Israeli innovators muster to help 12 injured soldiers reclaim their dreams

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For 72 hours, Israeli tech innovators were gathering in Tel Aviv to address a variety of challenges faced by 12 wounded war veterans, of whom seven are Israeli, four American and one French.

The program, entitled “Makers for Heroes,” is the first international event of its kind. From April 30 to May 2 2018, some 200 volunteers — programmers, engineers, physiotherapists, doctors, psychologists — will put their heads together to find solutions to challenges these veterans face as a result of injuries they incurred while in service. The projects will be developed and tailored to each former soldier’s needs.

The initiative was organized by RESTART, a nonprofit organization that helps soldiers break out of the injury cycle and get back to the normalcy of daily routines. The organization’s main focus is to connect injured soldiers and veterans to leaders in the tech and business sectors, and to work together to develop new ways to improve their quality of life.

During the event, the volunteers, the so-called “Makers” were divided into teams, each one aiming to solve a challenge for a specific veteran. The goal is to create a 3D-printed working prototype solution during the three days. If successful, the prototypes will be further developed.

With these initiatives, “we solve things. We don’t change lives, but we give people a feeling that if they want something, it can be achieved,” said organizer Niv Efron, an IDF veteran who was shot in his wrist and chest during the 2014 Gaza conflict and was left with a nonfunctional left hand. Efron himself was the subject of one of RESTART’s earlier pilot projects.

“They built a device to help me do pull-ups,” he said. “Most people don’t do pull-ups, but as a combat soldier I used to practice and do pull-ups on a daily basis.” Not being able to do them was frustrating, he said, but suddenly, after the Make-a-thon, he was able to do them again.

“It is not only being able to do something again suddenly that makes a difference. It is also understanding that there is no limit to what you can do. You realize that you can find a solution, it just depends on your motivation.”

This is the first time the Makers for Heroes event is international. “We saw our experiences are similar,” Efron said.

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