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Leadership Via Nature

It’s a dog’s life a hug for one of Kibbutz Magal’s four-legged friends (Photos: Anat Lavi)

When Noam (not his real name) held the Labrador puppy for the first time, it almost brought tears to my eyes.

I'm volunteering with the Misholim charity on Kibbutz Magal near Hadera, where they are taught how to understand and care for horses, dogs, wild animals and farm animals.

The children have a variety of special needs and come from the multi-regional elementary school Pisgat Amir situated in Katzir. In particular they have behavioral, educational and functioning difficulties, and lack economic stability at home.
They may also suffer from rejection from society, and as a result find themselves lacking in ambition and confidence. In many cases they are expelled from the educational system and end up living a life of crime and violence.

The purpose of this project is to provide positive experiences in a supportive environment which will prepare the young people for adult life.

In just a few months I have seen how much their self-confidence and self-image have improved. 

Checking a horse’s hoof
Feeding one of the lambs

By caring for animals they have responsibility - many for the first time in their lives - and by working as a group, they are developing social and communication skills. Next year some of them will continue as teachers and mentors for the next group.
Certified counselors from the Tlamim center are teaching them about the animals, about giving and receiving love and warmth, and about leaving their family troubles behind for a few hours a week while they stroke a dog or cuddle a small rabbit, or even let a mouse run over their arm.
These children who are often considered educational failures are learning and absorbing knowledge. It may not be math or history, but instead they're learning about animal anatomy and psychology, about different breeds and about training animals.

At first I taught English by splitting them into two groups and I used games and videos. But out of the 12 children, only a few had some basic English. The rest did not even know the English alphabet. It soon became apparent that their attention span and behavioral issues were getting in the way of progress. So now I work with them informally, doing exactly what they do but chatting to them in English, which seems to be effective and is certainly more satisfying for me.

During the year they have come to see me as a friend and mentor, which I believe has had a very positive effect on them, and I've enjoyed the experience of learning and communicating with them. Best of all I just love learning about and working alongside all the animals.

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