More than 40 Bar/Bat Mitzvah kids, children of severely disabled veterans of Zahal (IDF) arrived in Canada this week for a four-week summer camp experience, embarking on a journey as they leave behind their childhood and celebrate their adulthood.
The children bid their parents farewell last week, and left for an impactful trip. Among those kids who arrived within the framework of the “Kids of Courage” project, one can find stories of challenges with everyday difficulties. These children’s greatest hardship comes from the combination of their parents’ severe disabilities coupled with the onset of their own adolescence. Until now, each of the participants in the past projects has called it life changing.
Ela Shmueli comes from a family where all six children are “graduates” of the program. Ela took part in the 2006 camp and returned this year as a Counsellor. “In our family each of the sisters convinced the other to join,” she says. “From the moment I returned from my trip 11 years ago, I understood that I wanted to go back to the project and help kids like myself (children whose parents are Zahal Disabled Veterans) deal with their hardships. Luckily, my previous trip to Canada turned me into a strong, mature young woman. This is exactly what I’d like to pass on to those kids participating in the project today.” Her father, Uzi Shmueli, was wounded in a conflict with terrorists on Har Dov. He is in a wheelchair and 100% disabled.
Lisa Levy, Executive Director of Beit Halochem Canada, Aid to Disabled Veterans of Israel, says, “We named the program Kids of Courage, as these Israeli children need a lot of strength to face their different and challenging home lives. Coming to Canada and going to summer camp is an incredible experience. Both the Israeli and Canadian children gain a lot, altering their lives forever.”
Here’s a look at how the summer went in their eyes: