WHY I JOINED THE ISRAEL GUIDE DOG CENTRE
By Martin Segal MCIOF, UK Executive Director
In 2011 a member of my close family was celebrating a milestone birthday. I wanted to get them something ‘different’ and special for this birthday. I asked various people in the Jewish charity sector for ideas for a memorable ‘donation’ and one of these people suggested a very small and obscure charity in Israel called the Israel Guide Dog Centre.
Having lived myself in Israel for almost 10 years I was very interested in this idea and even more intrigued since I had never even heard of the charity beforehand.
I made the donation of the family members behalf and the charity issued a very lovely birthday certificate that was received extremely favourably by the birthday celebrant.
I had become curious about the charity and connected with their, then UK Director and Chairman of Trustees. The charity had an amazing story having been founded by an ex-paratrooper after finishing his army service and discovering that there was no organisation in place in Israel for blind people wanting a guide dog. I became more interested in the charity.
Then one evening in 2012, I got a call to say that the founder and CEO of the charity, Noach Braun, was in the UK and wanted to meet me. I agreed and he visited me at home. He told me his story and all about the charity and how he had made it his life’s mission to ensure that blind and visually-impaired Israelis had the chance of a better life and independence by partnering them with trained guide dogs in Israel.
That evening changed my life forever. The passion and drive that Noach exuded while he was in my home made me realise that her was something that I could do to help his vision to become a reality. I told him that I was going to join the ‘UK Friends’ charity and would do everything I could to help him.
The following week I met the Chairman of the charity here in the UK and joined the Board of Trustees soon after.
The following year my family and I went to visit the Centre and made a ‘in memory’ donation in honour of my late wife who had passed away in 2006. This was the first of many visits to the Centre.
In 2014, I stepped back from my professional life as a Security Consultant and stepped down as the then Chairman and Trustee of the charity to take on a newly created role of full-time UK Executive Director of the British Friends of the Israel Guide Dog Centre for the blind. A position that I hold until today.
The Israel Guide Dog Centre is a magical place. It is an oasis of calm in a busy country that seems to have so much going on always. It is a place to go to witness the ‘miracles’ that the people perform there every day. We help people who have lost their independence to regain it. We assist people who are scared to go outside their homes to travel and socialise. We help families who have a child that they can’t communicate with, speak to them again, and we help wounded IDF soldiers suffering with the terrible effects of PTSD to trust their 4-legged partners to re-engage with the world around them.
WE CREATE MIRACLES!
We call these ‘miracles’ partnerships. A partnership is when we take a trained guide or service dog and match them with a blind or visually-impaired person, or a child with autism or an IDF veteran with PTSD. We call this the ‘shiduch’. And yes we employ ‘matchmakers’ who conduct these miracles every day!
Once you have met any of our blind or disabled clients and had them tell you how the trained dog has changed their lives you simply fall under the same spell that I, so luckily, fell under in 2012.
There is Ruth, who went blind while giving birth to her son, she tells me that with her guide dog Roxi by her side she can rely on herself to do what she wants.
Then there is Eli, a highly decorated soldier from the Yom Kippur War, he lost his sight and an arm in a tank fight. Strong and stubborn when I ask him why he wanted a guide dog he simply roared, ‘independence!’.
Or Uri, another wounded ex-IDF soldier, who lost his sight in the first Lebanon war. Uri’s words will always resonate with me every day that I am in this job. When I asked him what it is like to get a guide dog he told me, ‘Martin, my friend, it is like taking a prisoner and releasing him from his handcuffs’.
My job here in the UK is to ensure that the Centre has enough funds to keep on producing miracles for people like Ruth, Eli and Uri. I will not let them down!
The biggest impact to date that I have been personally involved in are two really large legacies that the charity received, one earlier this year and another one about 5 years ago. Legacies are a major source of income for us and all charities.
If you want to help me and the Centre create more miracles now please go to our website and you can learn more about what we do and, most importantly, donate please.
Our website is www.israelguidedog.org.uk
But better yet why don’t you call me and I can tell you so much more about our work and even arrange a tour for you and your family when you are next in Israel. Call me on 020 8090 3455.
Over 90% of our operating budget come from charitable donations, so please help us if you can.
Martin Segal – UK Executive Director
Israel Guide Dog Centre UK
UK registered charity 1188449