On Wednesday, Israel’s Ministry of Social Affairs and Social Services held their annual NGO conference in the Shalva National Center.

The Ministry’s choice of Shalva as the venue for this important annual summit is a strong statement of the ever-strengthening partnership between the Shalva and the Israeli government. When addressing the audience of 360 leading personalities of Israeli welfare services, Mr. Gideon Shalom, the ministry’s Director of Services for People with Disabilities, presented Shalva as a paradigm example of organizational development and excellence. That speech was followed by a ceremony in which the minister awarded the “Touch of Light” prize to select organizations, including Shalva. Kalman Samuels, Shalva’s founder and chairman, accepted the award which was received together with a beautifully hand-fashioned Menorah, crafted by young adults with disabilities.

The conference took place in Shalva’s Education and Training Center auditorium. The auditorium itself is uniquely equipped for the yearly gathering, with the highest density of wheel-chair accessible seating in Israel as well as simultaneous assistance for both blind and deaf members of the audience.

Other speakers included Prof. Arie Rimmerman, founder Dean of Social Welfare and Health Sciences and head of school of social work at University of Haifa, Israel. His research focuses on comparative disability policies, particularly in areas of employment, civic society and family support.

Outside the auditorium, an art fair featured crafts and gifts made by program participants of disability organizations who work in tandem with the ministry. The event also included a particularly moving performance by the Shalva Band. As a prelude to one of the band’s songs, Dina, the band’s lead singer who is blind, guided the audience in a moment of reflection. As the lights were dimmed, she invited them into her world. “Even though there are difficulties, and even though we don’t always have things that others have, there are still endless reasons to be thankful and hopeful,” she explained. “And those reasons are what lead us to be kind.”

Shalva extends its deepest thanks to the Ministry of Social Affairs and Social Services for selecting the Shalva National Center to host this important conference and positioning Shalva as a national leader of welfare services. Shalva is looking forward to continually advancing our partnerships with Israeli government bodies and disability organizations worldwide.