Let me tell you about my internship while I was in Tel Aviv, Israel. It was at a place called Save a Child’s Heart or SACH. SACH is an organization that brings children with heart defects to Israel for FREE, life-saving heart surgery. I volunteered in the house where they lived, helping with fundraising, but also spending a lot of therapeutic time with the children and their mothers. Being there, with the children, moms, nurses and volunteers, was mentally soothing. SACH is a loving place that I was proud to call my second home while in Israel. It was a safe space. Race didn’t matter. Language didn’t matter. Disabilities didn’t matter. And religion didn’t matter. All we cared about was helping each other, health and safety wise. No matter what language someone spoke, they were always ready to help all the children and adults. Genuine love and respect was shown towards each other.
During the 6 months I was at Save a Child’s Heart, I saw a lot of children coming in sick and leaving healthy. They arrived sick, tired, scared and some of them were alone. Children five and under came with a female relative, but the kids older than that only came with a group nurse. Some made friends quickly. Some clung to their mothers. Others had no one familiar to them, and could always be found alone. Eventually they opened up to each other and the staff and could be found with big smiles on their faces. It was easy to see they needed something constant, reliable, and safe to lean on. Even without knowing a lot (or any) English, everyone was able to communicate with each other. I volunteered to leave my home, family and friends to live in Tel Aviv for six months. These children, moms, nurses, etc. left their homes, for an unknown country and amount of time, to get healthy. I was able to FaceTime with my family whenever I wanted. Those at SACH didn’t always have that opportunity.
Every day that I went to the SACH house grounded me, and helped me become a better person. I stopped thinking and worrying about everything, and focused on the children. What was going to make them happy that day? Most days it was simple, letting them braid my hair and play with my phone. Other days it was cuddling. Sometimes it was visiting them in the hospital, bringing them hugs and songs. Some days we would sit outside with them during their naptime, letting the sun soak in, breathing the fresh air. We were all at peace with one another and the world during those moments.
Some days at Save a Child’s Heart, it wasn’t even about the children, but their mothers. Some mothers had to watch multiple children receive heart surgery before their child. Mothers having to watch children come to Israel and leave before their child got any real help. Mothers who had to leave their other children and spouses at home for an unknown time. Mothers, who spoke a different language than everyone else and had no one to turn to. These mothers needed us. They needed a shoulder to cry on, or an ear to talk to. Or even a distraction. Sometimes words failed me. Maybe it was because of the language barrier, or maybe it was because I could never imagine being as brave as them. Some parents traveled 18 hours just to get their child tested; and then traveling to another country for an operation. I didn’t know what words of advice to give them. Being me was the only thing I could offer them—smiling, laughing, playing with their children, helping whenever possible. Turns out that was also the best thing I could have offered. It was the best thing I offered to everyone at Save a Child’s Heart. The smiles said it all.
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