The sound of silence

The sound of silence

Wednesday, February 8th, 2017


Early in the morning I am walking with one of the residents through the grounds of ALEH-Negev. It is quiet and we can feel the warmth of the rising sun. We walk further and he makes a sound that means ‘stop pushing the wheelchair’. He picks a flower from the garden, turns around with a big smile on his face and gives me the flower. I am completely overwhelmed! I love all of the residents and especially this one, and he gives me so much love back without using any words. That moment I decided that I really want to work with this uncommon target group as a nurse.

People with multiple disabilities are often seen as outsiders of a community. They are seen as useless and some people are even scared of them. But these disabled people are pure and unique. We can learn so much of them even if they cannot speak. They teach you things in silence. They bring you back to the base of life, where nothing is more important than love.

When we come back from our walk, another resident is impatiently waiting until it is his turn to walk with me! Yes, you become very athletic from pushing that many wheelchairs! I walk with him every day for 6 weeks. Every morning we walk the same route. First, we walk through the gate and wait for the ‘boom’ that you can hear when the gate closes. He loves this sound and screams the ‘boom’ together with the gate. Then we walk to the play garden in silence, just enjoying the walk. The swing is the first thing we use, he closes his eyes and relaxes. Then we go to the slide, I help him up the stairs (this is the hardest part of my morning-workout). It takes a while but when he is ready to slide, you can see the biggest smile ever on his face.

That moment I decided that I really want to work with this uncommon target group as a nurse.

These people can speak to your heart in silence. The resident I described above falls under the category ‘high functioning’ but at the ward live also residents that can function a lot less. Even for these persons it is possible to communicate in silence and connect with the caregivers.

Early in the morning I sit on a chair and enjoy the peace and quiet around me. All of the caregivers are busy washing and dressing the residents. Slowly, more and more residents enter the room clean and dressed. I love sitting here and starting the day with them.

Working at ALEH brings you back to yourself. It is a place where everyone comes together and no one is rejected because of personality. I think that you can discover yourself while working at this place. Residents are sensible and are able to feel how you feel. You have to be yourself to make real contact with them.

After a couple months of absence I came back at ALEH-Negev and it felt like I met my family again. My heart melted when one of the residents immediately recognized me. I never thought that working at ALEH would make such a difference in my life but it definitely did! The sound of silence has changed my life forever.

Written by Julia Burgers a Dutch nursing student and volunteer to ALEH Negev