This Sunday December 11, Israel will mark a day of appreciation for wounded IDF soldiers and victims of terrorism.
In honor of this special day, we spoke with Nava Formansky, Central Region Coordinator for the OneFamily Fund, who for the past two decades has been working with victims of terrorism and bereaved families, about the organization’s activity and what it does for volunteers who meet victims of terrorism during their most difficult times.
Formansky talked about the special niche the organization has carved for itself, a niche where the Ministry of Defense and the National Insurance Institute, which she says do a lot, are not present. That niche is the personal and family guidance provided to the victims. “We come to their homes. We get to know the home and the people. We try to penetrate the sadness and the loneliness they feel in their homes, in the hospitals, and in the rehab wards. We come to anyone who has been hurt as a result of enemy activity.”
Formansky spoke about the organization’s activity, which began after the major terrorist attack at the Sbarro’s restaurant in Jerusalem, and continues today. She emphasizes that the guidance and assistance provided to the families and the victims comes only at their request and in coordination with their wishes. Forcing assistance on people is not to be found here. “When we find out about a bereaved family or a wounded victim, we come to their homes as representatives. We have four coordinators spread out over four regions of the country. We come, and we leave the family something small but meaningful with a phone number, because the beginning stage is hard for everyone. We explain that we will return and we will stay in touch with them.”
In these initial stages, a family that has experienced a tragedy is not always fully aware of the extent to which they will need assistance or how to obtain it. Two to three weeks afterward, things become more clear, and that’s when we make follow-up visits.
Are there cases where a family says they don’t need the help? “It hasn’t happened to me,” she says. “I enter slowly. I come to the Shiva, and together with National Service and other volunteers, we also go to wounded victims. We tell them that they are now in a place where they don’t understand who we are, but we will come back later if they wish.”
The work of the organization’s volunteers is based on an acquaintance with the members of the family, the needs of the household, and so forth. “If there are small children, National Service volunteers come to help them, etc.” We are speaking with Formansky while she is on a three-day retreat that the organization has arranged for wounded victims and their spouses. She says that the participants include “a guy whose leg was amputated when he was 17, and he hasn’t forgotten how I came to him when he was in the hospital.” There are also soldiers who were wounded during their military service, and who now have families of their own as their connection with the organization continues.
There is a variety of activities for wounded victims, which are adapted to their requests and their needs. These include trips, massage therapy, personal coaching, and even just sitting over a cup of coffee and talking to the organization’s volunteers. There are those who choose not to come to activities for a year or two, and suddenly start to come, Formansky says, and if someone has difficulty coming to activities at the organization’s center, volunteers will come to his or her home.
We asked Formansky about the emotional impact that being in the presence of bereavement and injury has on the lives of the volunteers. “If we wouldn’t be able to withstand it, we would leave,” she says, and adds that “more than what I give is what I receive.” Alongside this, she notes the strengthening that such a situation provides, when someone whom the doctors had said would never get out of bed, or told his parents that he wouldn’t live, perseveres despite everything, gets up, gets married, and establishes a family.
With that, the organization has an assistance program for volunteers in order to strengthen them emotionally against the difficulties they face. “I consult with a psychologist, but the years here have given me strength. I see the families overcoming their difficulties, growing stronger, and that’s my strength.”
Formansky calls on those interested to join the organization’s corps of volunteers. When we asked how they find people who are suited for such complex and sensitive work, she says that everything begins with the volunteer’s desire to help. When it is the volunteer that first contacts the organization, everything is possible, in her words. The nature of the work that they will do is matched to their abilities and nature, whether it involves visits to hospitals, caring for orphaned children, trips with disabled victims, and so forth. As you can imagine, there are people who are deterred when they understand the complexity of what they have to do. “There are people who, when I tell them what this involves, I can see the step back that they take, and I understand that sometimes it’s too much for them.”