Shai Asher-Milton’s Gift

 Gardening and Farm Work at Kibbutz Shluchot

Kibbutz Shluchot
Emek HaMaayanot, 1091000 Israel
https://www.facebook.com/shai.asher.miltons.gift
http://shai-asher.com (Coming Soon!)
Program Director: Menachem Stolpner
Stolpner247@gmail.com
972 54 674 6223

“we have begun to grow in earnest both a variety of herbs in the green house and vegetables in our raised bed garden. We have successfully raised tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, zucchini, yellow squash, eggplant, broccoli & cauliflower amongst others- all for our own use. In the greenhouse, we have grown mother plants used for propagation, from seeds, cuttings and plantings and created a stock of herbs which include: mint, oregano, basil, thyme, lemon verbena & sage which we dry and package. Perhaps our most exciting growth items has been our long-term project of supplying organically grown ginger, turmeric and moringa for sale in the open market. These products were chosen for their important health qualities and limited availability locally. It is our hope that these “Cash Crops” will assist us on our path toward greater financial self-sufficiency. In addition, program participants do woodworking, repurposing discarded materials and creating them into tables, shelving and other furniture. Apprentices have previously secured work on the Kibbutz in the communal dining room, kitchen, mini-market, Kibbutz Zoo, Dairy and the turkey coops both on the kibbutz and on the outside. Future plans include expansion into areas of general maintenance, bicycle repair and services to the elderly.”

In the News:

https://www.jpost.com/opinion/the-israeli-hiring-the-disabled-to-grow-healing-turmeric-and-moringa-646807

https://www.israel21c.org/special-needs-adults-find-meaningful-work-on-kibbutz-farm/

Jewish Life Magazine (South Africa) Issue 131 August 2019

From the Program’s Materials:

Shai Asher (Milton’s Gift), is an apprenticeship program for adults with special needs where they learn trades and develop life skills within the supportive and inclusive environment of the greater kibbutz community. Menachem Stolpner, a former New York social worker, immigrated to the kibbutz in 1997, worked in the kibbutz dairy for 13 years, and founded the program in 2013.  Stolpner strongly believes that individuals with special needs deserve as much purpose, dignity and meaningful opportunities as anyone else.  The number of people served by the program has risen to more than 60 over the course of the past 8 years. Future plans include growing individualized herb plants for home use and selling them at local food markets; planting moringa plants outdoors to grow as trees to increase stock material; increasing turmeric production (to either process or sell fresh to the local Israeli organic market) and transporting workers on educational outings to nearby greenhouses and agricultural projects.

The Coronavirus pandemic posed many challenges to the program mainly through general governmental restrictions on movement and proximity. Shai Asher overcame many of these restrictions due to dispensations given to people classified as “special needs” and as workers in agriculture. This included: relaxing limitations on how far one could travel from one’s home (1km. for general public), limit on group congregation (10), restrictions on indoor activities (all our work takes place outdoors) and dispensations given to agricultural work (unfettered). Closure of the program lasted just 2 weeks during a time of more than a year. Results of our “freedom to work” were a stream of requests for placement in our program, resulting in a significant increase of the workforce. Improvement projects slowed significantly due to permit approval delays and the restrictions on travel.  Instead, we did the work by ourselves including construction cold frame, compost storage bins, compost sifter and a deck.

Additional Information about Shai Asher: Transitional Employment Solutions

Mission:

To provide meaningful vocational/apprenticeship training, employment and career development for adults with intellectual, developmental, social or physical disabilities. The program focuses both on preparing individuals to enter/reenter the job market as well as providing enriching and meaningful work opportunities for those better suited to a sheltered environment.

Purpose:

The program bridges the gap between school (which ends at age 21) and employment in the open market by providing participants with the essential knowledge, skills and “hands on” experiences needed to succeed. Our goal is to increase career options, encourage greater independence and help reduce individual’s dependence on governmental financial support. The program seeks to address the greater than 70% unemployment rate in Israel for people living with a disability.

Challenges/Lessons Learned/Advice:

-financial:

Experience has shown me that most issues surrounding independent innovative projects in Israel face financial challenges. Interest both from families with a special needs individual and established programs serving the population hold our work in high regard but this rarely translates into financial support as funds are mostly through established channels.

Our funding comes from private individuals or foundations who are open to funding new and innovative approaches. During the Covid period, I have found that people and foundations with resources were even more generous than usual. However, with the pandemic effecting every human being the level of priority for funding “special needs” dropped significantly in general.    

-lack of support of host institution

Here too, priorities and resources shifted toward areas other than special needs. In terms of my Kibbutz community, we were left to our own devices to “sink or swim”. I am happy to report that we ended the year thriving: tripling our work force, both professional and special, increased our budget significantly and completed a portion of planned renovations.

-transportation to program (especially during Covid)

(see paragraph 2  “from the program materials)

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