June 21, 2024
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Jewish Institute for the Blind Sends a Team to the Paralympics

(Courtesy of JIB) The Olympics may be over, but for many athletes the sporting excitement is just beginning. The Paralympics are set to start next week, Tuesday, August 24, and the Jewish Institute for the Blind (JIB), a venerable 100-plus-year-old organization serving the visually impaired, has four goalball representatives in Tokyo.

Goalball is a team sport for athletes with a vision impairment, where a ball with bells embedded in it is thrown into the opponent’s goal. The game was first included in the Paralympic games in Toronto in 1976.

Four of the six girls—Lehi, Gal, Roni and Elham—participated in an after-school program at JIB. It is through this program that they were exposed to sports, since they were not able to compete in their respective schools with sighted peers.

The program they took part in is called “Noar Yachad,” meaning “youth together,” and its aim is to bring middle and high school students together in a group where everyone is equal—where everyone is blind or visually impaired—in order for them to bond with like-minded peers and work together to improve their skills. It is a program that runs throughout the year on weekends and during vacations. Students meet for workshops, trips and social activities, and create friendships that strengthen their ability to integrate into their schools and the sighted communities that they are part of.

The program offers crucial support, and it is because of this that one of the girls, who almost dropped out of school altogether due to a confluence of a difficult socioeconomic and family situation, was able to discover her talent in goalball. Success builds on success, and having this area where she knew that she was strong also positively influenced other areas of her life.

Our sports programs are open to youngsters from all demographic backgrounds living in the State of Israel, the common denominator being visual impairment, and one of the athletes on the team in Tokyo is from the Arab sector.

The two other women on the goalball team joined the JIB when they attended sports camps while at school. The sports camps are held three times a year, for a week at a time. Students participate in sports like sailing, goalball, tandem biking and more, all of which are adapted for the blind and visually impaired. Were it not for the significant exposure to sports activities at the Jewish Institute for the Blind, and their perseverance in the sports, the girls would not have reached the Paralympic competition.

The team has already won medals previously, and being part of this team has also strengthened their ability to integrate, to persevere and succeed in other areas of life, such as community and family.

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