More than 40 years ago, a young Jerusalem high school teacher, needed to borrow a vaporizer from a neighbor for a sick child. Discovering that such equipment was hard to find, he bought a few to lend to others, and people started dropping off other medical and home care items they no longer needed. His small apartment was soon overflowing with a variety of the kind of things people need for only a short time: crutches, walkers, vaporizers, even wheelchairs. And from that humble beginning, a wonderful organization grew into Israel’s largest volunteer-staffed organization, providing a wide array of compassionate health and home care services for people of all ages, with special programs for older adults and for children and adults with disabilities.
Yad Sarah’s 6,000-plus volunteers now help more than 420,000 people in Israel each year with a range of health and home care support services. Through more than 100 branches in Israeli cities and towns, rural farming areas and Arab villages, Yad Sarah volunteers staff the organization’s lending service, making durable medical and home care equipment available to all, on a short-term basis at no cost. Over 150 different kinds of medical equipment are available, such as wheelchairs, crutches, hospital beds and oxygen concentrators—over 300,000 items and 180,000 equipment loans annually—help to ensure that people in Israel are able to accept a timely hospital discharge, recuperate from an illness or injury in their own home, surrounded by family and community, or care for a frail elder or a sick child. Yad Sarah’s lending service model helps to ensure that home care equipment is available to all—rich or poor, secular or religious, new immigrant or native-born Israeli, old and young. Even though the lending service is large and growing, Yad Sarah volunteers know that each piece of equipment represents the small ways that this service changes lives.
Vital Services for People of All Ages
Yad Sarah’s work across communities in Israel continues to grow from year to year, with more than 20 programs and services designed to help make life easier for the ill, injured or physically disabled of all ages. A fleet of 45 Yad Sarah “nechonit” wheelchair accessible vans—driven by volunteers—responds to over 500 requests per day for special needs transportation to medical appointments, social visits, school and work. Saul Pasternak, a retired teacher, has been at the wheel of a Yad Sarah wheelchair-accessible van for more than 20 years. As he carefully navigates the streets and highways in Jerusalem and its vicinity, he brings a level of camaraderie and caring that reassures his passengers that this is not just transportation—for Saul or for his passengers. For Saul, everyone who rides with him becomes “an old friend,” underscoring the unique relationships that form between Yad Sarah volunteers and their care-recipients. Clients depend on volunteers like Saul. Volunteers who deliver home care equipment and lend a hand. They reach out to the homebound, and install home modifications. Volunteers made 70,000 visits to homebound elderly bringing life-enriching social contact. They also staff the Day Rehab programs and monitor the Emergency Alarm Response Center. Volunteer dentists provided 7,500 treatments at the Geriatric dental clinic in Jerusalem and to the homebound through the clinic’s mobile units. Last year, a 71-year-old impoverished Haifa resident who is blind and physically disabled, was referred to the dental clinic with complaints of severe pain. Yad Sarah dental volunteers performed numerous surgeries, and then fitted him with dentures to insure he could be pain-free, smile with some confidence, and enjoy his food.
Legal Services for the Elderly
The Yad Riva Legal Aid program handled more than 8,000 cases across 20 locations, advocating for the elderly at-risk for abuse and financial exploitation. Now, Yad Riva is working with Israeli courts, to change the way guardianships are managed and maximize the individual’s independence and dignity, whenever possible.
Services for Children with Special Needs
Yad Sarah’s Jerusalem-based Play Center for Children with Special Needs hosted nearly 4,000 visits, helping children cope and learn through play. Its unique toy library helps children and families continue to learn and engage between sessions at the Center.
Services for Tourists
Yad Sarah extends the organization’s services to visitors with special needs. Whether assistance is needed with transportation, equipment loans, or outfitting a hotel room with adaptive equipment, Yad Sarah volunteers help to make stay in Israel active and independent with equipment loans, accessible transportation and more. Thanks to Yad Sarah’s activities and services, and the extraordinary compassion and caring of its large volunteer corps, the organization is part of everyday life in Israel. Yad Sarah is also recognized widely as a model for a humane and cost-effective approach to caring for the ill and injured at home, its programs and services studied and replicated by communities around the globe concerned about the health care needs of their residents and seeking a humane, cost-effective model. Yad Sarah’s exceptional work has been recognized by numerous awards, including the prestigious Israel Prize and the President’s Voluntary Service Award. In 2005, Yad Sarah was recognized as an advisory body to the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations, the first time that an Israeli Jewish organization achieved this status. Yad Sarah’s annual budget—drawn almost entirely from private donations and philanthropic contributions—saves the Israeli economy $320 million each year in healthcare costs. No government support is received.
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