Spreading Goodwill

May 17, 2024

The author Terry Tempest Williams wrote, “Finding beauty in a broken world is creating beauty in the world we find.” Today, I’m honored to profile a non-profit organization called FAISR, which is working hard to do just that. I hope you’ll enjoy learning about how they create beauty by helping others and serve as a model of what we need more of in this world. 

FAISR strives to improve accessibility and inclusion for people with disabilities across the globe.  The work they do has personally touched our son’s life, enabling him to participate in an accessible nature hike which he described as “extraordinary and unforgettable…something that will remain in my brain forever!”  This was all made possible by wonderful volunteers and a special invention called the Paratrek. Looking at the photo below, I can still hear the cheers and feel the sense of togetherness and comraderie that made everyone feel so alive and a part of that day.

A roll in the woods last summer at Rockefeller State Park. Hip, hip hooray!

FAISR is now turning its attention and efforts to assist people with disabilities in Ukraine by helping refugees with disabilities, the elderly, and their loved ones find care and support as they try to flee the ravages of war.

According to FAISR Executive Director Jamie Lassner, the non-denominational Purple Vest Mission Team is growing on the borders of the Ukraine and holds weekly hands-on training to ensure volunteers can best assist people with disabilities.    They use wheelchairs, blindfolds, ear plugs and other items to simulate various disabilities and help volunteers develop an improved knowledge and sensitivity to the needs of every person. 

The work is challenging, and the volunteers stories are sad and plentiful.  Here are two specific examples from recent weeks about who and how FAISR is helping:

  • After waiting for a break in the fighting, volunteers arranged for a bus for 38 children and 18 adults from Donbas and Mariupol.  Many of the refugees had disabilities, some that need constant care.  Operation Purple Vest safely moved them by train to Kyiv, then transferred them to another train in Lviv and ultimately a bus out of Ukraine.  Everyone in this group arrived safely in Bulgaria, which could not have happened without support and training for the volunteer team managing this mission. 

  • Another Operation Purple Vest team assisted two disabled adults to safely flee from Kharkiv to Poland, joining over 1 million other refugees who are resettling there.  Training and support for volunteers was essential, as one parylyzed individual required complete care and ambulance support.

Operation Purple Vest Volunteers
On the road to safety

Even the most “normal” version of life for families with disability presents countless challenges.  I can’t begin to imagine the additional horrors experienced by parents of individuals with disabilities in Ukraine.  As the war rages on, I am extremely relieved to know that heroes like the volunteers of Operation Purple Vest are working hard to help these people – to ensure that no one is left behind because of their special evacuation needs.  Happy to support them, too.

The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity.

-- Amelia Earhart

Interesting initiatives.

I’m committed to sharing good works and good news through this newsletter.  So I’m happy to provide information on two other Israeli initiatives that offer hope to families and communities everywhere. 

The Shira Center is creating developmental centers in the heart of Israel’s academic campuses so people with autism or intellectual disabilities have access to an inclusive environment adapted for them, in addition to studies of their choice. Just like any typical student.  I love what they’re doing and so wish we could apply it more broadly in the U.S.  The organization’s impressive founders are personally impacted by their family members with disabilities and truly committed to making the world more inclusive and supportive of all people. Learn more here

The Special in Uniform program enables young people with disabilities to serve the Israel Defense Force and share their abilities rather than be deffered. This allows them to enjoy the same professional and social development as other citizens mandated to serve the IDF upon turning 18. The program was founded by a father of someone with Williams Syndrome and has hundreds of participants and a long waiting list.  Learn more here

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