Voc Ed Building and Program Expansion
Guest blog written by Howard Blas, National Ramah Tikvah Network Director:
What a privilege to return for 24 hours to Camp Ramah in New England, the special place that turned me on to Tikvah, disabilities inclusion and vocational training way back in 1984. I have been connected to Ramah and Tikvah ever since and currently serve as director of our National Ramah Tikvah Network.
During my Palmer visit, I was eager to see the newly expanded vocational training building (“Voc Ed”) and share a little history of the building and the program with the staff. It all came back to me as I looked up from our afternoon voc ed staff meeting in the screened in porch and noticed the dedication plaque for the voc ed building from exactly 30 years ago-July 11, 1993—donated by the uncle of Jennifer Horn, a camper I remember very well.
I shared with the staff memories of the Pre Voc room, precursor to the Voc Ed program, which the visionary Tikvah directors, Herb and Barbara Greenberg, established in an old building near the agam. In the pre voc room, Tikvah campers developed such skills folding, filing, following directions and others potentially needed to secure and succeed at a job. I shared stories of the Voc Ed building itself, where participants learned to do laundry, cook and bake, and interact appropriately at a job site. I noted how I am still in touch with a 54-year-old former camper who has been working at a grocery store in Boston for decades and shared stories of others who have gone on to employment at camp and in their home communities.
What a treat to see the newly expanded building, with built in air conditioning and comfortable living quarters, designed to serve even more Voc Ed participants. And how lucky I was to serve as a job coach for the day, helping participants pack snacks for each bunk in camp. I was proud of former campers who have now progressed to the Voc program. Voc Eders currently perform such vital jobs in camp as chadar ochel (dining hall) set up, food prep, working at Café Roo (Ramah’s fancy coffee bar), sorting and delivering mail and packages and working in childcare at the gan.
Voc Ed is a valued and contributing part of the Ramah community. The expanded building is a welcome addition to the program!