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      "Friends for Health" - The Camp for Very Special Children

      The Friends for Health summer camp is designed specifically for children with special needs. Arutz Sheva visited the camp's final day.
      By Elad Benari & Yoni Kempinski
      First Publish: 7/18/2011, 5:27 AM / Last Update: 7/19/2011, 8:58 PM

      Arutz Sheva visited the final day of the “Haverim - Friends for Health” special summer camp. The camp, which operates from Ulpanat Reut in Petach Tikvah, is designed specifically for children with special needs.

      “In this camp we take the children for a whole week and let them have some fun with special activities and attractions,” explained camp councilor Pinchas Unger. “The week mainly provides parents with the break that they can’t take during the school year. It gives them the opportunity to connect with the other siblings in the family, who during the year are naturally pushed aside because the special child takes up a lot of time and space in the house.”

      The activities include a jeep ride, amusement parks, donkey-back riding and much more.

      Unger explained that newer councilors work with one camper, while councilors who have been at the camp longer work with two or more campers. He noted that the many special trips the campers go on require special organizing.

      “Every time we load and unload the bus we have to engineer the bags and the chairs, making sure everything fits in to the small luggage compartment,” he said. “For example, we just spent two days up north. We slept on mattresses in tents. The purpose is to make them feel like they’re on an annual school trip, just like each child goes on a school trips and sleeps in sleeping bags. But it means taking the child away from his normal conditions such as the accessible bathroom and shower. He needs to be showered in all sorts of strange ways.”

      And what do the campers themselves think?

      “It was fun,” said camper Yael. “It was amazing. In the camp they let us have a lot of fun. It made us feel as though we are all equal to one another. That’s what was very nice. I love coming to camp because it gives me a lot of strength.”

      “Haverim is an association which takes children with CP, which is cerebral palsy for those who don’t know,” said Lotan, another camper. “The fun is, first of all, in the great activities. It’s simply amazing to see all the councilors who just help the campers.”

      “They understand everything,” said Unger. “They understand exactly as we do. They also appreciate it, even if they don’t say it a lot. They really appreciate it. Yesterday some of the campers went from councilor to councilor and told them: you guys are amazing. We love you. And even if they don’t say it we know they love it.”

      He added that the councilors and campers make connections that go on for many years. “We visit them on Shabbat, we accompany their parents, we get to know the family, we go to the Bar Mitzvah celebrations of the siblings. It’s a connection which only becomes stronger.”