Tel Hai News and Updates
Meet Michal Muller, graduate of the Department of Education at Tel-Hai College
Meet Michal Muller, 31, graduate of the Department of Education at Tel-Hai College. Michal grew up on the Yannai Farm near Rosh Pina, in the Upper Galilee. Throughout her three years of studies at Tel-Hai, she was active in community work through the Unit for Community Involvement, in the framework of the David Friedman Fund Scholarship Program, in which students receive tuition scholarships while contributing time for serious involvement in various social projects. Michal worked as a counsellor and coordinator for the Lior Group, while also serving as coordinator in the PERACH Student Tutorial Project. Immediately upon graduating in the summer of 2011, Michal applied for a position in the Wings Preparatory Program led by Kivunim, an organization for the promotion of youth with special needs.
The Lior Group
The Lior Group in Kiryat Shemona was founded five years ago by a Tel-Hai social work student, in order to provide after-school activities for youth with mental retardation. It has flourished solely through volunteer work with the support of Tel-Hai College's Unit for Community Involvement and the David Friedman Fund. The Lior Group has about ten members between the ages of 12 and 21, mostly students at the Renanim School in Kiryat Shemona. They meet for two-hour weekly sessions of enrichment and creative activities that include themes such as environment and nature, community contribution, road safety, Jewish holidays, theater, and more. Michal was involved in expanding cooperation with the Scouts troupe in Kiryat Shemona, which enabled group members to experience challenging and varied Scouts activities. She was also active in building new collaborations and strengthening existing ones to ensure the project's future, including with the Renanim School, Tel-Hai College, and private individuals.
Michal's commitment to the project was based on her faith in its significant contribution to participants, and she was active in raising the numbers of participants and enhancing parents' involvement in the group.
The Wings Preparatory Program
The goal of the Wings Preparatory Program is the advancement of young adults with special needs. It is situated in Moshav Bustan Hagalil in the Western Galilee. Program participants are all recognized as disabled by Israel's National Insurance Institute, and have physical, motor, and/or sensory disabilities or cope with chronic diseases. Most participants join the program after high school, at the age where their counterparts leave home for military or national service. The program allows young people with disabilities to take part in this normative and essential stage of separation from parents and in their case, dependence on caregivers, and move toward greater independence.
The program takes place over the course of two years. The first year emphasizes the social building of the group, with participants living in a communal living setting. Every morning they take part in various national service projects suited to their abilities, preferences, and accessibility needs. The evenings are devoted to social activities, learning of life skills, and more, with a focus on growing independence. During the second year participants live in small groups in apartments in the town of Nahariya. In the mornings some of them continue their national service, while others work or begin studies. The emphasis in the second year is on integration into the community and individual development. In the afternoon and evening hours members take part in varied activities as a group or individually, based on tailor-made schedules for each member in order to progress toward independence upon graduation from the program.
In Michal's words:
"As an informal rehabilitation counselor I work with participants in their second year. I give them individual attention and am involved in their activities, help them with development of life skills, and grant them assistance in whatever fields they need. I meet for a weekly individual session with each participant, and the content is often based on issues that they raise. Sessions also include setting goals for their advancement in all spheres of life, ranging from love and family to housekeeping."
"I arrived at this position somewhat coincidentally while seeking work in informal education in the Nahariya region. I quickly became immersed in this new and fascinating field, with a magical feeling of making a real contribution. I am constantly learning new things, about myself and others. In my college studies I majored in special education and integration of arts in education and was introduced to many interesting frameworks, but not to the field of informal rehabilitation. This field is characterized by hope, and contrary to most frameworks that label and separate those who are different, placing them in closed and protected environments, the organization I work for believes in bringing them out to into the world, with real integration and transformation from a dependent and supported individual to one with hope for independence and success."
"The Kivunim organization leads other initiatives in addition to the Wings Preparatory Program, such as a similar program for older adults, or for graduates of the program who need further professional, vocational, or academic support. There is also a preparatory program for hearing-impaired young adults in Haifa based on the same principles as Wings, using sign language."
"I feel that I have arrived at the right place at the right time, and am constantly developing. I would like to share one of the most interesting and special stories that I have encountered in this job. One of the participants is a young woman with a disability in her legs, not from birth, who uses a walker to get around. She was never diagnosed with an illness and no medical explanation has been provided for her disability. Her life history is also quite unclear. There is a difficult family situation and she meets the definition of a youth at risk, considered to be of limited cognitive ability and with learning difficulties. At first I had a hard time with her, including bouts of anger and various crises. As our relationship developed and trust grew, our conversations revealed a unique emotional intelligence within her, and a real potential for change. Our process together led to the suggestion that one of the causes of her disability is a childhood trauma, about which I will not go into detail. This revelation was followed by hydrotherapy, physiotherapy and other treatments, which have led to dramatic rehabilitation. She is now moving from the walker to crutches while working on her learning and vocational skills. Every step with her is meaningful, and I view her progress as an amazing success which gives me the strength and motivation to continue."
"My work includes serious professional enrichment. In addition to encountering people of vision and expertise, such as the organization's director Gidi Tzur who created the project and is a spiritual teacher to anyone who works with the organization, there are sessions with the rehabilitation nurse, with social workers, and more. Out staff meets monthly for a joint learning session, in which we read articles and connect them to our daily work. The emphasis on professional development brings out the maximum abilities of staff members. I am gaining diverse tools and learning of new medical and emotional treatment methods."
"Work in the Wings Preparatory Program has opened up a new and different world for me, one that is challenging, fascinating, and rewarding. I am now in the process of beginning a Master's program in clinical social work. I have discovered what I want to do when I grow up, and I doubt that without the path that I have travelled at Tel-Hai College through the Unit for Community Involvement and the Department of Education I would have thought of this professional direction, and understood what really interests and challenges me."