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A Champion by Any Measure

October 2017


  Yair Carmeli, a National Service Volunteer in Israel Elwyn’s Mosaic* Program, was a lot like every other active, healthy child.  He was the apple of his parents’ eye.  He ran.  He played.  He laughed when he was happy and cried when he fell, just like his peers.  Until he was eight and a bout of meningitis changed his life.

 Yair (r) at the last Special Olympics, where he played with the US ping pong champion

This is how he tells his story:

“I was like every other child – active and totally healthy – until the age of 8, when I contracted meningitis, which became very serious and hit me hard.  For two months, I sat in a wheelchair, unable to walk or speak.  The disease damaged my motor skills, balance, coordination, and gave me epilepsy, also affecting my memory, reflexes and speech.  They did not resume their original function levels.  After several months of rehabilitation, I returned home, limping and with limited movement.  It was a static situation which I thought would not change much.  Of course, I lacked the desire to do anything and my parents, who went through this with me in the hospital, were just as despondent as I.

Yair holding one of his trophies

“Sport saved my life.  I began to play table tennis.  At first, it was to slightly improve the movement of my limbs, but after several months I fell in love with this sport and joined the Spivak Sport Center for the Disabled.  Today I am an Israeli champion in table tennis for people with disability, singles and doubles, and am ranked 96th in the world.

“In the last year, I’ve been doing my National Service as a volunteer in the Spivak Center, where I am an assistant table tennis coach and train the next generation of players.  I chose to do my service here through the Shlomit nonprofit organization [Ed. note:  one of several organizations through which all National Service volunteers – with and without disability – serve] – because this wonderful place gave me so much and I wanted to give back to the place that saved my life.

“During my service year, I have been participating in training and workshops operated by Israel Elwyn’s Mosaic program.  There I receive tools and life skills in various fields.  If sport taught me discipline, striving for achievement and body strength, Mosaic’s training and National Service are teaching me to achieve inclusion in society and the world of work, and for that I am grateful to my wonderful coordinator, Mirit, and to Mosaic’s instructors, Ossie and Yaron.”

 Yair participating in a panel at the Academic College of Tel Aviv-Yaffo this summer, on the subject Inspirational Young Adults, with two other National Services volunteers through Mosaic and Yaron Samimi, Director – Youth & Young Adults Division, Israel Elwyn;

* IE’s Mosaic program was established three years ago to assist young adults with a range of disabilities with preparing for the day after they complete their National Service and start a new chapter in their lives, which is generally employment.  This year, hundreds of young people with disabilities are volunteering in the National Service system with IE’s support.  National Service volunteers are placed in a wide variety of settings:  municipal services, fire departments, schools and elsewhere.  They accrue the same post-service benefits as individuals who have served in the Israel Defense Forces and are recognized by society for their contribution to the country.

   Israel Elwyn’s partners in the program are the Authority for National-Civic Services; the Ministry of Health; the Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs and Social Services, Rehabilitation Division; the Opportunity Fund for Civic Service; and Shlomit and Aminadav, two nonprofit organizations providing placement and ongoing services to all National Service volunteers throughout Israel.

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We'd love to hear from you! Also, please let us know in advance of your next trip to Israel and we will give you a tour of the Israel Elwyn programs.

You can also contact one of our North American offices: United States: (267) 225-5132 or Canada: (416) 649-1655.

If you would like to make a contribution either online or by check, please see the details below.

David B. Marcu, Chief Executive Officer

IE's mission is to develop and provide a wide array of supports and tools for people with disabilities, while constantly striving for excellence of service and the creation of a just society. Together with people with disabilities and society at large, we shall continue working as an innovative and cutting-edge organization.

Please support the work of Israel Elwyn to provide state-of-the-art services in the areas of childhood early intervention, rehabilitation, assisted living, vocational training and employment services for persons with disabilities by making a gift:

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American Friends of Israel Elwyn
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American Friends of Israel Elwyn, PO Box 828284, Philadelphia, PA 19182-8284
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Mail checks: payable to "Israel Elwyn", at 20 Henrietta Szold St., Jerusalem 9650200

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