The heart and soul of education at ORT Argentina


28 October 2009 The heart and soul of education at ORT Argentina ORT Argentina prides itself on regularly producing some of the countrys top achievers in the sciences and technology but it is just as serious about instilling mentshlichkeit into their students. To that end the ORT Almagro High School has long provided opportunities for its teenagers to contribute to the less fortunate through a variety of volunteer social work run under the aegis of its Ceibo Project Solidarity Student Programme. Now, one of those programmes in which students provide educational and emotional support to children with cancer has won an honourable mention for quality and excellence in the annual Presidential award for the best such programme. Other programmes under the Ceibo umbrella include the teaching of Israeli dancing to children with Downs Syndrome at the HaMakom Sheli School, providing toys and assistance for patients at the Garaham Hospital, providing support for the school serving the children of very poor farm workers at Villaguay, 400 kilometres from Buenos Aires, and doing maintenance work on their school, and raising money for the Chalala tribe of indigenous people near the Bolivian border. I sincerely congratulate the 300 students who directly work on this project with such joy and commitment, said a delighted Avi Gonen, Chair of the Ceibo Project. They personify the symbolism of the ceibo, Argentinas national flower and the emblem of our social programmes, which is love. An ORT Argentina student raises the spirits of a child with cancer. The project was impressive enough to stand out from the 3,800 school programmes evaluated by the Ministry of Educations judges this year and win 2,000 pesos for the Natali Dafne Flexer Foundation, which provides support services for children with cancer and their families. The students perform a variety of recreational activities with children attending our Foundation, including group games, music workshops, robotics workshops, computer science, and magic and experiments, said an appreciative Edith Grynszpancholc, founder and President of the Natali Dafne Flexer Foundation. The novelty of the project is that all their activities arise from the application of what they have learned in different subjects in the school curricula. To ensure maximum participation as well as to maintain interest every week a group of students from a different track at ORT Almagro take the lead. So one week, students from the musical production track may thrill the sick children with an exploration of percussion instruments while the following week students from the chemistry track will conduct experiments in an entertaining way. The children with cancer have fun, laugh and enjoy a moment away from the disease and its treatment; they rediscover their own resources, develop their creativity and strengthen their bond with parents and siblings, Ms Grynszpancholc said. It promotes the childrens socialisation with peers and the computer workshops provide them with the ability to enjoy seamless communication with family and friends via the Internet as well as increase their access to education. The educational potential for the volunteers was immense, she added. The volunteers are adolescents, in the transition from childhood to adulthood. By putting themselves in the lives of others, sharing their problems and helping them, they enjoy invaluable personal development, she said. Mr Gonen agrees passionately. You can know a lot about maths but have a heart of stone, he said. We need to develop our emotions and relationships with others. We have students who are among the best at maths or biology which is fantastic. But students need to know those who are less fortunate in order to develop their empathy and humanity. The dedication shown by the ORT students is matched only by their modesty. Dario Szlain, 17, majors in electronics so he and his friends took robots which they had designed and built as part of their class projects to their appointments with the children at the Natali Dafne Flexer Foundation. One of the robots was remote controlled and was used to play miniature football and the other had a light sensor which was used to enable it to complete puzzles. We played together and we helped to distract the kids from their problems, Dario said. It felt good to be able to help. What we got out of it is not the issue; its about what the children have gained. We were there to help them so its more important for them than for me. I think they were very happy; they were certainly enthusiastic.