The birth of a child with special needs, or a child's injury or disease during his lifetime, involves a long process of challenges, pressures and crises, and for many families it is a tremendously heavy burden. Beyond the difficulties of coping with the illness, these suffering children lack any significant group of friends because of both their physical differences and the many long medical treatments they endure.
Simcha Layeled’s personal mentoring (or “Big Brother/Big Sister”) program is our flagship project. Its objective is to accompany and aid these children, who are sick or have special needs, throughout the year.
The project provides sick children with support coupled with a social framework and tools for integrating into the larger society. Within the framework of this project, every child is assigned a personal mentor who accompanies him through the year: on a scheduled weekly basis at home, during regular hospital visits, and when escorting him to parties, fun days and camps organized by “Simcha Layeled".
The close bond this creates is a great help to the daily routine of the sick child and his family. And the relationship between the child and his counselor positively affects not only his psychological and social state, but also contributes to his medical welfare, enabling him to better cope with the disease.
Each child and every counselor belong to a larger “mentoring group”, providing the children a unique, ongoing social network to which they can belong. Each of the mentoring groups is led by a group coordinator, who himself is guided by a social worker.
Every six weeks, outings are organized for the mentoring groups. This outing is a great opportunity for strengthening social bonds between the children, and to strengthen their ties (and sense of belonging) to the group and its goals.
Twice a year, during winter and summer, the project's participants and counselors enjoy travelling to beautiful and unique camp programs.
• Children with chronic or genetic diseases.
• Children with rare conditions that affect their functioning and adjustment
• Children with physical disabilities.
• Children within lengthy rehabilitation processes stemming from traffic accidents or terrorist attacks
The participants’ ages:
The participants in this project are children aged 6-18, broken down into the following groups:
Ages 6 to 12: a boys group and a girls group.
Ages 12 to 16: a boys group and a girls group.
Ages 16 to 18: a teenage boys group and a teenage girls group – focusing on life skills and preparation for adult life.
The Teenage - Life Skills group:
The teenage groups function in a the same format as the younger “big brother/big sister” mentoring program's format. These teenagers additionally have unique goals and characteristics – this is a skill-building group. Here the participants are involved in taking care of the organization's younger children (each participant according to their abilities), in a supervised setting where they can receive feedback on their performance. Most participants volunteer in hospitals, visit hospitalized children, assist in preparing the organization's events, organize birthday parties for other participants, and more.
The teenage participants, being at the age and stage in life where they are about to set off into adult society, require a good deal of preparatory work. The group coordinator and Simcha Layeled's social worker work with the participants throughout the year to prepare them for this next phase of their lives. Significant therapeutic work is required in many areas: in improving self-worth and self-esteem, identity formation, in creating dialogues with the participants to help them grasp their differences and disabilities, in interpersonal communication and development of intimate relationships, in finding a place in society, in building life skills, in creating a feeling of independence, and in planning for the future.
Simcha Layeled works to find continuing frameworks and jobs for our 18-year-old participants. A personal meeting is held with each and every participant in order to direct and assist them in finding and integrating into suitable programs. We work in cooperation with the People's Volunteering Association, Sherut Leumi, the IDF (Volunteers Department) and various institutes of higher education.
Currently the organization boasts 180 active mentors, divided into 13 groups.
"It is undoubtedly vital to take the children on trips and fun days once in a while, but the real benefit for the children, without a doubt, is the constant, daily contact with their personal mentor...” - tells the mother of A., a participant.