The Eshcolot B’Emek U’Behar organization was founded in 2004 by parents of disabled children. Its activities are centered in the north of Israel, in the Afula/Gilboa region, and it serves a population which includes adults with Down Syndrome and Autism, as well as those with other intellectual and developmental disabilities. This program provides both vocational training and therapeutic services. The residents of the seven institutions in the area are served by the daily, weekly or monthly activities and services which provide for their welfare, and their emotional well-being.
In a novel approach to provide a sustaining, satisfying lifestyle for these adults, the Eshcolot program established a Visitor’s Center which is housed at Kibbutz Meggido where 120 participants from the program operate and staff an organic farm.They all participated in a year-long vocational course provided by the Ministry of Agriculture, to learn how to operate an ecologically-friendly farm. They serve as the hosts to visiting groups and individuals who come to the Visitor’s Center to experience the farm, enjoying meals with freshly picked produce. This interaction between staff and visitor, bridges the gaps and dispels misconceptions and prejudices about adults with Autism and intellectual disabilities.
A new project of the Visitor’s Center is a Therapeutic Petting Zoo, where the animals range freely and animal-assisted therapies are employed, both for the benefit of these Autistic and disabled adults, as well as those coming to the Center to seek these special therapies. The facility is in need of physical upgrading, and is staffed by the residents and outside professionals and students of the Oranim College’s animal-assisted therapy department. In addition, therapeutic horseback riding is available for residents in the area, with the animals being cared for and tended by program participants.
The Eshcolot B’Emek U’Behar organization is grateful to the Women of Vision Society of the Jewish Foundation of Greater for their assistance in helping to expand this very important program. It will serve not only the Autistic and disabled participants of the Eshcolot organization, but will provide these services to all area residents who seek them.
Escholot combines resources from professionals in the field, community workers, businesses, and many devoted volunteers who all contribute to make these programs successful and impacting on all who partake of them.