Participation in the IDF is a crucial part of growing up in Israel — reinforcing connections to the land and its people and enhancing the values of camaraderie, intuition, and leadership.
AKIM’s SAR-EL program enables Israel’s developmentally disabled youth between the ages of 21-30 to serve and contribute to Israel’s safety and security via military service.
Each SAR-EL unit consists of a small group of developmentally disabled individuals with accompanying soldier mentors (who have also received special training) who provides support and friendship.
SAR-EL soldiers participate in wide ranging activities from working in the kitchen to working in a factory disassembling intelligence computers.
This program also seeks to increase exposure among the general population to people with developmental disabilities, promoting positive attitudes and combating stereotypes toward people with special needs.
Providing families and individuals with developmental disabilities respite from daily life is an important role for AKIM.
For those with disabilities, it provides an opportunity to escape the monotonous routine of daily life. For families, it provides a much needed break from the emotional and physical strain of providing constant care.
Short Vacation — Every year, AKIM arranges a six day summer vacation at appealing locations with recreational programming and entertainment. On average these short vacations attract 2,000 adults.
Summer Camp — Each year, AKIM organizes a summer camp for 2,000 children and young adults. The campers receive a week of supervised fun and entertainment.
Adoptive Families — Individuals who have been abandoned by their families often live in institutions and are deprived of supportive familial relationships.
AKIM arranges short term, home hospitality for 250 of these individuals on weekends and national holidays (once every month and on Rosh Hashanah and Passover).
AKIM has developed an intensive physical education and sports program to improve clients’ motor functions, and may even contribute to improved mental abilities.
AKIM sports programs are active in 200 sites around Israel. 10 AKIM coaches and 50 coaches (paid for by local and national government) train approximately 3,800 athletes to compete in Olympic sports such as aquatics, judo, basketball, table tennis, and more.
AKIM’s program adapts to the abilities of the participating individuals in order to contribute to that person’s progress and enable them to lead a fuller life. This is attained through the development of tools for improving personal and group physical skills and through the creation of frameworks for demonstrating these skills in a climate of activity and fun.
Horseback-riding therapy helps the developmentally disabled to strengthen their muscles, better control their bodies and improve their balance and self esteem. It is used as a means to strengthen motor skills, and provide emotional and mental support to people with special needs.
Each year, AKIM hosts 10 groups with five participants each. The groups meet once a week for 10 months.
Participants become acquainted with horses and their habits. Ultimately, the participants learn to communicate with the horses and take care of them. Skilled instructors then teach horseback riding and other related skills to the clients.
Art Workshops — Five professional artists in Safed and Ein Hod have organized artist classes for the artistically gifted. Each participant is given the opportunity to explore a variety of artistic techniques in order to bring out their talents and express their feelings through art. Their works are exhibited from time to time in the artist villages.
Exhibition — The exhibition of works of art can be stimulating and deeply satisfying for people with mental disabilities. It also sends a positive message to the broader public and encourages a change in stereotypical attitudes. The exhibition will follow established standards in the world of art including a catalogue, a poster and promotional activities. There will be an annual exhibition, displaying the works of approximately 40 artists at museums, galleries and public buildings. The locale of the exhibition will be changed each year.
Art Classes in Graphic Arts — This initiative will encourage developmentally disabled adults with strong artistic potential to express their artistic talent in the graphic arts. This five-day intensive program of instructional activities will include boarding in guest rooms adjacent to art centers in Israel, professional instruction and materials.
AKIM’s acclaimed “The Other Theater” was formed ten years ago to give young people and adults with potential in dramatic acting a place to develop their skills.
This specially chosen troupe of talented actors are directed and assisted by professionals in the area of drama and stage production. The troupe meets twice a week for rehearsals at the AKIM Center in Tel Aviv, and holds two to three performances a month at locations throughout they country. They have appeared in a number of international festivals including the Los Angeles “Very Special Arts International Festival” in 1998 and the European Festival for the Mentally Disabled in Montpellier, France in 1999.
Their performances, in addition to developing their expressive skills, have helped change the public’s perception of the mentally handicapped, leading to an increased willingness to accept that segment of the population into the wider society.
Programs for Minority Populations
AKIM seeks to provide all Israeli citizens with equal opportunities — including providing needed services and programs to the developmentally disabled in minority populations throughout the country.
Sport Project — AKIM has developed a focused, intensive physical education and sports program for all developmentally disabled throughout Israel for areas with a large minority contingent.
- Guidance — AKIM provides coaches working in the Arab sector with guidance and instruction in the creation of an active sports team.
- School Programs — Akim’s sport experts work with high school principal and gym teachers to design and carry out sports programs for their mainstreamed students.
- Sports Days — AKIM coordinates sports days around the country at facilities focused on this population. During these days each individual is able to participate in his/her desired activity.
Therapeutic Swimming — Iblin serves about twenty-five developmentally disabled people by providing a structured school or occupational training in the morning and therapeutic swim instruction in the afternoon. The water allows the participants to move freely, combating muscle atrophy, enhancing gross motor skills, and providing much needed physical activity. The swimming course is held once-a-week for three months. Each session is three-hours and consists of one hour of swimming and two hours of social activities.
Occupational Therapy: Jewelry Making — AKIM runs a jewelry-making workshop at Shefar’am for adults at intermediate to high functional levels. The purpose of this training is to foster creative and artistic interests while developing fine motor skills. AKIM’s goal is to develop jewelry-making into a major production line at this center. The workshop is held twice a week for six months.
Arabic-language journal for AKIM branches in the Northern Region — AKIM publishes a newspaper in Arabic for branches in Arab communities in northern Israel. Parents meet and learn first hand about the basics of journalism and the editorial process. This group then holds a series of meetings to work on their individual pieces and pull them together into a collective newspaper.
The process of creating this paper is empowering and cathartic for parents and family members. The issues they explore and the narratives they create delve into personal and societal problems with the goal of improving the quality of life for their children.