I have just returned to the UK after an inspiring and rewarding week and I feel privileged to have experienced the amazing, warm, caring and positive environment at Melabev.
My husband is a dentist and was going to Israel to work for a week with deprived children at the Trudi Birger Clinic in Talpiot and I also wanted to do something useful while he was there. The dental clinic suggested I contact Skilled Volunteers for Israel and Marla rang me at home for a friendly chat to try and assess where they could place me.
In the UK, I work in a high pressure commercial role within the IT Services industry so she naturally came up with a placement at a memory club for people with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia! A bit intimidating as outside my normal comfort zone but I’m so pleased she did.
I now know that Melabev has Memory Club Centres in 4 different languages – Hebrew, English, Russian & Arabic and I was helping at the English speaking one in Talpiot. Three groups of people attend for a full morning of stimulating activities. They’re divided up based on the degree of severity of their memory loss and their ability to participate, and the programmes in each group are tailored perfectly to the needs of each group
I had the opportunity to experience all three groups during my short assignment and to meet amazing people – the energetic, vibrant and talented staff and the lovely attendees who so enjoyed being there. Everyone seemed to be genuinely happy to be at Melabev and the positivity rubs off. I particularly enjoyed listening to each member of the middle group telling the others what they are grateful for.
Two party celebrations in honour of birthdays took place during my assignment with treats of ice-cream and birthday cake. Extreme care was taken to ensure that individual’s dietary needs were catered for. Everyone in the room, staff and attendees, gave a birthday bracha (blessing) to the celebrant – such a lovely custom!
Music played an important part of the programmes in all 3 rooms and the sound of the songs from all the well known musicals often resonated through the centre. On my second day, when I was in the middle group, a charming lady in a wheel chair was brought into a dancing circle. The look of sheer joy on her face was inspirational.
I worked from 09:00 to 14:30 each day and the week just flew by. It was a pleasure to talk to the attendees and to catch snippets of their interesting lives and their family backgrounds , to participate in the varied programmes and to help to serve the Israeli breakfast and the 3 course lunch. Word games were used to good effect in all three groups and it was particularly rewarding to help one of the ladies in the lowest functioning group to build the names of her husband and her children with Scrabble letters. None of it felt like work and I was embarrassed by the warm thanks and appreciation given to me on my last day.
After my first day, one of the members in the highest functioning group asked me how I had found it. I said, “It seems to be an amazing place”. She replied, “How can you possibly know after being here just one day. It only gets better!” What better testament to the success of the centre could one ask for!
Thanks to Skilled Volunteers for Israel and, in particular, to Marla Gamoran for setting up the assignment and to Terry Hendin, for supporting me during the week, Thanks also to everyone at Melabev for making me so welcome. I look forward to repeating the experience on a future trip to Israel.