JERUSALEM—During her recent trip to Jerusalem, the Czech Republic's Minister of Welfare, Michaela Marksova, made a special visit to the Shalva National Center, Israel’s largest and most advanced center for the care and inclusion of people with disabilities.
She was escorted by dignitaries from Israel's Ministry of Social Affairs and Social Services who partner with Shalva in the operation and development of its inclusive early childhood day care as well as recreational and respite programs for children and teens.
Shalva's constellation of programs serve 2,000 children with disabilities and their families from infancy to adulthood, providing care and support that encourage their development and inclusion in society.
"I can see that many of the social services in Israel are on a different level because they are built into the system and also there are many private donors who combine with the government," said the Czech Minister. "I'm very impressed."
When asked what elements of Shalva she hopes to take back to her country, Marksova replied: "The idea of openness. The fact that this center is also open to the public. The inclusion that places children with all kinds of disabilities together with children in a normal kindergarten. This is very nice."
Shalva was founded in 1990 by Kalman and Malki Samuels as a result of their experiences raising their son Yossi was injured during infancy and rendered blind and deaf, among other disabilities. Over the course of twenty-eight years, Shalva has developed programs and pioneered innovative therapy models in response to the needs experienced by children and families coping with disabilities. As the success of the programs became evident, Shalva's programs received recognition from government ministries, such as the Ministry of Social affairs and Social Services and the Ministry of Education, which came to collaborate with Shalva in the program operations. As such, the opportunities available to children with disabilities in Israel today are largely a result of Shalva's unique partnerships.
Shalva's success in gradually transform a country's disability services structure has attracted government and community leaders from around the world who wish to do the same. The Czech Republic's delegation was preceded by similar visits from Russia, Georgia, Mexico, the United States, Canada, Britain.
"At Shalva we work with the child to give him the tools to succeed. We work with the parents and siblings to empower them to raise their children within the family framework. And it is no less important to us to work with members of the greater community to advance inclusion," explains Yochanan Samuels, Shalva's CEO. "Sharing of knowledge and partnerships with the greater world community is also part of our mission to create a better, more inclusive society."