It feels like walking

ICEJ funds hydrotherapy for handicapped children in Ashkelon

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6 אפ' 2011
It feels like walking

The Oranim School in Ashkelon has become a very special place for handicapped children across the Negev ever since the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem helped to fund the installment of a state-of-the-art therapeutic swimming pool. The unique pool opened four years ago and an ICEJ delegation paid a visit to the school recently to see how the facility is being put to good use.

We watched as young students Tali and Dascha were carefully pushed in their wheelchairs close to the edge of the pool. A special lifting device was used to slowly lower Tali into the water, where her hydrotherapist was waiting for her. Tali, who is 12 years old and from an Ethiopian immigrant family, has a severe spastic paralysis that has confined her to a wheelchair. But once in the water, she was splashing and smiling. The buoyancy gives her a wholly new freedom of motion.

“Tali is unable to walk, but when she is in the water she feels like she can”, said Jardena Zachlach, director of the school. “In the water, Tali can move so much better than is possible in her wheelchair or in bed.”

Meanwhile, Dascha had been calmly awaiting her turn. When it came, the hydrotherapist moved her slowly through the water. The sensation brought a smile to her face, as her body felt lighter and her cramped muscles could relax. Coming from a Russian immigrant family, Dascha is also unable to walk. Yet she is set free to move about in the unique environment of the swimming pool, which is providing not only therapy and but also lots of old-fashioned fun for dozens of special boys and girls who would otherwise miss out on some of the joys of childhood.

The city of Ashkelon is proud of its one-of-a-kind school with the therapeutic swimming pool for disabled youngsters and they get a lot of visitors. Parents of handicapped children are especially keen to bring them to Oranim. Some 130 hydrotherapy sessions take place in the pool each week. Two days a week are set aside for the 61 disabled children attending the Oranim school. On the other days, handicapped children from kindergartens and schools all over Ashkelon and surrounding areas are able to come and use the pool.

“From the beginning, it was the plan that the pool would be available for handicapped children from all over Israel”, said Zvi Givati, a former ICEJ liaison who initiated the project. In the afternoons, adults also are allowed to use the swimming pool in case they need hydrotherapy for back ailments and other mobility problems, he noted.

“This pool is unique in Israel and maybe unique also worldwide”, said Osnat Tov, director of the swimming pool. What is so special is that the pool is equipped with ropes and bars stretched over its basin and on the sides extending down into the water. This makes it possible for handicapped people to move freely, she explained, adding that the Israeli army is also now interested in using this special design for its work in the rehabilitation of wounded soldiers.

“It is wonderful and very touching to see the children able to move and enjoy themselves in this way”, said ICEJ International Director Jürgen Bühler during the visit to the pool facility. “We want to continue supporting this important project also in the future.”

“Thank you! Your help is very, very important to our children”, responded Tzachlach on behalf of the school.

Asked how the ICEJ can continue to help the school, she noted that they are in need of special stainless steel wheelchairs for handicapped children and adults that would allow them to take showers by themselves, as well as non-slip carpets for the swimming pool area.

Meantime, Ashkelon is located only ten kilometers north of the Gaza Strip and thus faces the added harsh reality of repeated rocket attacks launched by Palestinian terror militias. Recently, a Kassam rocket hit the town not far from the Oranim School. The school’s ‘sensory room’, where the special-needs children normally go to have their senses stimulated in a relaxed atmosphere, has been turned into a temporary bomb shelter and thus cannot be used to its fullest. So the school also needs separate secured rooms to protect the children during the persistent rocket barrages from Gaza.

BOX: If you are interested in supporting our efforts to fund this and other projects to assist the handicapped in Israel, please make your donation. Make an on-line donation today.



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