TEN: Tikkun Olam Meets Personal Growth

The Jewish Agency for Israel’s TEN serves disadvantaged communities around the world in the spirit of universal Jewish values. A first delegation of allied healthcare professionals from Israel and the Diaspora recently returned from five intensive weeks of volunteering in Ghana.


The volunteers had no hospital records that described the youngsters they saw, no medical histories, and, not infrequently, no precise diagnoses. “I often didn’t even know how old they were,” recalls occupational therapist Nitzan Wiesman of Tel Aviv’s Sheba Medical Center, who volunteered in Ghana for five weeks earlier this year. “Everything was different there – from the torrential rains and constant water and power cuts, to the local culture and professional practices.”

Leah Tal, who volunteered with Wiesman in Ghana, found herself drawing on skills and knowledge she had forgotten possessing. “I had to figure out how to treat children using what was at hand, without the technologies I have in Israel, in a culture that views disability as a punishment and a curse,” she recalls.

Ghanaian physical and occupational therapists and Project TEN volunteers discuss the case of a girl being treated at a local hospital
Ghanaian physical and occupational therapists and TEN volunteers discuss the case of a girl being treated at a local hospice.

Volunteering with youngsters with disabilities, with their teachers and with over a dozen special education and community-based rehabilitation interns, Tal and Wiesman spent last February in Ghana’s Winneba region, together with occupational therapist Coral Shomrat and physiotherapist Yemimah Kedar. They were part of the first allied health delegation fielded by TEN, the Jewish Agency for Israel’s service-learning program.

Improving the lives of people with disabilities

The recent delegation to Ghana was led by occupational therapist Shani Halfon, who created and runs the program. “I had a very practical idea of how to improve quality of life for people with disabilities in rural areas,” she recalls. “I was looking for a collaborator – and found one in TEN.”

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