From California to the Negev

My name is Isabella Stuart and I am a 17-year-old high school student from California who just finished volunteering this summer at ALEH Negev-Nahalat Eran. The experiences with residents, as well as other parts of the ALEH Negev-Nahalat Eran community, will be forever etched in my mind. My journey to ALEH Negev-Nahalat Eran began in December 2014, just after my disabled cousin passed away ALEH Negev-Nahalat Eran’s founder, Doron Almog came and spoke at my synagogue about ALEH Negev-Nahalat Eran. As Doron spoke, I became fascinated by his expression of Tikkun Olam and the understanding that a community is only as strong as its weakest member. However, it was when Doron explained that Eran—his disabled son—had taught him more than anybody without ever speaking–words which reminded me of how I felt about my own disabled cousin–that I knew my commitment to ALEH Negev-Nahalat Eran was destined to be both passionate and unwavering.

In 2015, I used my bat-mitzvah as an platform from which to raise awareness and support for ALEH Negev Nahalat-Eran in my community. In doing so, I collected enough money in order to fund 2 bar and bat mitzvahs of ALEH Negev-Nahalat Eran residents. During that summer I made my first visit to ALEH Negev Nahlat-Eran. Because my synagogue is passionate about supporting ALEH Negev-Nahalat Eran, I have since had many opportunities to speak in front of both larger and intimate audiences about why ALEH Negev-Nahalat Eran is so special. Serving as an ambassador has been rewarding but I have always wanted to do more by returning to ALEH Negev-Nahalat Eran as a volunteer.

So, this summer, I made good on that commitment and volunteered at ALEH Negev-Nahalat Eran. I arrived prepared to give my whole heart to the residents but I did not expect how much love I would receive from them in return. There is no adjective that describes the feeling you get when residents trust you enough to run up and give you a hug or the first time they recognize you and are so happy that they bounce up and down in their chair.

I encourage everybody who reads this to come to ALEH Negev-Nahalat Eran. If not to volunteer, at least to visit. You do not want to miss seeing such an amazing place.

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