Naomi Ecanow

Living in the Save A Child’s Heart house has taught me that the most mundane activities can foster the strongest bonds when met with smiles, enthusiasm, and unconditional love. On my second day volunteering, I joined a game of UNO with Mati and Denis, two of the boys living in the house. At the time, I was still nervous about finding my place in the house and being able to bond with the kids, so I was relieved to find some of the children knew how to play one of my favorite childhood games. The first game was gentle and polite, everyone saving their +4 cards to spare the others from having to draw more cards from the pile, and all of us still learning the rules of the game from each other. Soon Mati was teaching us how to “stack” cards, meaning different players successively placing down +2 or +4 cards so that the final person would have to take 12 cards collectively from the pile. After each game, more children joined. First Rose, then Kennedy, then Ferdinand. Even some of the younger children, like 5-year-old Barira who still needed everyone’s help to know which card to put down. By the end of the day, everyone was laughing hysterically throughout our games and preventing the others from getting Uno, just like when I used to play with my sibling and childhood friends at synagogue so many years ago.


The next morning, I began to help the other volunteers set up the morning activities, as Denis approached me with the Uno box and asked “you play?” I was not only excited to play UNO with such a fun crowd for another day, but also so flattered that Denis remembered me and enjoyed my company enough to ask me to play again. Since then, we have not stopped planning Uno every day. I have now formed true bonds with the kids in the house, as if we are all siblings or old friends.


Today, I am constantly asked to play, whether it’s for piggy-back-rides from Khalid, to play memory with Tigist, or to hold Faith during dance time, and I can’t get enough of it. Even though the kid’s favorite activities stay the same day to day (memory, Uno, play kitchen, etc.), each memories and conversation is always novel and special. I can’t wait for another week growing closer to the SACH family.

Want to Volunteer at Save A Child’s Heart and play some of your favorite childhood games? Click here to apply


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