CHW Weekly Stories

Canadian Hadassah-WIZO (CHW)

Hugs for Rosa

Story from World WIZO, The WIZO Impact, Issue No. 6 (minor changes made by CHW)

*Name Changed for Confidentiality

It is 7:00am on a spring Sunday morning in Tel Aviv and *Rosa can hardly wait to be unbuckled from her buggy to be swept up into the arms of the metapelet (caregiver) in a warm hug at the WIZO Daycare she attends.

Over the weekend, Rosa has missed the closeness of her warm and welcoming caregivers. She has missed climbing upon the knee of the nursery assistants and playing closely with her little friends. Over the weekend, Rosa had sat alone, mostly watching TV. Sometimes, she looked out of the window and saw other children and their parents playing in the park, but Rosa’s mother did not approve of that.

It was only at the daycare that Rosa could be totally at ease sitting on the floor, picking up her toys and playing with the puzzles because no one there insisted on wearing plastic gloves when they picked her up or took her by the hand. And as a two-year-old toddler, Rosa was entitled to be messy and she needed to touch.

But home is fraught for Rosa. Despite the pleas from her husband, Rosa’s mother refuses to get treatment for her obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), which has had an adverse effect on her daughter’s well being. Rosa’s mother will not hug her daughter for fear of germs, nor will she brush Rosa’s beautiful blond hair because she says she ‘might catch something’. She insists on covering the handles of the buggy with plastic bags and she pushes her daughter away when she tries to hold her hand.

Rosa’s mother cannot bring herself to have any close physical contact with Rosa. Typically, her OCD manifests itself as a fear of contamination by dirt and a compulsion for extreme order and tidiness. One time, Rosa arrived at the daycare with red, sore hands when her mother had scrubbed them too vigorously to ‘get rid of all the germs’ after Rosa had stroked the neighbor’s dog. Rosa’s mother often sends Rosa to the daycare wearing dirty clothes, as she believes there are also germs lurking in the washing machine.

Away from the daycare, Rosa’s father is the only stabilizing factor in the little girl’s life and he works closely with the social workers and support staff at the daycare but his work requires him to often spend time abroad. Sigal, the WIZO social worker, explains: “I always know when Rosa’s father is away, because we see a regression in Rosa’s responses and behavior. I am in close contact with her mother, I invite her to therapy sessions, and she is always happy to comply. I bring her into my office with Rosa and talk to her while Rosa plays with the toys on the floor and we chat, completely at ease. It is important that Rosa’s mother sees that it doesn’t bother anybody for Rosa to roll around on the floor and pick up toys from the floor. There have been breakthroughs. Rosa’s mother has opened up to me. She admits she has a problem and she wants to make life easier for her daughter. In fact, we have seen a great improvement since Rosa first came to the daycare just one and a half years ago. She was such a closed, introverted baby, so unused to physical contact. We have shown her that it is natural to touch, to hug and to share. She responds so well now.”

Rosa attends the daycare from seven in the morning until seven in the evening. She receives all the basic physical, emotional and developmental needs as well as nutritious home-cooked meals. Her parents are grateful to the daycare staff for their professional and holistic care of their daughter. They have benefitted greatly through therapy and parenting courses. Rosa’s mother had suffered post natal depression soon after Rosa’s birth, which resulted in her OCD. She says she does not know what she would do if it were not for the love and support of the WIZO staff. “I do try but I find it so difficult to respond in the way that Rosa needs me to. My heart breaks when she puts her arms up for a hug and I can’t give it. I want to but then my OCD takes over and I just cannot bear to touch her.” Rosa’s mother confided. “One day, I know I will but for now, I can only thank WIZO for providing my beautiful daughter with the hugs and love she so deserves.”

Dalia Loves to Dance

Story taken from World WIZO, The WIZO Impact, Issue No. 6
*Name changed for confidentiality  

Dalia* loves to dance. Whenever she hears music, she jumps from her chair and sways her body as graceful as a swan. “She wants to be a ballerina,” Dalia’s mother explained, her eyes glistening with pride, “And I will move heaven and earth for her to fulfill her dreams.”

It was not so long ago that such aspirations would have been unthinkable. Dalia’s mother looks wistful as she recalls how she had wrapped her petrified six-year-old daughter and her two-year-old son in blankets and bundled them into the taxi in the middle of the night.

A social worker accompanied them on a long journey to the WIZO women’s shelter in Ashdod, far away from her violent husband’s reach and far away from their home, which had become the unhappiest, most dangerous place on earth.

For long days, Dalia cowered in the corner of the room she shared with her mother and brother at the shelter, her body shaking in fear. In the middle of the night, the screams of her nightmares pierced the silence as the women in the shelter who had been released from their own nightmares finally slept soundly in their beds.

The child psychologist who worked with the children at the women’s shelter was very gentle in her approach to Dalia, letting the child open up to her at her own pace. She worked with Dalia on a one-to-one basis, quietly obtaining her trust. The breakthrough came when Dalia timidly reached out and took the cute little teddy bear that the child psychologist offered her. Dalia hugged it tightly to her chest, and asked timidly, “Can I keep it?” As the psychologist explained, “Of course, we treat the mother and her children. The children generally cannot process the atrocities that they have witnessed, particularly when one loved parent attacks the other. We, as grownups, cannot accept it, so can you imagine the emotional damage this has on an innocent child?

