Carmella was born in 1951 while her family was on the way to Israel having fled Iraq. Carmella’s birthday wasn’t written down, but according to her brother, she was born on the second day of Hanukkah. When Carmella and her family arrived in Israel they were housed in immigrant and refugee absorption camps, or ‘Hetzerot’ as they were called. They were placed in Beer Sheva, where Carmella spent most of her childhood.
When Carmella grew up she got married and had 5 children and today she has many grandchildren. Carmella worked as a kindergarten teacher for 36 years and was able to put her own immigrant experience to good use when she received immigrant children from Ethiopia who came as part of Operation Moses. Carmella was like a mother to the kids, a second generation of immigrants was raised by her.
Later in life, Carmella moved to Jerusalem. She began to suffer from dementia and was treated in the hospital for her condition. It was there, that she and her family learned of the Ten Kavod project and her family decided that it would be something beneficial for her and signed her up to be a participant.
Gadi Natan, a 28 year old B.sc Computer science student who lives in Ra’anana but is studying in Jerusalem joined the student Impact project and chose to volunteer with United Hatzalah and Ten Kavod. Gadi also works as a supervisor of a local Mikveh when he isn’t studying or helping Carmella. During their visits, Gadi usually reads Hasidic stories or Tehillim to Carmella. He also helps her eat, do her hair, and sings songs with her and they even dance on occasion. In an effort to improve her health and mobility, Gadi goes out outside with her house for a walk and sometimes treats her to ice cream, which is one of her favorite foods.
Gadi shared one special meeting that for him stands out from all the others. ‘’Once, I went with her to eat ice cream and people saw how I fed her and how much help she needed. I always strive to be kind and patient, as that is what Carmella needs right now. On the way out of the ice cream store, one of the people came up to me and told me that he thought what I was doing was amazing. I told him about the Ten Kavod project and it really inspired him.’’
Gadi continued and shared ‘’In the beginning it was very hard for me to be with an older person who has a bad case of dementia. But with time I learned how to treat her and behave towards her, to be sensitive, kind, and nice, to her. Now I feel like one of her grandchildren. And I enjoy the time I spend with her, even if she doesn’t remember most of it. It turns me into a better person, gives me great values and it is a big Mitzvah. I learn a lot from her life experiences that she tells me about when we talk. I think it’s important to meet with the elderly and listen to their stories because they are very lonely and it brightens their lives when they have someone who comes and visits them and cares about them.’’
United Hatzalah’s Ten Kavood project was established in 2012 with the aim of preventing the deterioration of physical and mental health among the senior population of Israel, regardless of religious affiliation, race, or gender. The project works to prevent the all too common instances United Hatzalah volunteers face when encountering impoverished senior citizens who are unable to tend to themselves and cope with their daily routine, or who are suffering from declining health conditions and even, at times, to prevent these citizens from passing away unnoticed.
As part of the project, the program recruits volunteers from the community, including many students through Project Impact. and trains them as first responders to the level of emergency medical responder (EMR) and coordinates between the volunteer and the specific senior citizen whom they visit on a weekly basis.