Riley Noik

I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect when I walked into the SACH house for my first shift.  Naturally I was a bit nervous and a little apprehensive. Although I was confident in my abilities to interact with children, I couldn’t help but think, “what if they don’t like me?” What if we couldn’t even understand each other? This apprehension didn’t last very long, for as soon as I stepped into the house, one of the young boys, who I later learned is named Sanusey, came running to me, gave me a huge hug, and grabbed onto my hand. For the rest of the day we were inseparable. We danced together, we played all kinds of games, drew some pictures, and he even tried to feed me his dinner.  From then on, every time I walked into the house, he came running to me. He would jump into my arms, put his nose against mine and smile. Just a few weeks removed from life-saving heart surgery, and his smile could light up the whole world. There are no words to describe the connections that are formed in the SACH house and the intense feelings that these young kids evoke. While I imagined that this would be an incredible experience, I had no idea what an impact these kids would have on me.

I have been to Israel a few times, but I have never had an experience quite this special. The first thing I noticed about the SACH house was what an incredible environment it is for the children. The staff and volunteers work extremely hard to create a warm, loving place for these children to stay in, and truly make it feel like home for each child. One of the specific things that amazed me was meal time. The children each sat in groups based on what countries they came from, and the mothers in the house cooked according to each distinct culture. It was absolutely incredible to see how the various cultures had such different ways of eating, as well as the huge diversity of the foods and flavors. It was clear that this really helped the children feel comfortable and at home. At the SACH house, the staff pay attention to these small details, which is extremely important in creating a truly comfortable and warm environment for these children.

The love and support provided at the SACH is so clearly reflected in the smiles of the children. These young children are going through so much, as they are in need of serious medical attention, and are far from home, often with only one or no family members at all. Yet, every child has a warm smile on their face, and they are constantly laughing, dancing, playing, or trying to steal someone’s phone to take “selfies.” It is impossible not to fall in love with these children. Even though I was only there for a short time, I developed a unique relationship with each child, and truly love them all. I quickly learned that the simplest things mean the world to these kids. Just doing a puzzle, dancing with them, and most importantly smiling, makes their day. I will miss everyone in the house, and I am already planning to return to the house and volunteer for longer. Volunteering at SACH was an eye opening, incredibly special and life changing experience that I will remember forever.

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