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Israeli centre needs a hand to offer a hand
Shalva looks home to help special-needs children.
BAILA LAZARUS STAFF REPORTER
Ayoung girl sits in a bright room while music plays and colored lights flicker over the walls. She laughs as she plays with some toys in the company of a Shalva worker. Her happy laughter beUes the fact that she, and other children portrayed on a video about the Shalva centre, are all physically or mentally disabled, some of them severely.
Shalva — which is a Hebrew acronym for "Hand for the handicapped child and family" — is a facility in Jerusalem that offers aid, entertainment and education for special-needs children. It operates in the evenings and on weekends to give parents a respite fixjm caring for their children 24 hours a day.
Rabbi Kalman Samuels, director of Shalva, has come to Vancouver with this video to impress upon people that the special needs of these children and their parents have to be met — and right now they can only be met with money. Shalva has play areas, learning centres, physiotherapy rooms, day camps and a variety of other services that cater to the needs of children of every age, background and ability.
Who minds the goop? Not these kids as they have hands-on fun during an art activity at the Shalva centre in Jerusalem.
Open since 1990, Shalva has been growing in its services and outgrowing its rented space. A building was purchased last December and is being renovated at a cost of just over $1 million. Having ah-eady raised $400,000 through previous fundraising events. Rabbi Samuels wants to raise the additional $700,000. Vancouver holds a special spot for Rabbi Samuels: he was bom and raised here. That's why he keeps coming back to drum up support for his cause.
Rabbi Samuels' son, Yossi, became blind and deaf as a result of a routine vaccination in 1977 when just a baby. His parents soon began to see the need for a facility that could take care of children with disabilities, thus giving parents a "mental break." After moving to Israel, he founded Shalva
Rabbi Samuels is proud of the fact that all of Shalva's services are free, but points out that "pressures are enormous. I'm desperately in need of people who are willing to help finish the building." Contributions can be made through the local chapter of Canadian Friends of Shalva at 261-3171. □