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Dissipating Loneliness in the Golan Heights – Ten Kavod Spotlight Week #1
The Story of United Hatzalah of Israel’s Ten Kavod project is the story of connections. Often these connections are inter-generational, wherein young volunteers, some of whom are fully trained EMTs (emergency medical technicians- 180 hours) and paramedics, while others are only trained to the level of EMR (emergency medical responders – 44 hours) visit an older person who is living on their own. The point of the visits is to alleviate the sensations of loneliness that the older person is feeling while providing a basic medical checkup of the older person’s vital signs such as blood pressure, pulse, glucose levels.
The younger volunteer visits the older person at their home in order to make sure that the house is in order, that the person is taking care of themselves, or being taken care of, and that they have everything they need for the coming week. Should something be amiss, the volunteer will report it to their regional representative, and the appropriate relatives or social services will be contacted in order to provide assistance.
Over the next year, United Hatzalah will feature a weekly story of a volunteer and the older person whom they visit and spend time with. The program is currently offered in 43 different regions throughout Israel and is looking to expand to provide its service to older citizens across the entire country.
Katzrin – Golan Region – Volunteer Yosi Cohen and David Lecy
Yosi Cohen is a teacher and lives in the town of Katzrin, what is often called the capital of the Golan Heights. He is married and has four children. Yosi is originally from Hadera and was involved in a small organization there called Lev Cham (A Warm Heart) that gives food to community members who are in financial need of assistance, many of whom are in their golden years. After he moved with his family to Katzrin he was looking for a way to give back to the community. When he heard about United Hatzalah’s Ten Kavod project, he quickly signed up to take the training course, receive the medical training required, and then began visiting David Lecy once a week.
David is an American immigrant from Minnesota who moved to Katzrin with his wife. They later got divorced and David has stayed in the town. He has 45 years of experience in the information science and hi-tech sectors and over the course of his career traveled to many exotic locations including Iceland and the Marshall Islands.
Yosi has been visiting David for the past four months and the two have gotten to know each other fairly well. “I was looking for something where I could make a difference one on one and really get to know a person and help them,” said Yosi. “ Throughout my meetings with David, I discovered that he has a lot of life experience that he really enjoys sharing with me. He wants to tell me stories and teach me things that he has learned from all over the world. David lives alone and doesn’t have any children in the area who visit him regularly. He doesn’t get out much, and aside from my weekly visits, he doesn’t have too many visitors. He needs some medical care as well and I am happy to help out with that as well where I can.”
Yosi said that a special connection has grown between him and David and that he has learned a lot from David as time went on. “At the beginning, David just wanted to talk with me. We didn’t do too much beyond that. Just being there was enough. But then, as the weeks went by, he felt more open and that he wanted to share with me his experiences and teach me things. He told me stories about his experiences around the world and we would look things up together and study them. David enjoys expanding my horizons, which for me is terrific. Things that he is very interested in, he explains to me. He wants me to leave each meeting with him having learned something. He jokes and says that after every weekly meeting that ‘I’ve learned in his class.’”
For a lot of elderly people who live on their own, the holidays are hard and the same is true for David. “I went to visit him for Rosh HaShanah and Chanukah to share the holidays with him,” Yosi explained. “It is important to me that he isn’t alone at these times as they can be especially hard for a person to be alone. For me, the most meaningful meetings are when I go to him and he is sad for whatever reason. By the end of the meeting, if I‘ve gotten him to laugh together with me then it is a true success and a really special moment for me. He teaches me things and I lift his spirits, that’s our relationship. He is a very positive person in general but sometimes He needs help bringing that out. He shows me the things he has succeeded in doing around the house for home improvements and is very proud of. I really appreciate that he lets me into his life.”
David for his part explained how thankful he is for having Yosi in his life. “Every day is up and down but the trend thankfully is up. Something that people need to remember, and Yosi understands this is that older people have a lot of life experience and we like to share. This isn’t bragging. We want to share our experiences so as to help teach those younger than us about what the world was like. Some of these experiences that I’ve had, and older people like me as well have had, the younger generation will never know about otherwise.”
David made aliyah in 2006, just one week before the second Lebanon war broke out. At the time he was married and he moved with his wife to the north because he likes cooler weather. He had a difficult time when his health took a turn for the worse and during the divorce. It took David some time and a lot of help to pull his life back together after those issues. “Yossi came into my life and it has been a blessing and incredible help in getting me back on track over these past few months,” David said.
“Yossi is a teacher and is naturally curious, and I was in information technologies for 45 years. The best part of the visits is when we get the chance to talk and teach one another about our different worlds. We share our knowledge and our memories. I’ve been introducing Yossi into worlds that he would never have experienced before. I introduced him to Japanese anime cartoons among other things. He sat and watched it with me and he never would have seen this otherwise.”
The holidays are tough days for me and I usually just spend those days reading, and Yossi coming has helped me through those. I’m a firm believer in the Ten Kavod program. Aside from going to the grocery store, I don’t get out of my apartment. My neighbors are all Russian-speaking and I don’t speak that language. Knowing that Yossi is coming once a week to spend time with me and that we can have adult conversations and share is really the highlight of my week and I am very thankful for it.”
David summed it all up by saying, “Medically, socially, linguistically, the Ten Kavod project is really a great program and something which I think everyone who can take part in it should. It is has helped me a lot.
Yosi concluded by saying, “I am happy that I am able to help dissipate some of his loneliness. It took me a few meetings to understand what I was needed for. In addition to helping to check his vital signs, I found that alleviating his sense of isolation and loneliness was just as important. What’s good for the soul is good for the body. I took a specialized 44-hour training course in order to be able to volunteer for this and it was absolutely worth it. I have gained so much from my time with David and I look forward to the weekly meetings. We have really connected and it is something that brings both of us joy.”
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