Caregiver Rabab Kabaha: A whole new life lies ahead

Rabab Kabaha graduated from the first caregiver training in the Academic School for Nursing at the Hillel Yaffe Medical Centre in October 1st, 2017. Since November of that year she has been working in the “Until 120” Parents’ Home in Hadera. The course was a pilot implemented by WAC, the National Director of the Implementation of Geriatric Standards at the Ministry of Health and the Hillel Yaffe hospital.

Rabab is 36 years old , a mother to 4 daughters, and lives with her husband, a factory worker, in the village of Barta’a. She finished 12 years of studies but did not complete her matriculation exams. She would have loved to continue on to higher education, but her economic situation did not allow for it.

Rabab is an activist by nature. She runs the old age club which belongs to the local authorities in her village. There she tends to 75 people every day daily until 2 PM (a half-time position); she took a lifesavers’ course in Nazareth (144 hours) and became a Medical Emergency Technician of Magen David Adom (MDA), the Israeli parallel to the Red Cross. This enables her to accompany schoolchildren’s trips, especially her daughters’ trips as well as the club’s; she volunteers once a month at the earthquakes rescue unit; finally she has been trained as early childhood assistant.

How does society regard all this activity, I ask her? Her family in Kufr Qara where she was born and grew up did not approve, she says, they are conservative. But her husband supported her, and in Barta’a where she married and lives, the local council encourages women to learn and work. Thus the courses are free, and many young women volunteer to the first aid trainings of MDA.

“There is a great difference between the generation of our mothers and the generation of our daughters, she says. My mother was secluded at home, poor, always worried about the future and was in stress. I am of a different generation. I don’t see the point of sitting at home, staying poor and living under stress. If I won’t help myself, no one will”. Yet the problem in Arab villages is not to get trained but to find work, she says. So when she saw WAC’s internet add about the caregivers’ course in a local site, she registered.

“I love working with the aged, so I enjoyed the theoretical part of the course. But when it came to practical experience training I felt I couldn’t do it. It is a great responsibility to touch the body of another person, especially males, it frightened me. So I decided not to work as a caregiver”. It was Wafa Tiara, WAC’s representative who changed Rabab’s mind. She called Rabab and asked her to give it a try for one week, and then decide. “Tiara told me that if I am not admitted to work now, later on it will be harder. Now there is a momentum. She accompanied me to the work interview, talked with the manager about me, and told me to call her if any problem arose. So I gave it a try and here I am”, says Rabab smiling.

Rabab admits there were difficulties in the beginning, but her supervisor helped her, taught her new techniques of work, and adjusted her shifts so she could continue her morning job in the old age club. “Work is very demanding. in my shift it is my responsibility to find pressure sores, to clean the elderly when necessary and tend to problems they suffer from. On the other hand I sometimes feel as if I am in a high class hotel. The institution provides for hairdressing, pedicure and manicure, the old are always well dressed and perfumed, so they feel pampered, and so it should be. Old people need to feel respected”.

“I give my all to this work, there is never time to rest. Sometimes I feel like a fire-fighter because I help people in need, and when I tend to them I feel as if I was helping my own parents. Old people should live as kings and queens as long as they can”, she says. On the other hand she feels this work deserves more than the minimum wage it pays, especially to those who were trained, and is sadly aware that the state has different priorities. “Women agree to take the minimum wage, she says, because they don’t have many choices. Most men cannot provide for a family on a minimum wage, so there are very few male workers in old people’s homes”.

“Nevertheless I am not complaining”, she says. “I earn 4,500 NIS a month including evening shifts, for less than a full time job, and this is not a negligible sum at all. My husband encourages me to work, my daughters came to visit me at work and loved the place. The old here come from European origins, they like me, I reciprocate, I dance with them when there is music and have fun with them. I encourage my daughters to learn, to work, anything is better than staying at home. Work allows me to pamper myself and my daughters, and to save money for their studies. I feel a whole new life lies ahead”.

אודות Michal Schwarz