As we approach the end of 2018, we would like to share our accomplishments in the passing year with our friends and supporters, and to thank you for your confidence in us and in the services that we provide.
ELIYA A Growing Organization
As the single leading organization in Israel specializing in early intervention programs for infants, toddlers and preschoolers with blindness and visual impairment, ELIYA has a special responsibility towards children and their families. Beginning with a small group of 6 children, ELIYA grew to 4 regional service centers in Petach Tikva, Jerusalem, Rehovot and Beer Sheva, serving hundreds of children and their families. In this past year, we were able to make another significant step towards expanding service delivery and outreach by opening a fifth center in Haifa.
To meet the pressing need for services in the north of the country, ELIYA launched a new center in Haifa in September 2018, just in time for the beginning of the school year. Due to the urgency for services, the Center was opened in a temporary location and currently operates from within the Bnei Zion Hospital. We are looking to relocate the Haifa Center to a different facility to ensure that our children receive the best care in a child-friendly setting. In the central part of the country, we expanded our Rehovot Center by adding another kindergarten class. At the end of the previous school year, the Rehovot Center's single kindergarten class was fully occupied. By opening a second classroom, we were able to accommodate children who were waiting to enter our programs at a critical stage in their development.
Organization and Staff Development
ELIYA places a great deal of emphasis on further developing and enhancing our professional field of expertise – optimizing functioning capacity and independence skills in children with blindness and visual impairment. With the generous support of The Mary Bendet Innovation Program for Blind and Visually Impaired Children, we were able to invest in our professional growth as an organization and in the professional development of our staff. First, we were excited to welcome Prof. Kenneth Koslowe as our new appointed Professional Director. Prof. Koslowe teaches at the Bar Ilan University School of Optometry and Vision Science, and specializes in Pediatric Optometry. Along with his many other credentials, Prof. Koslowe is also Founder and Co-Manager of the Vision Therapy Clinic at the Bar Ilan University School of Optometry and Vision Science.
We also appointed a new Head of Visual Stimulation Training. Ms. Sarit Levy, a long-time member of our staff, brings a valuable contribution of two decades of hands-on experience and accumulated knowledge as a care team member at Eliya
Professional emotional guidance and support programs
Parents have a primary and crucial role in their child's healthy emotional development. It is therefore extremely important to give them the necessary support and reinforcement, so that they may benefit their children to the greatest possible extent. In 2018, we held a support group for parents of blind children from all over the country in our Rehovot center, therapy groups for parents held throughout the year in all our centers, and where led by a professional senior group counselor. Additionally, we held several gatherings for parents on various topics.
Emotional guidance is important for our professional team, as well. Dealing with challenging situations on a daily base, both professionally and emotionally, there is a strong need for guidance and support from a senior professional guide. This kind of support was held this year in our centers.
As a result of the need, emotional support was given to a number of children in Petah Tikva center.
Furthermore, in 2017, ELIYA launched the first in-house Visual Stimulation Training Course designed to equip our practitioners with knowledge and applicable tools for implementing visual stimuli interventions to maintain and improve children's residual vision, with emphasis on personalized Dark Room therapy adapted to individual needs. In 2018, we held the second and final part of the course, as well as opened another cycle for new participants. Teaching children with visual impairments to use their residual vision more effectively enhances functioning capacity in several life domains (e.g. mobility, eating, socializing, learning) and facilitates healthy development.
Additional organization developments involved the design of an educational software for professionals and the general public offering resources and information about visual impairments. Also, we prepared for the integration of a new CRM system, which will allow for efficient management of our children's records, including medical history, treatment nterventions and progress assessments. In 2019, the CRM system will be introduced into our organization following data migration and staff training.
Emotional Support for Parents, Children and Practitioners
ELIYA serves as a professional resource for parents, helping them to cope with their child's disability and build strengths that will support his/her progress and healthy emotional development. We believe in opportunities to join with other parents and draw strength and energy from each other. In 2018, all of our centers provided group guidance for parents, and our Rehovot Center held a support group for parents of blind children from all over the country. Additionally, we held several gatherings for parents on topics associated with raising a child with visual impairments.
for the first time in our organization, we provided individual psychological treatment to several children with specific emotional needs in our Petah Tikva center with the aim of improving their emotional wellbeing.
Our care teams also received emotional support to enhance coping mechanisms in their daily and challenging work with special needs children and parents.
Social and Recreation Activities
Social and recreation opportunities are fundamentally important for children with special needs and their families. Recently, ELIYA launched a Playroom Program in our Jerusalem Center. Open in the afternoons, the Playroom, which is specifically adapted for young children with visual impairments, invites entire families to engage in play experiences that enhance children's physical, social and emotional growth, and develop confidence in their abilities, while strengthening family bonds, especially between siblings.
In line with our annual tradition, during the summer, we held our Family Vacation and Summer Camp for ELIYA graduates. These recreation activities provide opportunities for children and families to interact with each other in a fun-filled atmosphere that allows for social support and friendships to flourish.
Changes in the Board of Directors
On October, Ran Croll was appointed as the new Chairman of ELIYA's Board of Directors. Ran is the owner and CEO of Etgal Holdings, which manages investments in the fields of transportation, waste water, energy and industrial companies. His previous positions include Chairman of the Advising Committee to the Israel Antitrust Authority and Director of Budgets at the Ministry of Finance.
Additionally, ELIYA welcomed three new members to our Board of Directors: Tamar Fisher, Meir Elmaliach and Ron Weisberg. Tamar Fisher is a veteran volunteer at ELIYA and has dedicated several years to our Resource Development Department. Meir Elmaliach has substantial experience in philanthropy management, which he gained during a long career at the Rashi Foundation. Ron Weisberg is the Chairman of Poalim I.B.I. Managing & Underwriting Ltd., and brings his vast financial knowledge and skills to ELIYA's leadership.
To Summarize 2018
In 2018, more than 150 children benefited from early intervention programs, and in September, we welcomed an additional 10 children to our new Haifa Center. Consistent with our family-centered approach, we provided concrete guidance and counseling for parents, and a wide variety of family support activities to assist parents to help their children reach their full potential. Also, to ensure that our care teams skillfully implement our unique treatment modalities, we provided advanced trainings for staff members.
Looking ahead to 2019 and faithful to our mission, we will continue to maximally enhance and retain children's residual vision with the aim of improving their functional vision and abilities.
We are also looking forward with excitement to completing projects launched in 2018 that will support our continuous improvement and service enhancement. We hope that 2019 will be a year of achievements no less productive than 2018 and hopefully, even better.