I’m a fan of Shalva. They are an absolutely amazing organization, and I’ve become more of a fan since I’ve gotten to know them through Matan’s sponsorship in the Jerusalem Marathon. Last year, he raised over 4000 shekel for their services for special needs infants, children and young adults. I saw the way that they enjoyed themselves with their counselors during the marathon, and I have heard from parents about the many amazing resources that they offer to their children.
So, when I saw an advertisement for a new venture that they were doing and a parlor meeting taking place in Neve Daniel, I couldn’t resist.
And I wasn’t disappointed. Shalva has done it again. Shalva was founded in May of 1990 by Kalman and Malki Samuels to help families with similar needs to their own. Shalva started with the belief that special needs children shouldn’t only be cared for by their families, but that they could benefit from therapeutic programs and a warm outside environment.
A few years ago, a study came out showing that Israelis have a terrible impression of those with special needs. According to the statistics, 50% of those polled wouldn’t want to have a neighbor with a special needs child. They wouldn’t want their child in the same school, and more. Shalva was incredibly shocked and disheartened by these statistics.
But rather than complaining, worrying and shaking their fist at those who misunderstand, they took action.
They created a brilliant outreach program that is designed to teach children (and the adults in their lives) about people with disabilities and to promote their acceptance.
They invited artists from the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design to come to the school and to work with their team to create three games (go-fish, a memory game and a puzzle), a coloring book, a comic book and a flip book that all feature children with disabilities. Conceived by Loubaton, the True Superheroes project is a joint venture between Shalva and the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, Jerusalem.
So, last night they had a parlor meeting in Neve Daniel to introduce the True Superheroes initiative. They gave the background to the project and the need for it, and then they explained each product. I bought the comic book and the go-fish cards.
The cards are absolutely beautiful with heavy stock paper, crisp graphics and a lovely format. You have to find four cards about the same child from Shalva. She or he is a superhero and is introduced with four attributes about her. My children spent the morning before school looking over the cards and the afternoon playing the game. They quickly noticed that the cards included unusual drawings and pictures of children who were slightly different than they were. And this led to questions, discussions and comparisons. It was truly a magical way to introduce my children to the idea of the special needs kid.
Similarly, the comic book offers a rarely seen perspective about special needs kids. Even my thirteen year old couldn't put it down.
I left the evening feeling inspired and hoping that their message and their materials will spread. As Shalva describes the project on their website, “True Superheroes demonstrates that children with disabilities possess their own unique attributes and characteristics worthy of emulation, which make them real heroes.
Real heroes, indeed.