SHALVA Gush was established in September 2001, a year after the second intifada erupted. Inherent difficulties in travelling between the Gush environs and Jerusalem resulted in many obstacles and prevented the residents from leading a normal life. Families with special needs children faced an even more painful and complex experience with every journey to Jerusalem becoming an arduous task.
In response to the requests of both the parents and the Gush Etzion Land Allocation Council, SHALVA opened a fully-equipped, picturesque center in the town of Alon Shvut. It is here that we provide all the therapeutic activities required by the Gush's special needs children.
Only five years after its establishment, the Shalva Center in Gush Etzion exemplifies the enthusiastic willingness of a community to accept those who are "different." This branch is a focal point of extensive volunteer work. Many of the community adults and teenagers participate in the branch's activities and contribute their time and energy to the children at the center. Many parents send their non-challenged children to the integration courses, which, from a young age, instill the qualities of tolerance, sensitivity and the value of giving.
The Annual Fair
Every year in July the residents of Gush Etzion organize a gigantic Art & Culture Fair and the proceeds are donated to the SHALVA Center. The fair is divided into several areas. The music section has featured acclaimed artists such as Micha Shitrit and Aaron Raizel. Israeli star Mussa Berlin appeared with his daughter Odelya in a moving performance that included the SHALVA children. Another area that is replete with inflatable installations; a theatre space that has been graced with magicians and puppet shows; there are sections for snacks and a lovely 'artspace' where work by both local artists and SHALVA children is sold. The event also features clowns and men on stilts, creating great excitement and lending a carnival feeling to the event.
• Children 6-19 years old of slight-to-medium level of intellectual and physical delays
• Children from the general surrounding areas and from Beit Shemesh
Therapies at the Center
Music Therapy: Developing a means of communication for children who are verbally limited reduces frustration, assists in emotional growth and facilitates an increase in the child's self-image. The staff works with the children in small groups, in order to maximize the treatment's success.
Animals: Strengthening social connections, learning how to treat animals and humans with sensitivity, enhancing self-image, understanding the importance of boundaries and more.
Computers: Improving communication skills, developing delicate motor and thought processes. By working one-on-one, the child becomes the center of the interactive activity.
Snoezelen: Stimulating and motivating the child to explore his environment by using equipment that encourages movement and stimulates the senses of smell, touch, hearing and sight.
Play Room: Improving both physical and social interaction while teaching skills such as waiting one's turn, using imagination, and measuring time.
Library: Enriching the imagination, assistance in language development and broadening the range of emotional expression.