“Anything is possible!”
Rachel began sharing her childhood story slowly and tentatively as if she was not certain where her telling would lead…Then suddenly, as though she found her footing, she began sharing more excitedly, allowing the words to flow out of her compassionately and energetically. Rachel’s family had made Aliya to Israel at the end of 1984 with Operation Moshe. She is the second to last in a family of seven children. Other than one uncle who remained back in Ethiopia, the entire family made Aliya at the time, living out a lifelong dream. Rachel was born in the seaside city of Hadera in Central Israel and shares fondly with me memories of what she describes as a very happy childhood. She recalls playing outdoors a lot and rescuing the street kittens in the neighbourhood – playing with them and feeding them. One of her strongest memories was planning activities for the younger kids in the neighborhood and spending hours enjoying the fun together.
When Rachel was 14 years old, the first cohort of the Israeli scouts began organising activities in Hadera. Rachel became very active with this new venture and just two years later was a youth counselor for younger children in the same group. She excitedly recalls that “this was the first moment I realized that something clicked for me and I became interested in studying education” Following her army service in the security offices at the Kiriya in Tel Aviv, Rachel decided to work for one year before studying to “find her way, her path for the future”. During this time, she learned to drive and explored various avenues of study. She began studying human resources in Emek Israel and after one short semester, realized it was not for her and left the program. She never looked back! Soon after, Rachel registered at the Lewinsky College and studied early childhood education to become a nursery school teacher. This change in study suited her well. She met new people and worked on a freelance basis as a teacher in an elementary school, as well as a facilitator in an after school enrichment club. Then she became a registered nursery school teacher through the Ministry of Education in her fourth year of study. At that time, she felt a strong connection between her ongoing love of animals and work with children and decided to combine the two at the Seminar Hakibbutzim.
When Rachel first approached Keren Hanan Aynor for assistance with her studies, she was turned down, however, she did not back down and lose hope. The second time she applied, she was accepted and feels gratitude and appreciation for the support and love she receives. She claims it has really been an incentive to follow her dreams! Rachel knows that her studies and her current work are the right place for her to be. She currently works with adults with developmental delays using animals in a therapeutic way. Additionally, she works with at risk youth in private therapeutic settings and states passionately that her work with animal therapy in these complex settings is a catalyst for challenging feelings that may not otherwise arise and find their place. Rachel claims that her work with such populations is giving them important tools for their future, which is something very positive. For Rachel, it is about reaching their souls – deep places within them in suffering in pain. She feels confident she is doing good work and as she tells her story, I become confident as well.
Rachel pauses and then returns to her family and childhood… “I have an educational family”, she explains, telling of her siblings and their involvement with various formal and informal educational positions. “My parents were always very supportive of my dreams and gave me the message that I could succeed”. Now when she returns home to her neighbourhood, she does so with her head held high, a role model for future generations of young Ethiopian girls with a dream to study and make a difference!
Keren Aynor is proud to call Rachel one of our beloved trail blazers this year – the first to study animal therapy and to really make a difference in her field. In her modest, yet energetic way, Rachel is truly following her dreams and changing the lives of those children and adults with whom she works. As she told me: “anything is possible!” Indeed it is!