Our Stories

Meet Natan Eliyah

He is eight years old and suffers from CVI, a visual impairment that affects the brain’s ability to understand and interpret the information the eyes send to the brain. Natan came to Keren Or six months ago, and in no time became known and loved by our professional team and volunteers. His joyful spirit and infectious smile naturally engage every person who comes into contact with him.

Natan mostly moves around in his wheelchair, but with the help of his caregiver, he uses the Hart Walker, a special walking device which helps him go down the hall to the outdoor music patio. Music is his passion, and he lights up when he hears the strong sounds of percussion and cymbals! After an intensive course of hydrotherapy, Natan has recently begun taking a few steps with the support of the therapists. He adores his sessions in the pool.

In the classroom, Natan enjoys playing specially adapted interactive games with classmates. And, with the dedicated intervention of our expert team, Natan is gradually learning to maximize the minimal vision that he has. He is learning to recognize people and communicate his needs and preferences.

Natan makes the most of every opportunity, turning therapy and learning time into fun experiences. The most important outcome of all his new skills is a new level of independence, and that brings Natan incredible joy.

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The Legacy of this Family

As a teenager, I spent a year living in Israel, where I was able to volunteer at Keren Or’s Jerusalem Center for the Blind and Disabled. Every week, I traveled an hour by bus to spend time with a young girl named Aya. It was such a special and meaningful part of my Israel experience. Years later, my time at Keren Or and the memories I made there with Aya, have inspired me to continuing supporting the  organization as a donor.

Twenty years after this experience, my daughter, Tamar, followed in my footsteps and chose to Keren Or for her Bat Mitzvah project.  She worked tirelessly for weeks to create tactile books for the children of Keren Or as part of her Mitzvah project. This process was so meaningful to her that she also decided to hold her Bat Mitzvah celebration at the Keren Or campus. Along with inviting family and friends, Tamar also invited the students and staff of Keren Or to celebrate this special occasion with her.

It was a beautiful party, made even more special by the presence of Aya, who still lives in residence at Keren Or and remember me from when I volunteered there so many years ago. It was so emotional to see Aya and experience her warm personality in person once again.

My relationship with Keren Or has come full circle, and hopefully one day Tamar will know the joy of passing down a commitment to Keren Or to her own children as well.

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Working Together Towards a Common Goal

Part of what makes Keren Or “the right place” is the constant evaluation and improvement of treatment plans to ensure the best possible and most individualized care. Yifat Ne’eman, a speech therapist at Keren Or for six years, appreciates the powerful role that Keren Or plays in the lives of families. She works closely with parents and respects their wishes and choices. “These are the people who work with their children at home every day,” she says. “These parents can teach us a lot.” When parents, teachers, and therapists work together, children reap the benefits. Keren Or’s innovative therapies and one-on-one approach make it a unique place. No one understands that better than the parents who bring their children to our facility.

Yifat is part of a team of Keren Or therapists utilizing a new approach to speech therapy. By combining speech therapy sessions with hydrotherapy in Keren Or’s state-of-the-art hydrotherapy pool, Yifat is able use the warm water to relax and strengthen children’s muscles and enable them to receive important “feedback” about their bodies. That feedback is an important first step in improving speech and motor skills. “The pool is an amazing place for these children,” Yifat explains, “because the water helps the children orient their bodies in their environment. They have to close their mouths so water doesn’t get in, and blowing bubbles helps strengthen the muscles needed for swallowing and proper breathing.”

“There are schools for the deaf, schools for the blind and schools for children with developmental disabilities, but if a child has all these deficits, where does a parent put them?” she asks. “At Keren Or, parents can feel they have finally found the right place.”

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Noam’s Story

Like many students at Keren Or, 11-year-old Noam, was born blind. Diagnosed with autism and serious developmental delay, he arrived at Keren Or suffering from a multitude of symptoms.  Noam had extremely limited engagement with his environment, would not walk unassisted, and was unable to communicate verbally. His team of specialists created a comprehensive therapeutic, educational, and social program was developed to support Noam’s growth in these crucial areas and maximize his progress.

Today, Noam is making great strides. He has learned to walk on his own and this new independence has yielded a yearning to develop more skills. The shift in Noam’s attitude toward trying new things is one of the greatest gifts Keren Or has given him! Because of his perseverance in sign language classes and speech therapy, Noam’s vocabulary has expanded and his ability to communicate has grown.

Keren Or is dedicated to helping children like Noam. He is just one of the many children Keren Or has cared for over the years. Our state-of-the-art facilities, professional staff, and cutting-edge therapies allow us to tailor programs to the specific needs of each of our students and allow them to reach their maximum potential. At Keren Or, the intense physical and psychic challenges that result from blindness coupled with mental and/or often physical disability are treated with a continuum of care that is personalized to each child.

Noam’s progress is just one of the many moving stories that bare the heart and mission of Keren Or to uplift its students and shed light on new possibilities for their future.

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