Children at risk who have been through traumas at a tender age are generally frightened, withdrawn, uncommunicative, distant, uncooperative, and suffer from behavioral disorders. In some cases, they do not respond to conventional psychological treatment. In the course of these programs, we have seen the very same children become confident, open, communicative, cheerful, cooperative, and better adjusted.
Research studies have indicated a clear affinity between children’s relationships with animals and their character development. A child’s empathy with animals can be a model for relationships with people.
Contact with animals encourages our children to bring out positive and sometimes latent character traits such as responsibility and leadership, involvement and decision-making. Through contact with animals our children learn to cope with difficulties such as anxiety and fear, social problems, deprivation and rejection, violence and anger – conditions that stem from their unsteady relationships with their biological parents or their unstable environment.
As a result of participating in these programs, our children develop positive traits such as taking responsibility, caring for others, communications skills, social skills, and improved self-image, all of which are essential for overcoming childhood traumas, rehabilitation and restoration of their spiritual and emotional well-being.
The key to breaking the cycle of distress must be found at school. Almost all of the children at the Home are mainstreamed into local and regional schools throughout the area and we are obligated to support the children and indeed the schools in their efforts.
The schools in which our children study continue to report that numerous students, younger and older, have difficulties in even performing the most basic tasks, often lacking even basic reading and writing skills, a vital key to their rehabilitation.
The Emunah Notebooks program provides tutoring and support five afternoons a week. Trained teachers and college students provide the children with homework assistance, extra lessons, and tutoring. Children receive individual attention and the positive results are immediately apparent. Almost all of the children receiving support are reported to show improvement at school.
In addition, we offer, without government funding or support, our on-campus "homeschooling program. These students, many of whom have not been to school regularly for months or even years prior to moving to the Emunah Center, show symptoms of school phobia or simply lack the skills and ability to function in a regular classroom due to emotional, social, or educational challenges. The goal of this initiative is to help the children to gradually recover what we believe is their natural desire to learn and to achieve what they have lost, and ultimately to integrate them into regular schools.
The Gradco program is an innovation, created to provide upcoming and recent graduates from Emunah’s Achuzat Sara with guidance and help in figuring out their next stage in life. When our children graduate high school, they need guidance from us, their parents to help them figure out what comes next. Suddenly, the world opens to them and they need to make major life choices. For the graduates of Achuzat Sara there is no parental support. These young adults have no one to guide them and help them make those important decisions. They also have no one to run home to when things go wrong. As a result of the Gradco program graduates from Achuzat Sara know that they are not alone and they have a place to go back to if they need extra support.
The following is based on an interview done with Elana who graduated from Achuzat Sara and benefited for Gradco. In she talks about the importance of the program to her as well as the director Rinat.
Elana is 19 years old. She studied acting at the Neve Sarah Herzog High School. She has been at Achuzat Sara for 8 years and is the oldest sister of three brothers. She worked over the year at the Emunah Day Care in Givat Shmuel and will do her National Service in a special education kindergarten in Givat Shmuel. She spoke about Rinat saying that knowing that someone is there for you even when you leave the boarding school is so important. “I feel free to come and talk with her. It was good to get to know Rinat before leaving because we formed a connection. If Rinat was not there I would lack self-confidence. Rinat gave us the confidence to believe in ourselves and recognize our capabilities.”
Emunah Canada is happy to announce that we have recently committed to extending and expanding the Gradco program so that more girls can benefit from it.
Social Clowning or Social Clown Care for traumatized children in residential care, is a new and original therapy method aimed at easing symptoms of PTSD and helping children to cope with their painful reality. The program is run in cooperation with Dream Doctors, the primary provider of medical clowning in Israeli hospitals.
This therapeutic startup was developed and introduced at Achuzat Sara Chilren’s Home. The same skill Medical clowns use in hospital settings are now used to help traumatized children in residential care. In hospitals, the clowns help people to overcome patient’s fears, to undergo painful procedures, calm family members and generally make people smile and feel better. The same principles and practices used by the clowns in the hospitals, is extremely effective in the treatment of our traumatized, anxious, hurting yet wonderful children.
Through a combination of fun, non-judgmental and non-threatening encounters with the children, the clowns, professionally trained and less likely to generate suspicion or anxiety, are able at least initially, to reach the children and interact on a deeper level, than more traditional therapists.
