Kiryat Yam resident Rona, 17, is a very determined twelfth grader at Rabin High School, part of the World ORT Kadima Mada (WOKM) educational network. In December she received the Volunteering Youth award issued by the Minister of Education in recognition of her work with children on the autism spectrum who attend the local Tzlil Yam school, and for raising awareness of those on the spectrum. Ambitious in her approach, Rona not only established a volunteer track for teens at Tzlil Yam in which they learned how to work with the students, but last summer she also established a summer camp for the Tzlil Yam children.
Part of the ethos of the WOKM educational network is recognition of the importance of tikkun olam – repairing the world – and encouraging young people to become involved in their community. Rona was motivated by the concept of creating a society that treats those who are ‘different’ with patience and equality. She tells her story.
“In tenth grade I participated in a leadership development seminar to learn how to establish a project. My class and I volunteered at Tzlil Yam, where I met a boy named Ohad, part of a group of children on the autistic spectrum. Later I met children at a lower functional level. I decided I want to work with them, and it evolved from there.”
She speaks about the way volunteers interact with the children. “Every volunteer has his or her own class, and once a week, the volunteers come to class, meet with the kids, play with them and listen to them, and this creates understanding and tolerance. We held activities for the kids on Rosh Hashanah and Hanukah, and throughout the year there will be quite a lot of activities, some for the holidays.”
Rona wanted to do more, so last August she established a summer camp for Tzlil Yam students. “The idea was to create encounters for the Kiryat Yam teenagers with the autistic children, and the camp achieved that goal. On the first day of the summer camp, the children and the volunteers were dancing together, and it was really fun to see their joy. Even kids on the spectrum who are not able to speak managed to share their joy. Maybe just a moment before, they were sad in class – then they were playing outside with their friends.”
Rona is proud of the results. “There were good reactions from the volunteers and the families of the children that took part. It was very rewarding to see what you can gain and how society benefits from such a project.”
An advanced student in math, English, biology and chemistry, Rona is determined about what she wants to do after graduation. “I’m currently In the middle of the recruitment process of the National Civil Service Authority in which one can volunteer. I would like to work with youth at risk.”
Mazal tov to Rona for her accomplishment – and for leading the way in giving back to her community.
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