Excited to be chosen for the EDI GSL Experience in Israel

Saturday, June 29, 2013

A Reflection On My First Week at Elwyn

I can’t believe Lawrence and I are already starting week 2 at Elwyn! My experience at Elwyn has been vastly different than the Commission, and they are constantly keeping us busy and on our toes. While at the Commission I spent my days doing research for policy development, at Elwyn I am visiting the sites where these policies will be taking effect, which is great to see.
Our supervisor, Janet, has put together an incredible schedule for us, with each day packed with various site visits and meetings. So far we have visited sheltered workshops, several competitive employment sites (Triumph factory, a bakery, the Knesset), as well as several residential facilities. While I knew about all the different services Elwyn provides, actually seeing them all in action and how they differ based on individuals’ needs has left me incredibly impressed. I’ve seen things as different as the Elwyn dental facility to the sensory garden to a theatre group rehearsal.

Sensory Garden- Sight Section

Sensory Garden- Touch Section
Sensory Garden- Touch Section (fur underneath a table)

Sensory Garden- Sound Section (drums)

Sensory Garden- Smell Section
Many of the programs and services Elwyn provides are on par with the expectations of the global disability community. Elwyn’s competitive employment placements are impressive and the job coaches and placement staff are incredibly dedicated to helping the individuals obtain and maintain meaningful employment.  We saw several employees working well in integrative settings, enjoying their jobs and interacting with their co-workers; yet, we also saw the challenges that go along with such employment, by speaking with managers who noted the extra difficulties associated with employing people with disabilities and seeing a job coach fighting with a worker who refused to do her job.
A worker with a disability making pies
Cakes decorated by a worker with a disability

Elwyn also showed us a few of their different residential models. On the Jerusalem campus, there are several buildings that house individuals with disabilities, all of which have easy access to the on-site medical, dental, and health clinics as well as the various workshops operated by Elwyn. While the extensiveness of the services available are impressive, I wonder how much interaction with the wider community the residents there experience. On the other hand, we also visited one of the apartments operated by Elwyn, which houses six individuals with disabilities and has one staff member on duty all times. The residents of the apartment were extremely high functioning and self-sufficient; they did their own laundry, helped in the kitchen, navigated public transportation on their own, and had the independence to come and go as they pleased. Their home was comparable to some of the group homes in America, but I really liked that it was in an apartment building in the city (right above a supermarket) where the individuals were able to directly interact with neighbors and the wider community.

Ceramics studio- individuals at Elwyn decorate the pottery and sell it; they keep all profits

A room with all the products made by individuals serviced by Elwyn 

In short, Elwyn really does provide something for everyone! Last week I spoke with a speech pathologist at Elwyn that made aliyah from New Jersey, and she said that Israeli services and programs for people with disabilities were behind the United States, but the gap is closing.  Seeing Elwyn’s services has made me believe that she is right. While some of its programs may be a bit inconsistent with those in the USA, specifically in terms of sheltered employment, the competitive employment models it has been developing and their great apartments are clearly more cutting edge.  Furthermore, their innovative and creative offerings such as a professional theatre group for people with disabilities at the Israel Museum that has gained hundreds of community fans, are something that I would love to see instituted by other organizations around the world.


  1. Great recap of your first week Laura and nice pictures too. Keep it up! :) Erin

  2. Laura, this is great I love the photos and your descriptions of what you are doing. Kate

  3. Thanks Laura for this posting, I learned a lot!

  4. I enjoyed reading all the blogs and especially appreciated the great pictures. It seems that you are keeping very busy and learning a lot about services for people with disabilities in Israel.