May 2012 Volunteer Experience at Melabev English speaking Memory Club – A Volunteer Experience with Skilled Volunteers For Israel
My first visit to Israel was in the summer of 1983 when our two daughters, then ages ten and thirteen, and I accompanied my husband to Jerusalem as he volunteered as a dentist to needy children. Now twenty nine years later, as he committed to the same program, I was determined to contribute in some way…but how? Now retired, after teaching, motherhood and working in the business side of my husband’s dental practice; I was not sure what I could do in Jerusalem as I do not speak Hebrew. Through my husband’s dental organization, I was introduced to Marla Gamoran, the director of Skilled Volunteers for Israel.
Marla faced the task of placing an English-only speaker who had a mere nine days to participate. I am grateful to her for placing me at the English speaking center of the Melabev Memory Club, an Alzheimer’s daycare center, in the Talpiot neighborhood of Jerusalem.
On my first day, Judy Gray, the Skilled Volunteer Israel Coordinator, drove me to Melabev and introduced me to Marsha Donshik, the Director of the center. Marsha advised that I spend my first day observing the three memory club groups. The club members are grouped by the severity of their memory loss and their ability to communicate and participate. I spent the next four days with the mid-level group working on memory games, singing, body movement and dance therapy as well as engaging club members in conversation and assisting with their food service. I was impressed with the ability of the staff to engage club members. The following four days were spent with the group suffering from the most severe degree of memory loss. It was eye-opening and emotionally exhilarating to see how computer memory programs, music and movement brought to the surface hidden abilities. It was working with this group that made me understand what Marla had meant when she referred to this Alzheimer’s center as “uplifting.” I discovered that I could put my fears and emotions aside and enjoy the happiness of knowing and working with both the staff and club members.
Myrna Goldberg, May, 2012