'Not Down Syndrome - Up Syndrome'
(Video) In a moving award ceremony, conducted by two special needs individuals, Shalem Foundation Prize presented to Israel's first journalists with special-needs – Efrat Dotan and Matanel Biton - for their advancement of community-based individuals with mental challenges. 'Obama – we're on our way to you,' they announce
In an attempt to change the image of individuals with special needs, the Shalem Foundation awards prizes and excellence awards to organizational teams and frameworks, local authorities, and volunteers who promote mentally-challenged individuals in the community.
Last week, in a festive ceremony attended by media people, mayors, performing artists, individuals who are mentally challenged and their parents, excellence prizes were awarded for their contributions to society to Efrat Dotan, 25, who has Down Syndrome, and to Matanel Biton, 19, who has slight retardation.
The two were selected to lead Special Interview – a joint project of Ynet and Shalva - The Association for Mentally and Physically Challenged Children in Israel.
"We believed that we had to do something about Israelis being against people with mental challenges after we read a survey that showed that more than 50% of Israelis refuse to socialize with people with retardation."
Among those interviewed by the two were President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, businesswoman Shari Arison, singer Ninet Tayeb, TV figures London & Kirshenbaum, singer Eyal Golan, Opposition Chairwoman Tzipi Livni, and many others.
The project's goal is to fight the stigma, raise public awareness for the tremendous potential in mentally-challenged individuals, and convey the message that "the sky is the limit." Efrat and Matanel are the first journalists with special needs in Israel's history.
In a special booth designed for them right on the stage, Efrat and Matanel interviewed Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai, there to accept the Shalem Fund Excellence Prize on behalf of the Tel Aviv-Jaffa Municipality's Mesila staff, which works with foreign workers' children with developmental disabilities.
Adv. Yizhar Hess and representatives of the Conservative Movement in Israel also attended the event and were quizzed about bar/bat mitzvah ceremonies for adolescents with special needs. They, too, were recipients of an excellence award for their unique project.
Additional award recipients
Additional winners were Ashkelon Mayor Beni Vaknin, winner of the distinguished public service award, and the Beit Noam professional staff, winner of Staff Excellence Award. A Special Mention for Unique Project was won by the "Employment at your Doorstep" project by Chimes Israel and the Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality.
Award of Appreciation for a public figure was given to Prof. Eitan Kerem, Dr. Ariel Tenenbaum and Nurse Yael Castiel, founders of the Hadassah University Medical Center Mt. Scopus Day Care Center for Children and Adults with Down Syndrome.
Mr. Jerais Nasr, an activist parent who is pro-active in advancing people with mental challenges in the Arab sector, and one of the founders of Akim Kfar Yasif, received the award for volunteerism, as did Cohen Sales Warehouses Ltd. (Cohen Machsanei HaShuk Ltd.), a chain of supermarkets in the south employing special needs individuals for work, not out of charity.
The Or Hatof troupe from the Cochav Center in Maalot, recipients of an excellence prize for individuals with mental challenges for their contribution to society, closed the prize ceremony by performing together with singer Koby Aflalo.
- Follow Ynetnews on Facebook