Jessica Schneider’s Trip to Zanzibar

I recently had the privilege to visit Zanzibar to see various families that I had grown close with while working at Save a Child’s Heart this past fall. I started my position at SACH knowing how much I loved working with kids but unaware of the friendships I would build with their families. The mothers who come to Save a Child’s Heart are the strongest and kindest women I have ever met. Each family opened their homes to me with such warmth and compassion. It was amazing to be able to meet kids’ parents and siblings after growing so close to them while they were awaiting and recovering from their surgeries. What shocked me though, were the conditions of poverty that many of the families live in. We all are aware that Zanzibar is considered a developing country, but it really hits home when you see the children who had access to a plethora of toys and food at all times while in Israel live in very different conditions at their real homes. Nonetheless, the kids were still always happy and smiling but it’s important for anyone coming to work at SACH to really understand the background these kids are coming from. I encourage anyone coming to work at SACH to research the home countries that the kids are coming from, along with trying to pick up on simple words in their languages, and getting to know the mothers. You’ll learn the most from listening to the mothers’ stories and experiences, so make sure to appreciate and cherish your time with them.

On the first day, I woke up to Roina and Lulu giving me the most adorable cake that Ostiana had one of her student’s bake for me as a welcome gift. I was fortunately introduced to a past patient and volunteer, Tamima, who I had the pleasure of hanging out with for the rest of the week as well. Ostiana, Tamima, and myself took a tour of Stone Town and ate a traditional Zanzibar lunch. We then visited Nouman and his family at his house and were welcomed with cookies, juice, and fresh fish. Seeing Nouman with his parents was the greatest gift. I had grown very close to Nouman while working at SACH, and everyday he would pretend he was talking to his parents on the phone, and I loved being able to meet the people he cared so much about.

Roina and Lulu giving me the most adorable

The next day, Ostiana’s family and I traveled to a beautiful beach in Nungwe where we had lunch and relaxed in the ocean for hours. Roina and Lulu had never experience the ocean before so it was amazing to see them switch between making sand castles and splashing in the water all afternoon.

Roina and Lulu at the beach

On the third day, I had the privilege to visit Ostiana at her school where she teaches and where her students absolutely adore her! Ostiana, Tamima, and myself then visited Hapsa and were welcomed with fresh cake and lemonade. Hapsa had three procedures while at SACH and was there without a parent. It was amazing to meet her family, see how much progress she’s made, and hear about how she’s liking her schooling experience.

Ostiana at her school where she teaches

We then visited Arjif and his mother at their house where Arjif is now walking and talking, which he wasn’t doing when I knew him at the SACH house.

Ali and his mother

The following day, we traveled out of the city center to a village area where Ali and his mother live. Ali had just received his surgery when I finished my internship at SACH, so it was amazing to see him all healed and energetic again. His mother welcomed us with ciabiatti and dip, which was of course delicious. She gave me a tour of her home and village area along with introducing me to her husband.

The next day, Nouman’s family came to Ostiana’s house for the afternoon where all of the kids colored pictures, played tag, and enjoyed each other’s company. I really cherished my time spent with his family because I had grown so close with him at SACH where he was with only his aunt. He always made me laugh and put a smile on my face and to explain that to his parents was truly a privilege.

On the last day, Arjif and his mother visited us at Ostiana’s house where she brought me a variety of local snacks including delicious cassava chips. I also had the chance to meet her oldest son that came with her. The last time I had seen Arjif he was still having breathing issues through his nose, so it was incredible to witness the progress he was making.

That night, coincidentally on the first night of Passover, I had a very unorthodox seder as I indulged in pizza at my last dinner with Tamima, Ostiana, and her family.

my last dinner with Tamima, Ostiana, and her family

Working at Save a Child’s Heart was such a privilege and it was even more of a blessing to meet with the families I had grown so close with in Zanzibar. Ostiana and her family treated me like I was a part of it during my entire visit and the warmth and comfort they provided was incredible. This visit was filled with endless smiles, story sharing, and lots of eating.

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