning, and with the help of the other children and the teacher, her independence and confidence grow daily; Lian plays with the bunnies and is hugged by her friends in the kindergarten…. These beautiful little girls have truly found hope for a better future at ALEH.
There is no question that here, at Aleh Negev-Nahalat Eran, more than anywhere else in the country, concepts of acceptance, tolerance, mutual respect and unconditional love are not empty slogans. They are working principles used to educate the next generation into the future – one that we hope will make us all into better people as part of a caring society. Here we understand that the ability to improve lives, and to create a stronger society is intrinsically bound to the famous maxim of Rabbi Akiva: “Love your neighbor as yourself”.
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