Liat Behr, The Malki Foundation’s Executive Director, in the organization’s equipment warehouse preparing an item for handing over to the family of a special-needs child. (In photo on homepage, Malki-Chana Roth)Two days after Malki Chana Roth returned from a summer camp for disabled children where she volunteered as a guide, the 15-year-old Jerusalem resident was murdered together with her best friend and 13 other Israelis in a terror attack on the city’s Sbarro restaurant on August 9, 2001.
Her grieving parents, who held an aspiration to keep her memory alive for generations to come, turned her memory into a living vision called The Malki Foundation which is benefiting thousands of Israelis of every persuasion.
“Malki always had a special place in her heart for weak and disabled children,” says Arnold Roth, Malki’s father. “Ever since she was 11 years old Malki devoted hours of her time taking care of her disabled younger sister, Haya Elisheva. These special characteristics of hers stood at the base of our decision to establish a foundation dedicated to help other parents of disabled children in her memory.”
Keren Malki (The Malki Foundation), founded in 2001, aims to help parents of disabled children who wish to raise their children at home rather than in an institution and as consequence face many hardships and various bureaucratic hurdles. Sadly the public health systems do not make life easy on these families and they are encouraged to place their children in a home where “all their needs will be taken care off”, so they are promised.
“My wife, Frimet, and I visited several such institutions following the public health systems’ recommendations. Our impression was equally bad and we even came to tears as we left one of these places,” Roth told ISRAEL21c.
“It was then when we decided to keep our child at home in spite the great difficulties and the lack of financial support from the state. No parent wished for his son or daughter to be born severely disabled but once such a child is born the challenges faced by the family are enormous. Most families are in no position to face these challenges without some help and our intension is for Keren Malki to assist them right where the state fails to do so.”
In 2003 the Roths launched a partnership with Kesher, a well-established and respected Israeli social welfare organization with years of experience in helping families of children with special needs.
“The Kesher team answers calls on Keren Malki’s behalf and advises them on what steps they should take in order to begin their process with us. Since my wife and I had our own share of struggles with the bureaucratic system, we can fully understand the anguish of the families. However there is one condition: parents must first use the treatments their child is entitled under the law and only then approach us for additional assistance. We also advise them never to yield to the system’s negative approach towards them.”
One good example of assistance that is needed is when children living at home are deprived of therapies. Due to constant financial pressure on Israeli health funds supported by the state, which are responsible for these services, the authorities often seek ways to reduce their commitment. As a result, many disabled children are deprived of their right for essential paramedical care. After a child reaches the age of three, the level of services he is entitled to drops dramatically and parents have no other choice but to pay for private therapists. Since very few families can sustain this expense on an ongoing basis, receiving financial help is crucial. Families can receive up to 80% of their expenses. “Therapies in Home” program acknowledges any kind of therapy treatment as long as the therapist providing the service is a licensed professional and the child resides in the family home.
An additional service for the families includes various equipments such as wheelchairs, standers and other items needed by a disabled child. In 2003, Keren Malki launched a joint venture with the renowned Jerusalemite organization Yad Sarah, establishing its own well-equipped warehouse within the Yad Sarah headquarters building in Jerusalem for the benefit of the families.
Keren Malki is an independent organization with its entire activity funded by donations, mostly raised by Arnold Roth himself and several Friends associations he established. The largest one is based in Melbourne Australia, where Roth emigrated from (and where Malki was born). Two other Friends associations were established in the United States and in England. Nonetheless, 45% of its funding arrives from Australia.
Keren Malki’s policy is to offer its services to everyone who seeks it ? Jewish, Muslim, Christian. “There are more than 400 Arab families with disabled children to whom we helped. As a result of their custom to marry within the family the percentage of disabled children in Arab villages is relatively high,” explains Roth.
“Moreover, I have been approached by a volunteer group from Tel Hashomer Medical Center in Tel Aviv, which is part of a peace initiative for Palestinian children, to find a special wheel chair for a Palestinian child who was crippled and left with no arms. It was probably our good reputation that encouraged them to approach us and of course our state of the art equipment. We have accepted the challenge and do our best to find a chair suited for this poor child’s need, ” he promises.
Keren Malki has already empowered 1,300 families with disabled children, however the Roth family itself was immensely strengthened by the mere fact of keeping their child’s memory alive. “Acting upon her death helped us feel less hopeless,” says Arnold Roth. Apparently, one of the best of helping yourself is reaching out your hand and helping others.