‘Happiness and meaning through inclusion’
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First JCAS Ambassador

‘Happiness and meaning through inclusion’

The aim of our organisation is to foster an inclusive and accessible environment in our schools and Donna symbolises these goals."

Donna Cohen, the first ambassador for JCAS.
Donna Cohen, the first ambassador for JCAS.

Donna Cohen has been appointed the first ambassador for the Jewish Children’s Aid Society (JCAS).

Donna was involved in a serious car accident when she was 18 years old, and was chosen as the charity’s first ambassador, to support the inclusion of children with special needs in Melbourne and to assist in its campaign to provide support to 252 students across 11 Jewish day schools.

In 1990, Donna, now 50, was hit by a probationary driver after returning to her sister’s home in Toorak following an outing with her niece. She defied her doctors’ prediction that in the best case scenario, she would live in a vegetative state. With the help of her family, friends, a team of carers and years of rehabilitation she re-learned to walk, talk and live a meaningful life.

JCAS president Trevor Cohen said Donna’s appointment as the first JCAS ambassador is “fitting” given the “strength, resilience and determination” she has shown in tackling her challenges physically and mentally.

“The aim of our organisation is to foster an inclusive and accessible environment in our schools and Donna symbolises these goals,” he said.

Her appointment comes after more than 20 years of service as a volunteer at the Posh Opp Shoppe, which is one of JCAS’ main fundraising avenues.

Board member of JCAS Melody Curtis explained that the Posh Opp Shoppes encompass the broad principles of the charity, being sustainability and inclusion as all funds raised go towards children with disabilities participating in mainstream Jewish education.

Donna is also a regular on the speaking circuit, sharing her cautionary tale with high school students as they embark on the journey of becoming probationary drivers.

“JCAS touches nearly every classroom of every Jewish school … in doing so, it educates everybody in the class about the importance of acceptance and inclusion for all children,” Donna said.

She added, “I hope that by giving some sense of what it is like to have my challenges and how I have attained a real strength, happiness and meaning by finding my place in society, people might want to help others find their strength, happiness and meaning through inclusion and acceptance of children with extra needs.”

JCAS integration coordinator Sharon Goodhardt told The AJN, “With the dedication and commitment of teachers and assistants over 250 children with various disabilities and disadvantage were able to enjoy mainstream Jewish school education in Melbourne.

“School plays, Purim celebrations, guest speakers, sport carnivals and everyday life was made accessible to all through the continued funding of support assistants by JCAS.”

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