Menachem Ashash is 30-years-old and volunteers as a part of United Hatzalah’s Ten Kavod project. He is originally from Netanya but currently resides in Be’er Sheva where he’s studying to become an electrical engineer.
Last year, Menachem was introduced to the Ten Kavod project through the Impact program that provides students with scholarships in return for community volunteering. He joined the impact program and took a 48-hour training course to become certified as an EMR (emergency medical responder).
As part of the Ten Kavod project, Menachem has committed to visiting an elderly person in his community. He was paired up with Fanny Malka, an 85-year-old woman who lives in Be’er Sheva. Menachem pointed out that after visiting Fanny regularly, his relationship with her has grown and he no longer sees their visits as volunteering, rather as a friendship. He said that even during the summer, while other students went on vacation as all their hours were filled for the year, he continued to meet with Fanny for that very reason. It was important for him to not put a limit on their friendship. Menachem also realized how hard it was for her to go out of the house and walk around, and to do the things that she needed to do. “I feel that if I weren’t there to help her, she would have no one and I don’t want her to feel neglected, so I keep visiting her even during semester break and summer vacation,” explained Menachem.
Menachem visits Fanny around 1-3 times a week. “Even if I can only be there for a few minutes, I make sure that I am there at least once a week to see how she is doing and offer her a smile. We always engage in interesting conversations and I appreciate each time Fanny offers me words of wisdom and tips for life. I really learn a lot from her.”
“As of now, Fanny is residing in a seniors’ residence, and her hearing and speech are slowly declining, but she always makes sure to show how appreciative she is to me. I usually like to push her around outside with her wheelchair to get some fresh air and we’ll sit in the garden together and talk. When she was living at home, I would call her while I was on the way to offer to make a pit stop at the supermarket in case she needed anything.”
“There are two really memorable visits that we had together and I would like to share them with you. The first time we met after one of the waves of corona she refused to leave her house and thought it wise to not have any visitors. In order to accommodate her I would drop off a gift basket of things she would enjoy, but mostly we spoke on the phone. The first meeting we had after the restrictions lessened was around a month later. It was so emotional for us both. We hadn’t seen each other in a long time so we ended up spending hours together. It was nice just being with her after so long apart. We even made a trip to the supermarket to pick up anything she was missing.”
“The second truly emotional meeting that I had with her was around a week after she fell and injured herself. Fanny’s daughter called me after she fell to let me know what happened. Thankfully Fanny was okay, but she was still in pain a little bit during our meeting. It was also very emotional because we have grown so close and to hear that she got hurt made me sad and worrisome. I tried to help her as much as I could, even more than usual, because she was still in pain so it was hard for her to do household chores, like washing dishes. So naturally, I did them for her.”
Menachem said that his meetings with Fanny have made an impact on his life for the better. “It amazes me that before we started having our regular meetings, I was nervous about how it would go and had doubts about joining the project. I didn’t know what to speak about with her and didn’t know how to act in the presence of senior citizens in general. But now, we speak freely with each other and enjoy our heart-to-heart conversations”
Menachem said that he feels the meetings have changed him and made him a more caring person. “I also have noticed that my day-to-day behavior has changed for the better when it comes to helping the elderly. If I see someone on the street who looks like they may appreciate help, whether they are carrying groceries or anything else, I immediately jump at the opportunity to help. I definitely have more appreciation for these people, as should everyone. They wrote our history. The least we can do is say thank you and help them with what they need. It’s important and we mustn’t forget.”
When asked if he would continue volunteering for Ten Kavod even after he graduates from University, Menachem responded, “Of course, without a doubt. I’ve made a friend for life and it is not something I’m going to stop just because the program has ended. It is something that’s been etched into my life and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Each meeting that we have together is memorable just like two best friends hanging out.”
Simi Malka, Fanny’s daughter, spoke on behalf of her mother. She praised the Ten Kavod project wholeheartedly, saying that it has helped her mother tremendously.
Simi gave a little bit of backstory on her mother- Fanny grew up in Morocco and made aliyah to Netanya, Israel. She lived there with her husband and three children. Around seven years ago, her husband sadly passed away. Fanny worked in the cleaning industry for many years before retiring.
Simi said that even though her mother has children and grandchildren, they don’t always have the time to come visit, even though they would like to. “Everyone has their jobs and their families to take care of and can’t often make the trip out to our mother’s house to visit. So, having a caring person like Menachem that helps our mother and makes her happy is truly amazing.”
“A few months ago, my mother suffered from a stroke. Thank G-d she is okay, but it has taken a toll on her verbal abilities. She used to love to talk and tell stories, and now she rarely speaks. Having Menachem come each week and speak with her has been so helpful in allowing her to express herself and speak her mind. He takes the time to have conversations with her and encourages her to speak too and share whatever she may have on her mind.”
Due to her current medical situation, Fanny is staying in an old-age home. “Even there, Menachem comes to visit. He takes her outside to the garden and they pass the time together. It really makes her day when he comes, offering a friendly smile. I see how much he has an impact on her life for the better and it truly makes me happy to know that my mother has Menachem to visit her and take care of her.”
“Menachem is such a sweet person. He would always bring my mother packages or flowers, and the small presents, though small, showed how much he cares. It’s heartwarming.”
“Everyone wants their parents to be in good hands. That’s why I think so highly of this project. They look out for the elderly in our communities, especially those who don’t have families to take care of them. It’s a world in and of itself and I tip my hat to all those who are part of the project. Please keep Ten Kavod going, and I pray that more and more volunteers join in order to do so.”
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