Lea’s father died when she was seven years old and she was brought up by her mother, who supports the family by working as a cleaner. She is the youngest of three siblings. Now 24, she lives with her mother in the coastal town of Acco and commutes to University in Haifa.
“After my father died, my mother did everything for us – it was extremely difficult for her but she is a very strong role model and I owe her everything.”
Lea’s favourite subject at high school was computer science, because she had an inspiring teacher who ignited and encouraged her interest. After school, she joined the Israel Air Force human resources department. Her first priority after completing her compulsory military service was to start earning and saving money to go to university. She worked first in a chocolate factory (which she says was very hard work and not as tasty as it sounds!) and then in a medical supplies company, sterilizing hospital equipment.
“I was never afraid of hard work, but I realized that it would be difficult for me to support myself through university. I managed to pass my university entrance examinations and was accepted by Haifa University, but I really couldn’t afford to study or live there. Luckily I was helped by a local charity for disadvantaged children, who recommended me for a Moshal Scholarship. I had never heard of the organization and didn’t actually believe that I had secured a full scholarship for my entire course – it sounded too good to be true – like winning the lottery!”
Lea had learned Russian from her parents and uses her computer and language skills to help children and old people. She tutors kids from Russian-speaking families whose parents cannot help them with their Hebrew homework, and she helps old people who need to access online services to understand the Hebrew on government websites.
“Today the world is totally dependent on computers – they have changed our lives completely. For old people this sometimes makes life much more difficult, and for children it presents new challenges. The internet makes all information immediately accessible and enables us to talk to anyone in the world, but it is not the same as talking to someone face-to-face. I think that kids need to know how to make the best use of computers, without losing the ability to relate to one another in the real world. Although I love working with computers, it’s important to understand their social impact and to consider the human factor when we design robots and develop new applications.”
Lea is currently looking for work in software programming and receives regular updates from Moshal about relevant job vacancies. Ideally she would love to work in robotics and find new ways to help people to do things more easily.
“My third-year project was to build a robot that could prepare a cup of coffee for someone who could not operate a coffee machine. There are some very exciting new developments happening in Israeli companies, creating robots to help people who struggle with different disabilities and mobility challenges.”
Although she doesn’t like to talk about it, Lea herself has a physical disability that needs regular treatment. This was more of a problem during her childhood, but today she is able to schedule the operations that she needs so that they don’t fall during term time and disrupt her studies. She tries not to let it get in her way, and it has inspired her to choose a specialty that helps other people with disabilities.
“Because of my tough childhood, I am a very determined person and I want to complete my degree with the best possible grades. The Moshal team believes in me and has supported me in so many ways. In addition to their generous financial support, they have helped me to cope with the pressure of examinations and they are advising me on the best ways to find and apply for jobs. Securing my Moshal scholarship was more than just winning the lottery – it was like being adopted by a caring family and also winning the jackpot!”