Am I Jewish? Nope.
Do I speak Hebrew? Negative.
Do I have family or religious ties with Israel? I don’t.
Am I a medical student with an interest in heart surgery? ‘fraid not.
Have I even done any fundraising for SACH in the past? … It’s a no from me.
If someone were to see me volunteering here at SACH in the middle of Israel and shout ‘he doesn’t even go here’, then I guess he/she would be right. So my first point is that you don’t have to be a Hebrew-speaking, medicine-studying, money-raising, whizzkid to be here. Moving on.
A lot of people talk about how resilient the children are, how inspiring the staff are, and what a wonderful organization SACH is. All these things are true, but if you’re reading this then I guess you have an interest in working or volunteering here yourself and you’ve heard all of those things before. Instead I’ve compiled a list of things that I didn’t expect to encounter before I came here which may be of use to you, or may be completely useless. Who knows? So here we go:
- The mothers are great craic.
It’s all about the kids. Yes yes yes. Read anyone else’s blog post to find that out. But the mothers that come with their children have looked after me good and proper. They have fed me, continuously laughed at my dancing, told me to wear proper shoes, and threatened to throw their flip flops at me if I blew any more bubbles too near them. When I came back from my day off they all looked cross, and gestured as if to ask, ‘what time do you call this, young man?’, as all good mothers would.
- Rough and Tumble is a no-no.
I’ve worked on summer camps before where every other second I was tossing a kid into the water or shoving a kid off a canoe. Great fun. Here, there ain’t room for none of that kinda tomfoolery. No siree. No ball games, not much picking kids up, and no ninja fights. At first, I was outraged when I heard this, but it makes perfect sense. The kids are here because they need surgery and there’s not much room to budge on that point. Any room, in fact, which leads onto number 3.
- Forgetting that kids are here for heart surgery.
I visited the hospital yesterday and it hit me like a brick wall. The smell in the children’s house of kula and Israeli sun was replaced with that sterile hospital smell of clean. Wards replaced colourful bedroom doors. Health and safety signs replaced hand-drawn flags of Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania. My job was to go with Iqra and Mama Iqra to the hospital and take some photos of the kids ready to be discharged. I walked around the unit and saw countless nurses from around the world gathered round babies, secretaries welcoming kids back to the ward, and doctors taking readings of a hundred and one things that I have no clue about. In short, all these people were doing the actual work that SACH does. It was enlightening and it put my feet back on the ground, whereas in the house, I had been floating in this arts and crafts, card playing, Ethiopian dancing, bubble. I quickly took some snaps, said goodbye to Iqra whose surgery was the following day then hopped in a taxi back. Leaving, I realized that I had forgotten about the actual work that SACH does, and I felt guilty for it. The worldwide scale to which these surgeons and doctors are working is mind-blowing.
- Uno is a dream.
Seriously. Uno. Is. The best. Game. Ever. Monopoly? Jungle Speed? Snap? Forget it. Uno is number one. I can’t go a few hours without playing it. If you don’t know what it is, go buy it and play it until your fingers are worn sore by picking up 4.
That’s it. Take it or leave it. Obviously, all these things are personal to me, but there’s only one way to find out if they will apply to you. Come and volunteer.