Passing Yoni on the street, you wouldn’t think him your typical adult. After all, he looks different, speaks slurred, and walks with a shuffling gait.
He also has a megawatt smile, goes out of his way to greet you, and his happiness is evident to all who meet him.
No, not your typical adult.
Why is he so happy? He may not be able to express it in so many words, but if he could, he would tell you that it’s because he’s living his dream life, a life carefully tailored to meet his needs and help him grow. A life where he is surrounded by warmth, patience and loving care.
And it all started with one decision that his parents made, back when he was a baby.
They chose to send him to Seeach Sod.
What is Seeach Sod? It’s an all-encompassing network of educational and residential programs that together provide a child with special needs with everything he needs to thrive, from babyhood to adulthood. The very first special needs organization to open in Israel, 47 years ago, the Jerusalem-based Seeach Sod is still at the forefront of special education today, using cutting edge therapies and educational techniques to help each and every one of its 1,000 children and adults develop his or her maximal potential.
How does one organization manage to provide services on such a grand scope? Yoni’s story serves as the perfect example.
Yoni started out in Seeach Sod’s Maon Tzur day care program, and moved on to their Ganei Eshkol preschool, receiving a variety of therapies including OT, PT, speech, hydrotherapy, massage therapy and more, while also benefiting from the specialized instruction of the specially trained teachers and staff.
Yoni was so proud the day he entered first grade in Seeach Sod’s Otzar Yerushalyim school for boys. With his knapsack and lunch bag, he felt just like his older brothers! One of Seeach Sod’s objectives is to make their children feel as “normal” as possible, and to that end, they try to make their school experience mimic their siblings’ mainstream one. Yoni still remembers his Chumash play, and how he jumped off the stage, clutching his Chumash, and ran straight into his father’s arms, yelling, “I have a Chumash, Abba!”
His father began to cry.
Seeach Sod understands the toll a special needs child can take on the entire family, and runs sibling events to make them feel special, too. In addition, they run yearly vacations for the parents, carefully planned to help them recharge and rejuvenate, while their child is being cared for in Seeach Sod’s respite center. Recently, Seeach Sod organized a one-of-a-kind trip for parents to the Ukraine!
Once Yoni graduated from the school system, Seeach Sod remained by his side, helping him navigate this new stage of his life – adulthood. Yoni joined one of their adult residences, a community-based living program consisting of 40 apartments located throughout Jerusalem, and newly opened residences in Beit Shemesh as well, which services 235 men and women, at various levels of functioning.
Seeach Sod also runs vocational programs for men and women, with branches in Jerusalem, Bnei Brak, and Beit Shemesh. These programs offer three different vocational tracks, depending on the level of the individual. The highest functioning work in the regular workforce, with support from a Seeach Sod counselor; those functioning at a lower level of independence work in one of Seeach Sod’s in-house industries – the Revach Naki laundromat for men, and Lilac Flower Company for women. The lowest functioning adults perform tasks in a structured work environment at Seeach Sod’s facility.
Everyone contributes something, each according to his ability. And, at the end of the day, everyone feels proud and accomplished.
But Seeach Sod isn’t content to rest on its laurels. Always looking to grow and improve, they recently celebrated the opening of a one-of-a-kind multisensory park in the Ramot neighborhood of Jerusalem. This fully handicapped-accessible play area is designed to foster motor and language skills, utilizing multi-sensory stations, including a music center and a “street” to teach road safety. True to Seeach Sod’s integration philosophy, at the recent opening ceremony, the Seeach Sod children proudly manned activity booths and welcomed the wide-eyed local children to their park.
It’s an organization that helps 1,000 people, has a staff of 800, includes an educational and welfare system from birth through adulthood, that has schools, therapy centers and residential apartments, a dental clinic, in-house businesses, an onsite kollel, and so much more. What’s the secret behind the seemingly boundless activity of Seeach Sod?
It can be found in its very name. Seeach Sod refers to the song of the Malachim up in Heaven. Because at Seeach Sod, they understand that hidden inside every neshama of every child, there’s a song as pure and beautiful as the song of angels, just waiting to be sung. All it takes is hard work, patience, and lots of love, to unlock that song.