I was introduced to Jewish National Fund-USA’s Affiliate ADI Negev-Nahalat Eran about eight years ago. My life changed the day I stepped foot into this magical rehabilitation village near Be’er Sheva that houses more than 150 full-time residents with severe disabilities and complex medical needs. The care, therapies, and love given to each resident is why I call it magical. Since that day, I have given two to three months a year to these special people who have become so dear to me.
On my most recent trip back to ADI Negev, eyes sparkled with recognition. They remembered me like they always did year after year. Having these special relationships with nonverbal men and women is truly a gift.
At ADI Negev I felt once again at home. I have a full life in Boston as a wife, mother, and vice president of Jewish National Fund-USA’s Boston Board of Directors and New England Women for Israel president, but my volunteer work at ADI Negev fills my neshama, my soul, in a different way than any other part of my life.
When I think of all the unsung heroes at ADI-Negev, my first thought goes to the parents who trust their children’s well-being to the village’s staff. It still brings tears to my eyes to remember a moment when a mother came to visit her 40-year-old nonverbal daughter and embraced her with so much love. Her daughter did not respond either emotionally or physically to the embrace, yet I saw that the mother felt her daughter’s love.
I also think of the campus dentists and doctors with admiration. These professionals are providing compassionate care for people with different abilities. This care requires a very high level of empathy. On my last visit, I had the charge of taking one of my residents who needed a tooth extraction to the on-site dentist. I saw firsthand how the staff treated him, recognizing how scary the procedure he needed was going to be for him. These professionals are also unsung heroes.
Yes, the hundreds of volunteers that come to the village every year can be called unsung heroes. However, speaking for myself, I do not consider myself a hero. I consider myself blessed to have the residents of ADI Negev make such a huge impact on my life as I hope I make on theirs.
Rhonda Forman currently serves as the Vice President of the JNF-USA Boston Board of Directors, as well as the Chair of the New England Women for Israel Steering Committee. A former public school teacher for 13 years, Rhonda gives of her time every year to volunteer with ADI Negev and the Lauder Employment Center. Rhonda is a doer, driven to make a difference in all that she does, and a true friend of Israel.
To learn more about ADI Negev-Nahalat Eran, contact Sara Hefez at SHefez@jnf.org.
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