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Fight for social inclusion

14 March 2019

Society sometimes treats people with learning disabilities unfairly and Ian Piczenik, Support Assistant at Kisharon Vocational College, is passionate about creating change.

“I want to see a future where people with learning disabilities will be fully integrated into society. They face a big injustice throughout their lives that will govern their position in society. People the world over differentiate too much in the way they treat, and employ, those with special needs. What is needed is an ‘accommodate’ mindset.”

Studying anthropology at University College London (UCL), Ian, 22, works part-time at the college as a job coach, supporting students with English lessons, teaching computer skills and running a cooking class.

His interest in disability inclusion started with a gap year job as madrich (supervisor) at Israel’s Darkaynu yeshiva for young men with special needs. A pivotal moment came when Richard Franklin, now Chief Executive, gave a talk about Kisharon to UCL’s Jewish Society.

Ian said: “I told Richard I wanted to work at Kisharon and that summer became a volunteer. People from the local community who had never volunteered at Kisharon before worked side-by-side with people with learning disabilities, forming good connections.

“Anthropology is the study of people and how we act and behave in society. It’s giving me the tools to approach, understand and evaluate why society is the way it is,” says Ian, whose dissertation is on ‘Disability inclusion in the workplace.’

Working at the college provides Ian with the focus and motivation that fuels his calling in life. The fact that he is a similar age to many students has helped create a good relationship between them. “We are helping each other to fulfil our potential,” he says.

This year, it will be Ian who talks to the UCL Jewish Society, motivating students to get involved in Kisharon.

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Pirkei Avos
“The world stands on three things: Torah, the service of G-d, and deeds of kindness.” Kisharon looks at the person not the disability, teaching Torah, Middos and Mitzvot embracing and cherishing everybody’s special talent and bringing out the best in them.