I remember in my third grade play we sang a song that repeated over and over again, “When you give you receive.” I never fully understood this saying until a couple days ago when a friend of mine asked me what I was doing with Save a Child’s Heart. After explaining my role in the house my friend simply said, “Em, I’m sure you are changing these children’s lives.” All I could respond was, “No…. They’re changing mine.”
Ever since I visited the SACH House with my Birthright trip about a year ago I had wanted to return and have my opportunity to work with the kids. After spending a semester traveling the world and studying abroad, I thought, what better time than now to spend a couple weeks in Israel working for SACH. I had an entire semester to see various countries, embrace different cultures and gain a sense of independence that I had never experienced before, but I think these past two weeks are what I’ll remember most for the rest of my life. I wanted to give back, to offer my time after living like a free spirit for three and a half months, but I didn’t even think about just what I would receive in return.
Day in and day out I would arrive at the house and be welcomed with hugs all around. Regardless of the language barriers we would laugh as we completed puzzles, colored pictures, did yoga, and, a lot of the time, just enjoyed each others company. I will never forget our endless dance parties or the girls sitting on top of me each with a bundle of my hair in each of their hands as they braided my entire head.
One of my first days here at the house, one of my little girls had her first birthday. Sad to be away from home, and unable to leave the baby without hearing shrieking cries, her mother was ecstatic when we had the kids make decorations for a surprise birthday party for the baby, Aseda. Aseda and I started off on a rocky foot. I tried to play with the toy car she was playing with outside upon arrival, but needless to say, she was not about to share her toy with a complete stranger. Her mother told me shortly after not to take it to heart, and that she cried when anyone got close. As the two weeks continued, I started to be welcomed with arms reaching toward me rather than the scared looks I had encountered at the beginning.
Now, Aseda and I are often inseparable and the thought of leaving her makes me want to cry in the same way that she did on my first day. This is just my relationship with one of the kids though, the others are pretty much the same. They take time to warm up to you and let you into their lives, but once they do they leave everlasting footprints on your heart.
I had the opportunity to work with 13 of the most amazing children I have ever met. Each one is filled with life and excitement, regardless of their medical conditions and the circumstances that they encounter. I can’t help but look at them and smile, because they’ve definitely taught me a whole lot more than I could have possibly taught them.
I came here to give, but instead I received more than I could ever imagine, and for that…. I can never thank Save a Child’s Heart enough.