Sarah is an outgoing, friendly, bright 13-year-old girl. She lives with her parents, brother and sister in a small town in the Shomron. Her family is religious and she attends a local national-religious school where she has many friends.
Sarah’s passion is caring for animals. When she was younger her family raised various animals in their backyard, and now they have a dog, which Sarah raised since he was an abandoned pup, and a cat, which Sarah’s sister found on the street and she and Sarah nursed back to health.
Sarah’s mother Chava is a social worker. Over the last school year, she noticed that her daughter gradually lost interest in her studies.
“Sarah confided in me that she felt restricted at school,” Chava said. “She felt she wasn’t allowed to share her opinions or ask challenging questions. In fact, she felt so confined that one day she ran away from school.”
Unbeknownst to Chava, Sarah had started looking for a new school. One evening, Sarah excitedly called her mother over to the family’s computer, showing her a website she had just found, the * WIZO Gan Vanof Youth Village Veterinary Program.
“At first, I wasn’t sure what to think,” Chava admitted. “I hadn’t yet found a suitable alternative school for Sarah, but when I saw her face light up when she read to me off the website about the unique Veterinary Studies Program at WIZO Gan Vanof and the dog training program they have there, I decided to keep an open mind.”
While Sarah’s excitement soared, her mother was more cautious.
“I had no worries about academics, as I knew she would get a top notch education at Gan Vanof, or if she would fit in socially, because she is always able to make new friends,” Chava said. “But being religious, I had some concerns about keeping kosher and observing shabbat.”
Chava then phoned Uri Saar, the Director of WIZO Gan Vanof. “Uri was wonderful. He understood all my concerns immediately. He explained that WIZO Gan Vanof is 100% kosher and that on Friday nights they hold Kabalat Shabbat services in the beautiful new synagogue on campus. He also told me that there are several students from religious and traditional families at Gan Vanof and Shabbat observance is not a problem at all.”
The next day Chava and Sarah visited the Gan Vanof campus in Petach Tikva.
“It was really love at first sight,” Chava says. “Not just for Sarah, but for me as well. As soon as we saw the beautiful campus, met the caring staff, and once Sarah saw the animals there, we knew we had found the right place for her. We made up our minds on the spot.”
As enrollment for Gan Vanof was almost full, Chava quickly registered Sarah for the rapidly approaching school year. Sarah will move into the dormitories in a matter of days, just in time for the new term.
“I strongly believe that you must always follow your heart,” Chava said. “It is obvious to me that Sarah’s heart is here at WIZO Gan Vanof – and we couldn’t be happier.”
* In Gan Vanof’s one of a kind, three-year, five point matriculation Veterinary Studies Program, students learn about exotic animals, treat hospitalized animals, and even assist doctors in imaging and surgery. The program includes studies in anatomy, chemistry and biology, as well as areas of medical and paramedical knowledge, such as common diseases, vaccine theory, types of drugs and animal nutrition.
In addition to their regular high school studies at Gan Vanof, the students in the program also take specialized veterinary courses at Beit Dagan, a local college for veterinary studies. After completed the three-year program, the graduates receive a veterinary nurse’s diploma.
Aside from veterinary studies and dog training, Gan Vanof offers students a wide variety of pre-university academic subjects including herbal medicine & aromatherapy, environmental science, accounting, theater, and more.
(Names changed to preserve anonymity)
(Photo for illustration purposes only)