Who We Are
In 1979, Miriam Schwarz Z”L, a guidance counselor at the Tekuma School in South Tel Aviv for children with cerebral palsy and muscular dystrophy, organized a weekend of recreation and social activities for eight children with physical disabilities led by a team of volunteers. This was the beginning of House of Wheels. For 5 years, with limited means and unlimited dedication, Miriam worked to implement her dream that began when she first started working with children.
Miriam, who understood the special needs of the students and their families, believed in the power of people and their right to realize this power. She saw the opportunity to be out of the house as giving the child additional opportunities and possibilities beyond what they would be able to receive at home, while also providing a brief respite for the families who cared for them with infinite devotion.
Miriam recruited volunteers based on their personal qualities and interest in being part of her initiative. Over the years, as the organization grew and expanded, the weekend groups became permanent and divided by age, and weekday activities began to be held as well. Today, the weekend groups and their summer camps remain at the core of the organization’s work.
From the beginning, it was the volunteers who created the special atmosphere that defines House of Wheels. The way they were chosen – based on personality and not expertise – became a principle that continues even today. It has always been that volunteers bring their friends to volunteer too. Volunteers stay for years because they become an integral part of the social group that goes through a long term process together. House of Wheels truly becomes a second home for all of its members, those with disabilities and those who are able-bodied. Some of the graduates are now employed by the organization and all of the Board members have been volunteer counselors.
House of Wheels is a home away from home that provides for rehabilitation and encouragement of autonomy within a social setting for children and young adults with physical disabilities. All of our activities promote social and civic participation while creating equal opportunities for people with physical disabilities.
Annual Volunteer Hours
Years of Activity
What We Believe In
At House of Wheels, we envision a society in which there is full social inclusion of all people with physical disabilities in all areas of life from education to recreation and beyond. Our purpose is to engage people with physical disabilities and provide them with opportunities to develop and grow and be part of creating and living in an inclusive society. We believe that all people with disabilities deserve to be able to reach their full potential regardless of their background, and therefore we operate in all sectors of Israeli society – serving Jews, Arabs, Bedouins, Christians, Muslims, and Druze alike.
Based on this vision, our goals are:
Delivering an enjoyable and meaningful social and educational framework
Offering opportunities to experience and develop a variety of life skills
Creating a unique and supportive environment for children who are in special education and those who are in mainstream education
Providing support for families
Fostering the leadership abilities of youth and young adults with physical disabilities
Building a community of dedicated and involved volunteers
Advancing and developing continuing education services
Establishing partnerships and cooperation across all sectors to promote the organization’s vision
What We Do
To achieve our goals, we provide programs to approximately 500 children, youth and young adults at
6 branches nationwide. Our branches are located in Herzliya (serving the center of the country),
the north (Bustan HaGalil and Wadi Ara), the south (Be’er Sheva and Kibbutz Urim), and Jerusalem.
Programs offered at each branch include:
1 | Weekend Groups & Summer Camps:
Every 2 years, in each branch a new group opens for 15-18 participants aged 8-10 joined by an equal number of volunteer counselors. The group meets once a month for an entire weekend for approximately 10 years, until age 21. During their time together, the participants discuss questions and issues that are relevant to them and their peer group while enjoying fun social interactions in a warm family-like environment. These weekend meetings enrich the worlds of the participants and empower them while also giving their families a weekend of respite knowing their children are in safe hands in a supportive and loving place.
The highlight of the year’s activity takes place during the summer when hundreds of participants and volunteers attend 24 summer camps throughout the country. The sleepover camps are held for 5 days and 4 nights and included fun and exciting activities such as kayaking in the north, abseiling in the south, hikes, volunteering in the community and more.
2 |Rolling Forward
Rolling Forward is a unique leadership program for teens aged 14-19 that focuses on preparing them for the completion of high school through acquiring skills needed to manage an autonomous lifestyle – such as basic life skills, increasing self-esteem and self-worth, and exercises in autonomy in real-life situations. The group meets weekly, and twice a month they sleep over at their branch and are then provided with transportation to school in the morning. Once a year, there is a national seminar for all of the participants in this program in all branches, and part of the program includes the completion of a volunteer project to give back to the community.
3 |Young Adults
The Young Adults program is for those between the ages of 18-30 and is a partnership with the Rehabilitation Department of the Ministry of Welfare. It is a 2-year program that provides training and support for the first steps towards integration into society through self-management. The program includes weekly group meetings for 5 hours combined with weekly 2-hour individual counseling sessions focusing on personal growth.
4 |Weekday Activities
During the week, each branch offers a variety of activities and courses for children and youth with physical disabilities. Such activities include: dog training, music, photography, computers, cooking, and more.
5 |Wheels and Wings Day Center
The Day Center in the Herzliya branch was founded to meet the needs of some of our graduates who require additional support and guidance in their journey towards self-management and autonomy. In partnership with the Rehabilitation Department of the Ministry of Welfare, the Day Center provides a solution for over 20 adults aged 21 and over. The Center provides creative rehabilitation programs in a variety of areas: physical, occupational and speech therapies, emotional and social support, leisure and enrichment, social opportunities, and active encouragement and facilitation of inclusion in community life. The Center is open 5 days a week all year long. Its uniqueness lies in its view of itself not as a destination, but as a first stop on the journey towards maximal integration into the community.
We would love to hear from you! If you have any questions or would like additional information about House of Wheels, please send an Email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Here are 4 ways you can get involved…
1. Come visit!
If you are in Israel and would like to see firsthand the amazing programs that are taking place for people with physical disabilities, we invite you to visit any of our branches. If you or your child has a disability and would like to join in any of our activities, we would be happy to make arrangements.
2. Schedule an Experiential Workshop!
Can you imagine what it’s like to live with a physical disability and how the simplest tasks can be so difficult? The Rolling Experience is a life-changing workshop in which you will step into the shoes (or chair, as the case may be) of a person living with physical disabilities and experience their reality. This workshop was developed and is led by graduates of House of Wheels who will share their inspiring personal stories.
3. Lets collaborate on your Mitzvah project!
We work with b'nei mitzvah children to create a charitable projects that fits their interests and goals, making the most out of the experience for them.
4. Follow us on Social Media!
Every “like” and follow on Facebook and Linkedin helps us to grow our community. Please stay updated on what’s happening at House of Wheels.
We are so grateful for the support of our friends from around the world, without whom we simply could not do the work that we do. Please join the House of Wheels family and help make a difference in the lives of people with physical disabilities in Israel.
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