Doron Almog with his son (archives)

Rocket fire clouds reality of special needs kids

Western Negev rehabilitation, treatment village for children with severe physical, cognitive disabilities muddles through Gaza offensive

The everyday challenges faced by the residents and caregivers at the Aleh Center have recently been compounded by the need to deal with constant rocket fire form the Gaza Strip and the area's introduction to Hamas' rocket range.


Aleh, which is located in the Merhavim Regional Council in the western Negev, is a rehabilitation and treatment village for children with severe physical and cognitive disabilities.


The village was created with the support of former GOC Southern Command Major-General Doron Almog, among others. It has four homes, each with 18 to 24 tenants; and functions as a school for external students as well.


But how do you explain the difficulties of a military campaign the likes of Operation Cast Lead, to those struggling with such disabilities?


"The most important thing for us is to try and maintain the routine of the place," said Masada Scully, the facility's manger.


Tuesday saw Scully call an emergency staff meeting in order to brief the caregivers on the Home Front Command instructions for the area in case of rocket fire.


Each one of the homes, she said, decided how to handle the Color Red alerts which are now so frequently sounding: "One of the homes moved all the residents to the secured room, another moved only those incapacitated and the other two decided to keep the tenants in their rooms."


Decisions aside, she added, once Aleh learned of the rocket attack on Ofakim, all residents were immediately moved to secure rooms. "It was very hard. Some of our tenants became very agitated. No one got any sleep."


Etti Ben-Dayan, Aleh's nursery manager, reiterated the sentiment. "We moved nearly all the babies with all the beds and the equipment, it wasn’t easy."


Iris Cawen, who heads the village's parents' association, told Ynet that all the parents are lending a hand as well, reinforcing the staff at nights.


"Some of the children, like my son, can't grasp the reality of the security situation... Sometimes I think that's a blessing," she smiled sadly.  


The Defense Ministry, added the village's social worker, issued very strict emergency instructions.


"We're supposed to help those who can run to get to the secure rooms and leave those who can't behind; but people here would have a very hard time doing that. We have a very strong connection with the tenant. No one will ever be left behind."


פרסום ראשון: 12.31.08, 02:49
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