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Brewing social change for adults with CP in Israel

Bira Kadima is an innovative home brewing project with an 'after taste', designed to engage adults with CP and build their capacity across a number of areas, including employment, social inclusion and self-efficacy. It is a project run by Tsad Kadima, the Association for Conductive Education in Israel. For its work in the area of Contribution, including Employment, Bira Kadima has won a World Cerebral Palsy Day 2018 Major Award.

The project

Hebrew for “A step forward”, Tsad Kadima was established in 1987 by parents and professionals with the desire to provide education and rehabilitation to children and adults with CP and other physical disabilities.

Tsad Kadima programs are designed using the Conductive Education approach (also known as the Peto approach).

According to the organisation this is: “a unique life course educational system for the upbringing and development of infants, children and adults with cerebral palsy. It provides a model that children with lifelong conditions can change and develop given the necessary environment, skillful mediators (Conductors), learning opportunities and a conductive tool box (the needed pedagogy) together with constantly instilling motivation.”

The organisation aims to enable participants to become actively involved, reach a level of functional independence and participate inclusively in various life frameworks and settings, be it school, social or community.

“The conductive paradigm shifts the focus into a world of psycho-social, the holistic, wellness and wellbeing,” Dr Rony Schenker, Academic Director.

All this underpins the goal of Tsad Kadima’s innovative therapeutic home brewing program, which is run in the Adults Day Centre. Participants – forty adults with CP, aged 25-45 – are involved in various stages of the process from planning and setting up, through to production and marketing.

“The program allows a complex activity that simultaneously develops various skills which build off each other: motor function, cognition, communication, social skills, emotional skills and more,” explains Rony.

The skills learnt also build employment capacity and motivation for action amongst participants.

One of the reasons Tsad Kadima chose home brewing as an activity is that it is age-appropriate and has social acceptability as a trendy activity. It is also hoped that the Bira Kadima project will become an agent for social change through participation and engagement of people with disabilities in the community.

The ideal brew

Also key for the homebrew program was the fact that the actual production of beer is relatively inexpensive, does not involve much equipment or materials and does not involve extensive preparation. The production time from preparation to final product is approximately one month.

The Bira Kadima project was initiated in three stages:

1. Research and preparation

Initially, a core group of staff members undertook a homebrewing course to gain knowledge and skills around the process. The necessary equipment was then sourced to establish a microbrewery at Tsad Kadima.

An introductory course was delivered to interested participants at the Adults Day Centre. The course covered topics such as a history of beer, beer culture, brewing ingredients and the process, which involved hands on learning.

2. Brewing

Brewing is performed one day a week and each participant takes an active role in different stages of production. There is a production line setup with individuals responsible for each task. In some cases, subgroups are formed for tasks that require teamwork.

All materials and processes, from learning through to brewing, have been adapted to the participant’s skills and abilities. Providing accessible work tools and areas to meet the needs of participants while maintaining the sterile conditions required for brewing was a challenge. Another was designing a safe rehabilitative work area suitable for people in powered wheelchairs. However, these obstacles were overcome and the microbrewery environment and equipment have been adapted to ensure maximum active and independent participation for everyone.

Staff members and volunteers provide supervision and guidance, ensuring the safety of the entire operation.

3. Marketing and sales

Participants in the program are actively involved in preparing and producing the logo, packaging, marketing materials, as well as promotion on social media.

Community spirit

A major partner of Bira Kadima is the family-founded, award winning craft brewery Shapiro Brewery. Their team provide input into the process by advising, volunteering and helping initiate collaboration with local pubs for events.

“Bira Kadima has been launched in a well known pub, and sales take place at special beer events in pubs within the community and at beer festivals,” explains Dr Schenker.

Local homebrewers also volunteer, taking part in activities, providing advice and, the most important part, tasting the beer!

Through events and media coverage, Bira Kadima has gained wide attention. This has prompted members of the public to come forward as volunteers in the program. The program is successfully demonstrating to the community that people with disabilities such as CP can learn and develop new skills, participating in the community as young adults.

The future of Bira Kadima

In its 12 months of operation, Bira Kadima has produced and sold thousands of bottles of beer. But the most important outcome has been the increased motivation, self-efficacy and positive self-image of the participants. All of which has been reinforced by personal development and a sense of belonging to a wider community of beer brewers.

“Beer brewing created an excellent opportunity to design an enabling environment that encouraged participants to take active roles in interest-based activity of their choice,” says Dr Schenker.

Participants have reported enjoying having a professional knowledge that many people don’t have, as well as enjoy the social aspect of going to events and being part of a normative social activity.

Many families members have also been impressed with the project, some of whom never expected that their adult children would become so engaged and committed to an activity.

The success of the Bira Kadima project is leading to further development of the process, with hopes to upgrade the technology used in production. Plans to collaborate with students from the Department of Industrial Design, Academy of Arts and Design to design new packaging, marketing and website are also underway.

Tsad Kadima would also like to further develop the framework and the brewery itself to become an employment facility for adults with CP to facilitate income generation. There are also plans to open a commercial brewpub, serving beer and food to the public, enabling participants to learn front of house-skills as well.

With all this brewing, it is easy to see why Bira Kadima is more than just a beer.