Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The 5th MIssion to Poland

I am writing this week's blog after participating in the 5th Mission to Poland sponsored by the IGDCB who returned home yesterday after a six-day tour of historic sites .  The group included six graduates of the Center and their guide dogs and escorts, an additional blind participant and his escort, the tour coordinator, and guide.
During our six day visit to Poland we toured centers of Jewish life in Warsaw, Lublin, and Krakow, and visited  Treblinka, Majdanek, Auschwitz, and Birkenau.  Blind members of the group were able to perceive these places by touching and by listening to vivid descriptions offered by the guide and their escorts.  The group conducted a small memorial ceremony at the crematorium in Birkenau and  members lit a candle and read or recited names of family members who were murdered in the Holocaust.  The visit ended with the March of the living on Holocaust and Heroism Memorial Day on April 24th.  All of us felt that the visit was a difficult but meaningfuland   enlightening experience and that the six days that we spent together in Poland helped us to better understand this period in our history that was characterized by unspeakable evil conducted by the Nazis  as well as heroic deeds of Jews and those who aided them.

The group at Auschwitz with IDF Chief of Staff and IGDCB graduate Achia Klein

Remembering the victims at the memorial at Majdanek

The delegation marching from Auschwitz to Birkenau in the March of the Living

Friday, April 14, 2017

Chag Sameach!

We wish everyone in Israel and abroad a joyous Pesach holiday!  This week the center hosted many visitors who took advantage of the school vacation to arrive with families and children.  Visits took place against the background of the rapidly rising new kennel and puppy development center building under construction.

This week the six center graduates, their escorts and tour guide met for a one-day preparatory seminar at the Yad VaShem Museum to prepare for the 5th mission to Poland sponsored by the Center.  The group leaves Wednesday morning for a six-day tour of historical sites in Warsaw, Krakow, and other cities that will culminate with the March of the Living from Auschwitz to Birkenau on Holocaust Memorial Day April 24th.  

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Our Staff on a Day Off in Ramla

Ramla is a Jewish - Arab city only a half hour's drive from the Center, but it's one of those places in Israel that many people overlook.  On Wednesday the entire center staff took the day off for a guided tour of Ramla.  We soon learned that Ramla is a colorful multi - ethnic city with a fascinating history.
 We began the tour at the Great Mosque where our guide gave us a short history of the building, which was originally built as a Basilica.  We then continued into the marketplace where we tasted samples of some of the local cuisine.  From there we walked to the White Tower and then descended into an underground cavern where we rowed about in small boats beneath the arched ceiling.  By that time we were all hungry and so we made our way to a Bukharin restaurant to end the day with lunch.
Thanks to Efrat for organizing the fun day!  

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Purim Celebration at the Center

Each year at Purim the staff takes a couple of hours to dress up, goof off, and have fun.  This year's celebration began with a festive holiday meal prepared by Ruthi that was enjoyed by everyone.  After that the trainers stopped training, the kennel staff left the dogs to take an afternoon nap in their kennels, the office staff stopped answering phones and typing, and we all gathered in the auditorium as each member of the staff made an entrance in costume. 
Much of the party – which was meticulously planned and conducted by Efrat - was spent attempting to solve a mystery quiz that pitted our logic and mental stamina! 
The staff was transformed into clowns, Lego bricks, a pregnant nun, a bottle of ketchup, and other elaborate costumes. 

The three winners in the costume contest were the Community Service workers dressed as Dalmatians, Rafi dressed as Efrat, and Zipi dressed as Noach.   Many thanks to Ruthi and Efrat for planning and arranging a wonderful Purim celebration! 

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Ofer and Daria Volunteer their Hugs and Love

ELIYA (The Israel Organization for Blind Children) operates several kindergartens in Israel for children with blindness or visual impairments that have been cooperating with the Center for several years.  Volunteers from the Center visit the kindergartens each week with guide dog puppies, retired guide dogs, or career change dogs.  The children have the opportunity to pet the dogs and experience the companionship that dogs offer.  We believe that developing a trusting relationship with dogs at a young age will prepare these children for a relationship with a companion dog at home, and encourage them to adopt a guide dog in the distant future.
A new ELIYA kindergarten opened in Rehovot two weeks ago, and Brig. Gen. (ret) Moti Regev, a long-time volunteer at the Center and founder of the Canvelo cycling club, and his son Ofer volunteered to visit the kindergarten.  Ofer visits the kindergarten each week with Daria, a retired breeding dog who lives with the Regev family and is Ofer's companion.  Volunteering at the ELIYA kindergarten is Daria's second career, and she does the job happily.  Ofer gives the children warm hugs and a ride in his wheelchair, while Daria does her part by offering children the cuddly love and warmth that dogs have to give!

Ofer and Daria in the ELIYA Kindergarten


Thursday, February 16, 2017

We are Moving ALong!

Here is a fun new video showing the progress that has been made on the building site so far, encouraging people to continue to support this project as the Center grows!  

Thanks to Eden Barayev, National Service volunteer, who produced the video!  Enjoy!  

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Guide Dogs and Dalmatians Get Together To Teach Kids about Guide Dogs and Heroism

Dalmatians have traditionally been associated with firefighters.  The speckled, robust dogs ran alongside horse-drawn firefighters' wagons, clearing the road of other carriages, people, and animals so firefighters could get through.  Since then they have served as mascots in fire stations and are often used as an icon in many educational programs for teaching children fire prevention and safety. It is no wonder that the Hero in You Foundation decided to adopt the Dalmatian as its symbol. 
The Hero in You Foundation was founded by Bunni and Rick Benaron of California following the events of 2001.  The foundation's objective is to honor first responders, who help in emergencies, and to teach children that they, too, can be heroes and perform good deeds to help others.  The foundation has erected numerous Dalmatian puppy statues in fire stations, schools, and parks throughout the United States to deliver the message that anyone can help others and perform heroic acts.
When the foundation offered the Center a donation of one of their colorful Dalmatian puppy statues, we decided that to place it in the nearby city of Yavneh where the important message would reach as many children and parents as possible.  In 2016 a Dalmatian puppy statue was placed in the city park in the "Green Neighborhood" in Yavneh. The expansive park has lawns, a pond, play equipment, and a dog park directly opposite the statue.
The center has joined the education department of the Yavneh municipality in launching an educational project that combines ideas of heroism, relationships between people and dogs, and the importance of our guide dogs in helping people with blindness and visual impairments overcome their disability.  The program, which was written by center graduate Bracha Ben-Avraham, is being presented to schools and kindergartens in Yavneh.  It's part of our effort to get our message across about the importance our heroic dogs are in improving the lives of blind and visually impaired people.
On February 9th the program was presented to two kindergartens in Yavneh, and the mayor of Yavneh Zvi Gov Ari, Noach Braun, Dennis Allon, and Bracha Ben Avraham and her guide dog Dinka and the children posed for photos next to the Dalmatian statue in the park.