With patience and sensitivity, Dalia’s fragile confidence was restored by the child psychologists and the social workers who drew out painful truths and encouraged the child to focus on what she liked to do, what made her smile. Through music and movement, Dalia was able to express her feelings, and this paved the way for the soothing therapies that empowered this little girl to let go of her fear and the dark emotions that had always clouded her young life.

After their time spent in the WIZO women’s shelter, the family have healed and moved on. Dalia’s mother has returned to work equipped with new skills and new self-worth, her little boy is in a WIZO Daycare and Dalia attends school. Every week, Dalia attends ballet class, and according to her tutor, she has real talent.

Dalia is just one of thousands of children who, along with their mothers, have been both protected and empowered by their time spent in WIZO shelters.

These are all children who have either witnessed or been subject to a variety of damaging behaviors and abuse, resulting in deep-seeded psychological and emotional trauma. The main goal of the shelters is to provide a safe haven where they prepare the mothers and children for an independent and violence-free life. To this end, the shelters provide group and individual therapies as well as tutoring to assist in any lack in studies. Mothers receive legal aid, therapies for mind, body and soul as well as crucial job training – and the children receive what every child deserves – a childhood far removed from harm.


Story taken from THE WIZO IMPACT (removed some details to make suitable for CHW)


From the moment he was born, Tal* suffered the agony of narcotic withdrawal. His mother had used Heroin all through her pregnancy and Tal displayed classic signs of NAD (narcotic abstinence syndrome). His symptoms included tremors, poor feeding, breathing issues, irritability, fever, low muscle tone, and stiffness.

At the age of four months, Tal was referred by the welfare authorities to a WIZO Daycare. He had severe mental and motor development issues. Tal was a very sad baby. In the early days in WIZO’s care, Tal would lay rigid in his cot with a pained expression. Tears ran down his cheeks and yet he barely had the strength to cry. Unlike the other babies, he did not kick his legs or arms. He did not respond to heat, cold or hunger and no matter how much the caregivers tried to raise a smile from him none was forthcoming, and as the other babies began to sit up, and to crawl, Tal lay still. The daycare director, Maya*, nursed Tal and he began to eat. She spoke softly to him, and carried him around the nursery pointing out everything in an attempt to coax a reaction. She said that he was just like a rag doll in her arms. Maya explained: “Tal required a comprehensive treatment regime to stimulate his cognitive and motor senses. It is between the ages of four months to twelve months that mental and motor-sensory deficiencies surface and this is the time when treatment becomes crucial. We worked tirelessly, together with therapists, to stimulate movement and strengthen his flaccid muscles and bouts of limb stiffness. You would always find me sitting in my office massaging his little arms and legs while doing other jobs. Tal taught me to multi-task!

Eventually, the weak and fretful baby began to put weight on. He started to respond to treatment and caught up with many of the other babies. The perseverance of the day care staff paid off. When Tal took his first steps, the entire daycare erupted in applause. Tal’s grandmother who looks after him witnessed that memorable event. “When he toddled towards me, with a big smile on his face, it was the happiest day of my life. I have endured so much heartache with my daughter in and out of rehab, I volunteer at the daycare, helping to feed the babies at meal times. It keeps me from thinking about my own problems, and now, for the first time, I can see that Tal has a chance to look forward to a happy and healthy future. I have WIZO to thank for that,” Said Tal’s grandmother.

Caregiver, Sigal, added, “Oh but you should see him now! We call him ‘Tal hatotach’ (Tal the cannonball). He never sits still; he is full of energy. He is such a bright, inquisitive child.” Maya adds, “I am often asked if it is difficult to work in a daycare where the needs of the local population are so great. It is true to say that we fight a battle for the children in our care on a daily basis but I would not have it any other way. Seeing Tal, and the other little children like him running around the playground laughing and smiling makes it all worthwhile.”

Tal is not the only baby at a WIZO Daycare whose earliest years have been blighted by circumstances and the life choices forced upon them by their parents. He is one of many who have been referred by the welfare services. “We don’t differentiate,” said Maya, “It doesn’t matter how difficult their backgrounds are. What matters to us is that these children get the same start in life as every other child so that they are equipped to face whatever the future holds. Life is not easy but why should they suffer? In our care, they thrive, they get home cooked nutritious meals, they play, they learn and they are safe. They get remedial treatments when needed and of course all the love and hugs that every child deserves.”

*Names changed for confidentiality

Link to original article:

Tal’s Story

During her pregnancy, Tal’s husband, Yoni emerged from prison more violent than before. An 18 year old bride in an arranged marriage in Iran, Tal found herself alone with a violent husband when her family left the country to escape the revolution.

At 37, Tal escaped to Israel with her 4 children, aged 4-17. Yoni followed her and started drinking, becoming more violent and self-harming in front of the children. The police and social services became aware or the situation and sent Tal and her children to a WIZO Shelter.

The expertise of WIZO professionals helped Tal find her strength and care for her children. During her 8 month stay at the shelter, Tal started working at a WIZO daycare where she has been for 17 years. Tal found an apartment and the confidence to move on with her life. Her children have been to university and the army, and like their mother, are happy and contributing citizens.

For nearly 100 years, CHW supports World WIZO and Shelters for Battered Women; helping to ensure women are protected, advocate for their rights, and instill a sense of hope within women in need.

Tal’s story illustrates the critical impact Israel and WIZO Shelters have on people’s lives. Israel provided a place of refuge for Tal and her children, allowing her to escape persecution and danger in her native country. She and her children were absorbed and their needs were taken care of by the state, helping them to enter a shelter that enabled this family to have a second chance at life. 

(Story originally from World WIZO. Tal’s name has been changed for confidentiality)