Imagine going to a country three times before, only to find on the fourth trip that the country is partaking in a war.
Special education major Abby Baron ’14, traveled to Israel this past July to complete a summer internship at the Tel Aviv Center for the Blind.
“I wanted to do this internship because I have a passion for traveling and working with individuals with special needs,” Baron said. “I have many years of experience working with children and adults with a wide range of ability levels, but one area that I wanted to improve on was working with the population of people who are visually impaired.”
Only two days after her arrival, the conflict between Israel and Hamas became serious, and Baron was presented with an additional task. The cerebral palsy center combined with the Tel Aviv facility because they had a bomb shelter.
Baron had prior experience working with teenagers with cerebral palsy, and the collaboration of both organizations allowed her to enhance her knowledge of the disability. However, Baron said she lacked hands-on experience dealing with emergencies involving air raid sirens and rockets flying overhead.
“The first time I heard a siren, I was more confused than scared because I had no idea what was happening,” Baron said.
Baron said she was fully aware that she was in danger because whenever a siren would go off, she never knew if the rocket would land or be stopped by the Iron Dome, Israel’s air defense system. From the moment the siren sounded, Baron said she had a mere 90 seconds to run to a shelter.
The gravity of the situation never stopped Baron’s work, though. As the sirens became more frequent, Baron became used to the routine of running to the bomb shelters.
The language barrier was defenseless against Baron’s confident mindset. Although she had been exposed to the Hebrew language her entire life, she had never become fluent.
With her limited vocabulary, Baron said it was extremely challenging to communicate with blind, Hebrew-speaking individuals. She used trial and error to comprehend what they intended to say.
Baron said this was relevant experience to becoming a special needs educator.
“In my future classroom, I will have unexpected events pop up, and having this internship under my belt has made me a more flexible educator,” Baron said.
In her previous trips to Israel, her main goal was to tour and volunteer. This time, Baron said her primary focus was to immerse herself in the culture and community.
She used this experience to learn important lessons she could then relate to her future.