Grantee Highlight: Tivkah for Parkinson

A Personal Connection

When Debbie Shapiro was diagnosed with Parkinson’s, she was overwhelmed. She knew very little about the disease and resources were scarce in her home country of Israel. After consulting numerous experts, she knew she couldn’t just sit back and do nothing. Noting the extreme stigma around Parkinson’s among the Orthodox community, she started workshops for people to learn about the disease. By the time 2017 rolled around those workshops transformed into Tivkah for Parkinson. The Sephardic Foundation on Aging (SFOA) played an instrumental role in helping Debbie get her organization off the ground, giving three grants totaling $147,400 since 2018.

2018: First Steps

In 2018, Tikvah received a $47,400 grant for the expansion of its Wellness program and outreach. This was the first donation Tivkah received and it was an emotional moment for Debbie. “I remember when we got that call from SFOA I burst into tears,” says Debbie. “At that point we were still in survival mode.” The grant also allowed Debbie to move Tivkah to its own offices and, as a result, she doubled the amount of classes offered. These programs included a retreat for patients that offered everything from exercises to lectures. Said one participant: “I have no words to express my gratitude to you for the amazing study/vacation retreat you organized for the Tikva For Parkinson’s organization… My husband had been very skeptical about the whole exercise thing, and this mindset had directly impacted the progression of the disease. After the retreat, he is a different person, motivated and determined to use the knowledge he gained.”

2020: Pandemic Support

Tivkah had big plans for 2020, with office renovations completed that would allow the organization to expand its core programs. The pandemic threw a wrench into those plans, forcing the organization to quickly pivot to virtual classes and workshops. A $50,000 grant helped to support some of that transition, including the distribution of “one-touch” tablets to patients so they could easily access classes. Tikvah made a particular effort to reach the computer illiterate with their online programing, making an IT professional available to aid participants who had difficulties with technology.

2021: Continuing Virtual Programming

While Israel and other countries are starting to return to “normal” following a difficult year, Tivkah’s virtual programs remain popular. In June 2021, Tivkah received a $50,000 grant from SFOA that allowed this programming to continue. The online classes include group physical therapy, group speech therapy, exercise (boxing, dance, yoga, Tai Chi, stretching) occupational therapy, support groups and educational lectures.

“You Made This Possible”

When Debbie started Tivkah, it was difficult to find even one support center for Parkinson’s in Israel. SFOA’s support ensured that Israeli patients and their families have an option. “We couldn’t have done this without SFOA’s generosity,” says Debbie. “You made this possible.”

Posted November 1, 2021