Botanica provides transitional employment for people with mental illness in Jerusalem
A little shop called Botanica recently opened under a geodesic dome at Jerusalem’s new shopping/dining/cultural complex, The First Station. And if you walk in to buy a plant or register for an urban gardening workshop, you won’t be able to tell which of the employees is a client of Shaf Yativ, a non profit that innovates new ways to integrate people with mental illness into society.
Botanica is a social business, explains Shaf Yativ co-founder Rabbi Guy Avihod, a 38-year-old father of five. Over the course of a year, he expects that 70 or 80 clients will gain valuable work experience in this eco-venture.
“Botanica will be a place where they can work for six to nine months as part of the staff,” Avihod says. “It will be their opportunity to learn about themselves and learn social and work skills. Afterward, we can help them get into regular jobs.”
Unlike a sheltered workshop, a retail social business provides opportunities to interact with the public. A similar project to Botanica is Café Motek on the campus of northern Israel’s Tel Hai College, where local residents with psychiatric disabilities are among the paid staff and the clientele.
Managed by young Jerusalemite Amos Zruk, Botanica is a transitional employment training center as well as a hub for community integration using eco-therapeutic activities such as plantings and recycled art projects.
Avihod plans eventually to develop an ecological center for community mental health. “Studies around the world have linked mental health and wellness to ‘green activities’ and connection to nature,” he explains.
In recent years, there has been a growing awareness within Israeli society of the fundamental importance for individuals with severe mental illnesses to integrate within the community. Not only has it been recognized that integration is an important component in the healing of the mental illness itself, but in the process it can provide the opportunity, actually the motivation, to live a normal life, achieve goals never before dreamed attainable. Shaf Yativ has been created as a place of hope, our aim is to assist our students in breaking the mold and give them basic tools that will help them integrate into society.