The Ten Kavod project is a remarkable initiative established by United Hatzalah in 2012 with a powerful mission: to prevent the deterioration of medical health among senior citizens in Israel, regardless of their religious affiliation, race, or gender. Through the Ten Kavod program, volunteers offer unwavering support and care to elderly individuals like Gila Par, making a profound difference in their lives.

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Gila met with a group of firefighters

Gila’s journey is a testament to the power of human connection and the importance of maintaining the well-being of senior citizens. Born into a small family of Holocaust survivors, Gila faced the challenges of severe arthritis that confined her to a wheelchair. With her physical health deteriorating, Gila also experienced deep bouts of depression and loneliness that magnified her struggles.

However, Gila’s life took a turn for the better when she reached out for help during a medical emergency. That’s when Meir Hayon, a volunteer EMT with United Hatzalah and the coordinator for the organization’s Ten Kavod (Giving Honor) program in Tiberias, became her first responder. Not only did Meir attend to Gila’s immediate medical needs, he also noticed her tears and took the time to truly understand her situation.

Gila was initially hesitant, having been promised assistance before, only to be left feeling alone. But Meir’s commitment was different. Within a few days, he returned to Gila’s house, asking about her needs. Gila expressed her desire for companionship, and that’s when Meir introduced her to Aviel Levi, a volunteer with the Ten Kavod project.

Aviel, a 26-year-old education student and firefighter, became more than just a companion for Gila. Their bond grew into a profound friendship filled with meaningful conversations and shared experiences. Aviel’s initial intention was to assist Gila with errands, but what transpired was beyond his expectations. He discovered that Gila’s husband was actually his former metalsmith teacher from high school, and this realization deepened their connection.

The impact of Aviel’s presence in Gila’s life extends far beyond their weekly meetings. Together, they celebrate Jewish holidays as well as birthdays and other joyous occasions. Last Chanukah, Aviel arranged for firefighters from his station to come to Gila’s home and celebrate the holiday by lighting the first candle and having an impromptu party which brought a lot of joy to Gila. What started as a small gesture became a heartwarming moment with a group of many firefighters, leaving Gila speechless with gratitude.

Aviel and the Ten Kavod program also recently fulfilled one of Gila’s wishes—an brought the elderly woman, who is normally home-bound, to see the Kineret. United Hatzalah arranged for an ambulance to take her to a picturesque spot so that she could enjoy the sun and the sea. Overcoming her initial apprehension, Gila boarded a boat on the Kinneret, bursting with joy and even serenading the group with a cherished song. The day ended with a visit to a restaurant, providing Gila with an unforgettable experience, which most people in her condition are no longer able to enjoy.

“Gila’s story intertwined with Ten Kavod’s mission showcases the resilience and compassion that can be found within our community,” explained Aviel. “Through connections like the one that I developed with Gila, I bore witness to the transformative power of empathy, and I have gained a lot myself from the experiences that we share. With every moment of joy that I help bring to Gila and other volunteers around the country create for the seniors whom they visit, no matter how small, the Ten Kavod program succeeds at making a profound difference and spreads love and hope along the way. I am proud to be a part of that.”

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