Melody Aheto

In a world full of violence, chaos and political despair, Save a Child’s Heart is an organisation which I believe is restoring the faith and hope in the kindness and goodwill of humanity.

Save a child’s heart (SACH) is an Israeli-based NGO that provides life-saving cardiac surgeries totally free of charge for children from less developed countries that unfortunately have congenital (developed from birth) or acquired (developed later in life) heart defects. Both of which impedes a child’s quality of life, making it extremely difficult for them to live a normal, active and healthy lifestyle.

The vision and purpose behind SACH goes far beyond the norm and has hopefully answered the many questions you have as to why SACH is so special, and a God-given aid to children born and raised in countries whereby the medical infrastructure is less advanced to perform such intense and transformative cardiac procedures.

The past two weeks spent at SACH has undoubtedly been a blessing and one of the most memorable experiences I have embarked on to date. Before I dive deep into sharing my awesome experience at SACH, I would like to tell you a bit about myself.

I am a university student studying a BSc in Cardiac Physiology at St George’s University of London. I encountered a documentary aired on a Christian channel on sky TV countless of times called “Tikkum Olam” – a Hebrew phase which means repairing the world. I was extremely impressed by the voluntary work doctors; nurses, interns and volunteers were doing at Save a Child’s heart. As I watched this program I could envisage myself contributing to the organisation and making a huge impact to the many children and families who benefit from SACH.

To wrap up this section of this blog, my decision to volunteer at SACH was not solely based on the strong connection between the organisation and my choice of study, but mainly due to the fact that SACH was providing care to thousands and thousands of children in need from different parts of the world such as Zanzibar, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Kurdistan, the West Bank, Gaza (Palestinian authority), and much more. The month of June 2019 was a significant month for the SACH organisation as they operated on their 5,000th child from Zanzibar, a patient whose mother had also received care from SACH as a child. On top of that care is given regardless of the child’s religion, age, gender, colour or financial situation.

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I arrived in Israel just after 5am on the 7th of July 2019. I was overwhelmed with many emotions and thoughts as I made my way to the SACH home in Holon, just twenty minutes from Ben Gurion (TLV) airport. As the taxi pulled up I could hear the sound of many kids doing what they do best… playing, shouting, screaming and genuinely having a good time with a group of high school kids from America who were on a group visit to SACH. Just as the taxi drove past I saw two lovely young ladies walking towards me, Marissa – the SACH US Young Leadership Director and Hattie – a SACH intern. They were both so welcoming and caring and their simple gestures like carrying my bags up the stairs proved to me how much they valued anyone who entered the SACH home.

As a young Christian woman, I strongly believe that God paved a way for me to visit this beautiful organisation in Israel. I thank God for orchestrating this divine connection and relationship with Save a Child’s heart.

After receiving a well-informed tour and briefing of the SACH home by the amazing housemother, Laura, it was time to meet and interact with some of the kids and their mothers. At first I found this somewhat challenging as I was unsure how some of the mothers would receive me. Despite the uncertainty I made a conscious effort to get to know the kids and their mothers too.

There are countless of memories I have with these mothers but would like to share one. Mummy Andy and her fourteen-year-old son from the Solomon Islands had been in Israel for just over a month at the time of my arrival, patiently waiting for the call to say that it was time for Andy to undergo his surgery.

On the 18th of July 2019, Mummy Andy and myself were in the kitchen having our usual morning chats when we received the message that Andy’s surgery was scheduled to take place the following day. After several minutes of processing the news we had just received, I remembered how Mummy Andy had mentioned to me many times that she wanted to visit Jerusalem, specifically to the Western wall to pray for her son before he underwent his surgery. This dream became a reality as the Ambassador of Solomon Islands kindly organised a tour to Jerusalem for Mummy Andy and her son. We both stood in awe at the sequence of events that occurred up to this very point, both full of joy and excitement. Mummy Andy looked at me with tears rolling down her face saying “Melody, please if you can, visit me and Andy at the hospital”. This is something that seems to replay in my mind even as I write this blog post. At this very moment I realised that I was not just simply a volunteer at SACH, but an individual who mummy Andy could trust, rely and find comfort in during times of need.

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At SACH, children five or under are usually accompanied by a mother, while other children come in groups and are accompanied by a nurse who speaks their language. Amina (5), Yves (8), Tambwe (7), Marie-Claire (10), Aline (12), Asya (13), Claudine (13), Zaharani (13) and Abdalla (15) are the names of the children who came to the SACH without a parent. This alone hit home, and made me appreciate the times I have experienced some sort of sickness and my mother would be present with me at all times. Despite their young ages, and not having a familiar face around them for 3 or more months. The bravery and sheer strength and courage they have to cope in a foreign country without a parent is inspiring, completely breath-taking and sometimes beyond comprehension.

Spending two weeks with these amazing people seemed like a very short time, but being around them constantly as a full time volunteer was the best way to build the most unique relationships. As my time at SACH was coming to an end, I was dreading the goodbyes, and thinking of ways to extend my stay. The thought of leaving my SACH family was a tough pill to swallow. The words ‘I love you’ from the kids and mothers were used endlessly. One of the Zanzibar mother’s countenance was very low as I was saying my goodbyes, she carried my suitcase to the gate of the SACH home, and as I hugged her one final time she cried uncontrollably. I knew that I would be the one to be upset when leaving; I had no clue that emotions would be so high as I made my way out. The memories, pictures, videos and stories I have of my departure will live on forever, until we meet again.

My expectations of SACH were far surpassed, and looking back at this wonderful experience I can say that it has definitely been life changing. Walking into the gates of the SACH home, you see children who look and seem completely healthy, but in reality, they face serious health burdens. If it wasn’t for SACH, many of these less privileged children would never receive this kind of medical attention of healing hearts, due to the financial strains attached to less developed countries.

I began this experience thinking that I would be a helping hand to the children and their mothers in a variety of ways, but in all honestly they have helped me more than they will ever know. I believe that I needed to come to SACH to encounter and experience the true meaning of love, compassion, humility and kindness. This experience was not a coincidence, and I am grateful to God that I was able to have the opportunity to volunteer here. I would like to end on the note that SACH is not just a place of physical healing, but in addition a place of spiritual healing, restoration and a refuge.

 

 

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