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To Dream the Possible Dream

By: Nicole Bornstein  

Have you ever imagined what it would be like to discuss some of the most personal aspects of your life with 100 strangers? Doing so makes most people nervous and uncomfortable. Despite this, five exceptional individuals who receive services from OHEL Children’s Home and Family Services chose to give participants of the OHEL Bais Ezra Lifetime Care Foundation joint board meeting a glimpse into their lives, their dreams, their struggles, and their search for happiness. If doing so would make most people uncomfortable and nervous, why then, did these individuals agree to put themselves in this situation?

The five courageous people who opened their hearts saw this as a unique opportunity to thank the organization that has made such a difference in their lives. Witnessing the heartfelt comments about the care and the positive impact on clients and their families that OHEL Bais Ezra and the Lifetime Care Foundation provides serves as in impetus for the leaders of the organization to continue their selfless work on behalf of their community. 

The OHEL Bais Ezra Lifetime Care Foundation joint board meeting is an annual meeting at which the board members of these entities meet to review the programs and accomplishments of the past year. It is also an opportunity to discuss ongoing and future programs, and to analyze strengths and weaknesses in a concerted effort to remain on the cutting edge of social services. 

Who exactly are these five inspiring people, and what did each find most important to share with the audience? 

Sam, who is twenty, has lived in OHEL’s home for adolescents with mental illness for almost a decade. He decided to share his story because he wanted to express his gratitude for the life-altering experience of his years at OHEL. Despite his troubled childhood, he is now in college and exploring the many options available to him. He is considering becoming a physical therapist and aspires to have a practice of his own. Sam’s accomplishments are truly moving and extraordinary. He is well spoken, and his appearance and demeanor do not set him apart from others of his age. Although he can never recapture the years that were “lost”, as he matures further, he will certainly be able to function and succeed in the world at large. 

Jonathan came to Bais Ezra when his father died and he had difficulty living on his own. Since living at a Bais Ezra residence, he has made tremendous progress. Jonathan eagerly looks forward to moving into a supported apartment under the auspices of Bais Ezra; he calls his social worker repeatedly to ask if she has located an apartment yet. Even more, through Bais Ezra he has met a woman from a different residence, and they are dating seriously. Jonathan and OHEL Bais Ezra look forward to fulfilling Jonathan’s lifelong dream of getting married. 

Shoshana and Aliza’s brother, David, lives in one of OHEL’s residences for adults with mental illnesses. They are thankful to OHEL for giving David the opportunity to enjoy the simple things in life. Shoshana recalls how she cried tears of joy when she called her brother and heard him laughing and talking with friends as he spoke with her. She expresses her gratitude to OHEL for imbuing David’s life with a sense of normalcy. David also considers his OHEL residence his home, and sometimes prefers to spend time there rather than with his sisters and their families. Both Shoshana and Aliza are happy knowing that their brother feels comfortable and well cared for. Their hope for David is that he will have peace of mind, and they are confident that OHEL will continue to provide him with that. 

Rivka, her brother, and her mother all benefit from OHEL services. Rivka had been having difficulty balancing the responsibilities of caring for both her disabled brother, who resided in state mental hospitals and nursing homes, and her elderly mother while raising her own two children alone. She turned to the Lifetime Care Foundation for support. The Lifetime Care Foundation was able to place her brother in an adult home, a better facility for him than the nursing home where he had been living. A caseworker visits her brother once a week to check on his care and well-being. Another caseworker visits her mother three times a month to do the same for her. Rivka is grateful that she now has her Sundays back and can enjoy the simple pleasures of her own life. She says that the case managers at the Lifetime Care Foundation have become the “sisters I never had” and were instrumental in reuniting her mother and brother for the first time in twenty-five years. It is astounding to consider the role an organization can play! 

So why did these five people share such personal stories so publicly? They did it because they are grateful, and this is one public way in which they can express that gratitude. But there is more. They recognize the importance of participating in public forums such as these so that one day the stigma that the community at large associates with having disabilities can be eradicated. Sam, Jonathan, Shoshana, Aliza, and Rivka yearn for people to understand that the disabled and their families share the same hopes and dream the same dreams as the rest of us. With the help of OHEL-Bais Ezra and the Lifetime Care Foundation, these are possible dreams. 

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