Every Israeli hospital that treats children can now enjoy the benefits of World ORT’s educational programs thanks to a $3.2 million investment by the Swiss-based SASA Setton Foundation.
The Foundation has been the prime private backer of the program operated by World ORT Kadima Mada in Israel which has transformed schools situated within 27 general hospitals since 2009, enhancing opportunities for young patients to maintain social and educational links with friends and schools as well as pursue independent learning.
Now the work is extending to all the country’s psychiatric hospitals and mental health units where youngsters are treated, bringing the total number of sites embraced by the SASA Setton Kav-Or Initiative to 35.
“We’ve done it! We’ve reached every hospital where there are children’s units,” said Rona Kwartaz, SASA Setton Kav-Or Initiative project coordinator.
World ORT has provided more than 300 computers, nearly 20 interactive whiteboards, more than 50 robotics kits and a range of ancillary equipment to Israel’s 27 general hospitals. And it has increased the role of volunteers, provided teacher training, upgraded distance learning provision, and developed collaborative links with medical professionals.
Similar assistance started at four psychiatric hospitals last year but the SASA Setton Foundation’s huge vote of confidence in the implementation, impact and management of World ORT’s work means its extension to four more such hospitals as well as nine mental health units within general hospitals.
“We’ve had to think outside the box in designing customized programs for the four hospitals we entered last year to meet the requirements of psychiatric patients,” said Ms Kwartaz. “And today we set up appointments with two of the four new client hospitals to run through what we’ve designed for them and see if they meet their needs.”
The custom programs have broken new ground for the SASA Setton Kav-Or Initiative team such as the provision of gym equipment and ‘science in the kitchen’.
“Some of the kids have a lot of energy to burn while others need an opportunity to take exercise; and cooking gives them a chance to express themselves, and be creative. They’re things that weren’t required before,” said Ms Kwartaz.
The children are treated for a wide range of conditions from post-traumatic to eating disorders and more; they are often in hospital for long periods which only increases the need for top quality educational facilities. Among the most popular aspects of the SASA Setton Kav-Or Initiative are the distance learning system, which helps kids work towards their bagrut [matriculation], programmable robotics kits and digital camera equipment.
“At the Yehuda Abarbanel Mental Health Centre in Bat Yam I met two teenagers who were programming robots using kits we’d provided,” said Ms Kwartaz. “One of them was so excited about it that he said he was going to become an engineer. They’re really, really bright kids. They’re curious, they want to learn; they try to find a sense of order and self-worth, and we give them tools to do so in order for them to go back into the community stronger.
Another new initiative is the setting up of extra-curricular activities in the afternoons to stimulate and divert kids who otherwise may not have a lot to do once the teachers clock off after the school day is over.
“We’re not treating the kids – that’s for the medical professionals. But if we can help them experience the sweeter side of life and help them on the road to recovery then, of course, that’s what we want to do. We’re fortunate to have such a wonderful donor whose belief in us is the wind beneath our wings. It’s a great honor to see this project grow,” said Ms Kwartaz.
This year has also seen the thorough modernization and upgrading of the website which Kav-Or’s visionary founders set up in 1993 and was last updated in 2003, long before its merger with World ORT Kadima Mada who then took responsibility for the program.
The Hebrew, English, and Arabic-language website hosts a range of information, diversions and services designed to comfort, entertain and educate youngsters and teenagers undergoing hospital treatment. Parallel to the public part of the website is a password-protected section through which children can access distance learning, social forums and much more.