Believing that the care of children with disabilities should not be left to the family alone, Shalva’s founders Malki and Kalman Samuels created a therapeutic environment in which children with disabilities could grow and thrive. This approach was based on the Samuels’ own experience with raising their son Yossi who was left blind, deaf and acutely hyperactive as the result of a faulty vaccination. Yossi’s disabilities took their toll on his family. Providing him with constant loving care, they became exhausted and isolated. Many professionals and well-intentioned friends suggested placing Yossi in an institution. But Malki refused and vowed to God that if He helped Yossi, she would dedicate herself to helping other children with disabilities and their families.
When Yossi was eight, Shoshana Weinstock, a deaf special education teacher penetrated Yossi’s wall of silence via Hebrew fingerspelling. She taught Yossi his first word, “shulchan” – Hebrew for table – thus creating a relationship analogous to that of Annie Sullivan and Helen Keller. Malki recalled her promise and with Kalman’s help, Shalva was founded in 1990.
What began as an afternoon program for eight children in a local apartment has grown into a national center serving thousands of people with disabilities from infancy to adulthood from the entire spectrum of Israeli society.
Over the course of twenty-eight years, Shalva developed transformative programs to fill needs that were previously neglected. The success of these programs has received government and cultural recognition, inspiring grassroots changes in public policy and social inclusion.