We look to expand the Social Clown Care program and make it available to many more children, who will benefit greatly. In addition, we pride ourselves on our comprehensive intervention program which encompasses not only our children but also their parents and/or older siblings. The goal is to strengthen relationships between parents and children, to teach parenting skills and to enrich and reinforce parenting roles, thereby breaking the cycle. It is our dream to include social clowning in programs for parents and staff, so that they too will benefit from this intervention.
Bar and Bat Mitzvahs are special and joyous occasions for both children and families. The excitement of anticipation, preparing for the celebration, the ceremony and party all leave lasting memories that endure for a lifetime. Sadly many children in Israel, from dysfunctional or abusive homes, simply do not have the chance to enjoy their special day in a way that we all take for granted.
Music plays an important part in all of our lives. It can be exciting or calming, jubilant or poignant. Music can bring out memories that have been deeply buried and powerfully resonate with our feelings, helping us to express them and to communicate with others.
Music therapy uses these qualities and the musical components of rhythm, melody and tonality within a therapeutic relationship. In music therapy, children work with a wide range of instruments and their voices to create a musical language of their own. This language allows them to express their emotions and to start to relate to the world outside of themselves in a positive way.
Backgrounds of abuse, ill-health, poverty and violence are common amongst the children Emunah cares for in Israel. Music therapy is just one of the ways that Emunah supports children. Some of our most traumatised and dysfunctional children are benefiting from the Music therapy programmes in our residential children’s home.
Speaking in 2012 at a British Emunah Event, Lord Sacks z”l praised Emunah’s work saying, “Music has wonderful healing powers. When you think of the incredible work that Emunah does I cannot think of anything better for Elaine and myself to be associated with.”
Through music, children are able to express their emotions and with the expert support of a music therapist they can start to heal.
When our children celebrate a birthday or special milestone, we give gifts or special treats to make the day special. At Emunah's Neve Michael it is no different.
Neve Michael has created a special Birthday Room. The shelves are filled with toys and games to enchant children of all ages.
You cannot imagine the excitement as the birthday child enters this wondrous room where they can choose any item as their very own birthday gift.
Such a simple idea makes such a difference. Many of the children are for the first time able to choose something special all for themselves. It sends an important message that we KNOW they are worth celebrating!
When you celebrate the children in your life, show that our kids at Neve Michael are worth celebrating and buy a gift for the Birthday Room.
Equine (=horse) programs, from horseback riding to equine-assisted therapy, have long been known to help improve human mental health. Winston Churchill was famously quoted as saying, “The outside of a horse is good for the inside of a man.”
As it turns out, horses are particularly good for children and have exceptional benefits for children with emotional or behavioral issues.
Children with special needs can be challenging. Most do not readily trust adults - they have difficulty trusting their own parents and their counselors at the Home. Children who have a background that includes abuse are prone to angry or hostile outbursts. Cognitive therapies may help regulate behavior, but horses have their charm!
Emunah Achuzat Sara and the “Life Farm”- “Havat Hahaim” in Raanana teamed up to provide the children of the Home with equine-assisted therapy.
The “Life Farm” - “Havat Hahaim” specializes in therapeutic intervention using horses according to the patient's needs. It offers individual and group therapy programs.
The farm wholeheartedly welcomes our children, who benefit from equine therapy. The young riders receive individualized, hands-on training from a team of dedicated and highly skilled staff.
Within weeks of starting the sessions, most participants in the therapy show dramatic improvement in their ability to face their daily emotional challenges. The mutual goal of Achuzat Sara and "Havat Hahaim is to improve the well-being of the boys and girls, resulting in improved functioning and independence.
The joint program is based on three stages:
A) Care and Interaction with the horses: Cleaning and taking care of the horse.
B) Learning the “Horse Language”: How to relate to this impressive animal and how to manage it.
C) Horseback riding
The three stages, together and separately, teach our children important lessons about life :
Self-control: “To control the horse, to treat and manage it, I need to know first how to control myself – if I’m not calm, the horse will not be at its best either.”
Learning to give: It is an uplifting feeling that may hopefully lead to a positive general response.
The horse’s feedback: ”I have to be attentive to my horse, to focus on it and to listen to it in order to manage it successfully." This is especially important for children with ADHD; for them it is a challenging task.
Sense of ability: Riding a high horse means dealing with fear and anxiety; during the program the children overcome fear and experience riding as a first degree of self-empowerment, beyond the simple enjoyment from the ride itself.