Etgarim means “challenges” in Hebrew. It’s also the name of a groundbreaking non-profit organization that helps disabled children and adults in Israel take part in extreme sports and outdoor sports.
Founded in 1995 by a small group, including two disabled Israel Defense Force veterans and several rehabilitation experts, it allows more than 5,000 children and 700 adults to take part in strenuous activities such as running, cycling, sailing and ropes.
Etgarim members have won gold medals. One example is its sailing team, comprised of disabled IDF veterans, who won the gold medal in the Athens 2004 Paralympics.
Last year, Etgarim started a weekly running group in Tel Aviv’s Hayarkon Park, where many of the runners are blind, and run with their wrists joined to the wrists of their sighted peers.
“It was established following the need of the actual founders since they saw that cannot do what other people are doing. There are no facilities, there’s no equipment, no activities for people with different disabilities,” says International Resource Development Manager Adi Schneider.
Schneider believes the effects of the activities carry over into all areas of the participants’ lives, saying that the great thing about Etgarim is the way it empowers them, as they begin to gain confidence and to believe in themselves and their potential. These gains are visible she says, in improved results at school and better relationships with relatives and friends.