Paul Calvert talks with Dov Hirth from Aleh about the incredible work they are doing in Israel to help children and their families.

Aleh: An Organisation Helping Disabled Children In Israel

Paul: Dov, what is Aleh?

Dov: Aleh is an organisation that services children with severe disabilities in Israel. We have four residential facilities: Jerusalem, Bnei Brak, Gedera and the Negev. We service on a daily basis over 750 children with severe disabilities form across the country.

Paul: When were you started and why were you started?

Dov: That's a good question. The organisation was started well over 30 years ago. We started because there was a group of parents who wanted to give their children with severe disabilities a better chance, bigger potential, greater opportunities and those things did not exist in Israel. So they rented an apartment in the city of Bnei Brak, which is right near Tel Aviv; they hired a teacher and got a couple of volunteers and they started the organisation Aleh. Aleh in Hebrew is an acronym for aser, lyeled, hamiochad - helping the children that are special.

Paul: So it's out of a difficult and frustrating situation that this organisation was birthed?

Dov: Yes, 100%. Thirty years ago there were not a lot of opportunities for children with disabilities. They were either in a hospital or in some sort of setting where they would be taken care of physically. But emotionally and psychologically trying to give them more opportunities, trying to advance them - those opportunities didn't exist. Therefore there was a need and thank God these parents stepped up.

Paul: What sort of needs do the children have?

Aleh: An Organisation Helping Disabled Children In Israel

Dov: It varies. A lot of them unfortunately have genetic diseases; a lot of them have disabilities coupled with medical problems. Some of the children have Down syndrome with some brain impairment.

There are two types of children who come to the Aleh organisation. Either they were born that way, meaning there were some kind of complications during birth - something happened, they were lacking oxygen and were born that way. In the more unfortunate cases it was a normal healthy child and because of some sort of an accident, a road accident or slipping in the bathtub and being under water for too long, those types of situations, they also end up at Aleh under our care.

Paul: Do you have people from the religious community who intermarry within families and that causes a problem with disability as well?

Dov: Not that I'm aware of. I know that there are genetic diseases among Ashkenazi Jews in particular but I'm not familiar with all the ins and outs.

Paul: What projects, what sort of things do you do with the children?

Dov: Their day starts early in the morning, 7.30. Getting the kids up, getting them out of bed is a job in itself. Depending on which facility they're in, our Jerusalem and Bnei Brak centres are for very low functioning children, our Negev and Gedera centres are for higher functioning but let's use the Jerusalem centre as an example. Getting the kids out of bed, changing diapers, showering, brushing teeth - all this has to be done for them, it's not something they can do on their own. Getting everyone into their classrooms and starting the day: breakfast, and so on.

Paul: Do the children go into a school program? Do you have to assess them beforehand to see where their abilities lie?