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Helping Others With A Smile – Ten Kavod Rishon LeZion
Guy Digmy is a United Hatzalah volunteer from Rishon LeTzion who is not only the deputy chapter head of the region but also the coordinator of the Ten Kavod – Giving Honor project. He spearheads a group of nine Ten Kavod volunteers throughout the city and surrounding area and is a volunteer himself. Guy visits Alice Peretz and has been a member of the project himself for quite a long time.
Guy is married with three children, and in addition to being a volunteer EMT, and the regional coordinator for Ten Kavod, he is also the coordinator of United Hatzalah volunteers’ Emergency Room Assistance Program in Assaf Harofeh (Shamir) Medical Center. How does he have time for all of this and holding down a job? The answer, Guy said, is that he simply loves to give back to others.
“The spirit of giving runs deep in my veins. I used to work with a variety of organizations such as Pitchon Lev, Latet, and others that deal with helping the elderly and often helping Holocaust survivors. I used to help out with getting elderly people anything they needed in general, and specifically for the holidays which can be hard on many of those who live alone. I helped organize the delivery of medicines, food, clothing, and anything else that was needed. I connected with the social services of the city and began working with them as well. They connected me with an older Holocaust survivor and I went to visit him twice a week for many years. We did a lot of things together such as bake and talk, as well as share meals. After a number of years of me visiting with him, he passed away. It created a vacuum in my life, I needed someone to help.”
“After the man passed away, I began taking a United Hatzalah training course to become an EMT. During the course, I heard that they were looking for someone to take over the coordinator position for the Ten Kavod project in Rishon LeZion. I jumped at the opportunity as this would be combining two of the things I love doing, helping the elderly, and assisting by providing medical care. The Ten Kavod project is specifically designed to help older age citizens by doing exactly what I was doing before but adding on a medical element in order to make sure the person who I was visiting was in good health and getting the coverage and care that they need.
I worked together with the Social Services Department and we built a database of all the elderly who could benefit from having a weekly visitor. We also built a reservoir of volunteers together with two local schools who joined our Impact Program, where students receive a stipend for taking part in the Ten Kavod project. They receive the minimum hours of training to become an EMR (emergency medical responder) and commit to participating in the program for a minimum of 12 months and paying weekly visits to an older resident in their area once a week.
There is a strong bond that develops between the older participants in the program and the volunteers. I felt that myself with the older man who I used to visit. Thankfully, I now visit with another person, Alice. Alice never had any children and lives on her own. She suffered a stroke a few years back and is definitely in need of help and someone to visit with her from time to time. I often do errands for her and get her the things she needs. We talk a lot and I help motivate her to do things she otherwise might not take care of.
I’ve found that often a lot of elderly people are too embarrassed to ask for things, so we need to offer them and think in the big picture to see what their needs are. I ask Alice when the last time she was at the Dr.? About the things that I see are missing in the house and that she needs? I recently bought her a toaster oven because hers broke. This is in addition to visiting once a week.
Alice loves to laugh. We like to talk about all sorts of different subjects. She is a very lively person, but sometimes, like the rest of us, doesn’t feel well and needs some assistance.
As a regional coordinator, I am in charge of pairing the volunteers with the elderly people they visit and making sure that the visits and resulting relationships are mutually amicable. I do this by firstly ascertaining whether or not the older person we are going to visit fits the program. The parameters include someone who lives on their own, not a nursing patient, someone who has no family living in the near vicinity who is caring for them already, and someone who is of able mind enough, and interested to have a volunteer come and visit with them at least once a week. Once that is ascertained and the volunteer has been trained and is committed to visiting weekly, then I attend the first visit or two to make sure the personalities mesh and then the volunteers and the elderly people they visit make up their own schedules of when those visits need to happen. The volunteers are instructed that they need to inform me if anything is amiss, a severe change in the person’s medical condition or vital sign readings, a major family incident took place, or something is amiss with their diet or living standards, etc… If there is something that needs attention I am in contact with the social services and next of kin to make sure that the older person’s needs are taken care of.
One of the most meaningful parts of this project for me is when young volunteers, from high school, decide to stay on with the program even after their mandatory year is up and their scholarship ends. One young man, a 12th grader who had just finished high school and ended his year-long commitment, just signed on to be a full-time volunteer. He told me that the program had lit a fire in him and that he feels he needs to give back to his community and wants to stay on with the project. I was so happy when I heard that. It shows that for this young man, it wasn’t the scholarship money that was the main focus, it was the opportunity to give to another person. The scholarship got him to start but what he discovered along the way was so much deeper he told me. That young man is still continuing to visit with his older person and I hope that we have many more successes like that. This program encourages us to give to each other, and that in of itself changes a person for the better.
Alice Peretz is a 70-year-old woman who lives on her own in Rishon Lezion. She is originally from Casablanca, Morocco, and immigrated to Israel at age 9. She initially moved with her family to Rishon LeZion, and then later moved to Dimona where she joined her brother who lived and worked there. Later in life, she worked in a winery and then moved back to Rishon LeZion.
“I went through a very serious stroke a few years ago and ever since then I haven’t been able to work,” Alice explained. “I’ve been managing to get by here and there and thanks to a lot of help from good-hearted people, like Guy. I lost the ability to work when I had the stroke so I had to take an early pension. I live on my own but thanks to the grace of God I am doing okay.
Alice added that the project has given her a lot. “The Ten Kavod project is terrific and United Hatzalah is terrific. I remember that even during the pandemic, Guy and the rest of the volunteers used to go out and buy things for me during the lockdown when no one was allowed out of their houses. I am very thankful for Guy. It is not a simple thing for a man with a family and full-time job to come and visit every week. And I truly appreciate it. Every time Guy comes over, he picks up my spirits. I tell him that just hearing his voice picks me up and makes me smile.”
Alice explained that her medical situation is a complicated one and she is thankful that Guy helps her manage it. “My medical situation is not dependent on me unfortunately but on my condition. I need to take a lot of medications, but I do what I can and I thank God for the good I have. It is good to help other people and I used to do that whenever I could to get out of the house. Now, on days that I feel good I take a walk, but most of the time I’m home. Guy helps me by checking my vital signs and helps me manage my medication. I am thankful for that too. This project is incredibly helpful and I recommend to anyone who can take part in it that you should do so. If I could drive I would also volunteer for United Hatzalah. It is a great organization and is full of terrific people, people like Guy.
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