This Fall, I had the opportunity to work as the intern at Save a Child’s Heart; my life is forever changed by working at such an amazing organization. My responsibilities ranged from spending time at the house with the kids, going with them to the hospital on echo Mondays, and helping at the Palestinian Clinic on Tuesdays. On my first day, I walked through the gate of the SACH house behind another volunteer and could not help but wonder if it was her first day too. She opened the door and immediately got trampled with hugs and love. Realizing it was not her first day, I proceeded behind her. Next thing I knew, I was also being trampled with the same hugs and love from children I did not even know yet. I immediately felt how special the Save a Child’s Heart community is.
After making it inside, I was brought to the playroom, which could otherwise be known as my office, during my time at SACH. I will never forget the state of the playroom that day, full of bags and boxes belonging to the children and mothers heading home that evening following their successful treatment in Tel Aviv. I soon realized my nonverbal communication skills would be put to the test as many residents of the house - both children and their mothers - do not speak English. There was so much to learn; I can humbly admit I was overwhelmed by my new position.
After a few days, names started to click. I began to understand the routine of a typical day at the SACH house and began communicating with the kids more seamlessly after learning techniques through trial and error. Most of them knew simple words in English which helped bridge our communication gap. However, most of our communication was through smiles (under my mask of course), hugs, love, and universal celebratory gestures. I can honestly say that if somebody told me I could have such close relationships with such a diverse group of individuals from around the world, without even having the same mother tongue, I probably would not have believed them. I keep in contact with many of the children and have gotten to meet some of their families and loved ones back home on WhatsApp.
Going to the hospital and being able to visit the children right after their treatments was an immense privilege that I do not take for granted. I was able to bring a smile to the kids and their parents right after surgery, when they were not feeling so good and arguably at their lowest point during their SACH journey. Looking back on my time at SACH, those hospital visits were where some of my most special memories were created. During one of my early visits to the hospital, I was sitting with Hyminot who is a 17-year-old girl from Ethiopia. She had come to Israel without a family member, and she was having heart surgery the following day. The head of the pediatric cardiology department walked into the room, so I introduced myself, explained my position at SACH in which brought me to Hyminot’s visit with her, and mentioned my previous experience within the medical field of mine as an EMT at home. She asked me if I wanted to watch Hyminot’s surgery the next day and I was so excited that I almost started jumping up and down. I never thought I would get the opportunity to be watching open heart surgery at an arm’s length, let alone one of a child that I knew! I will always remember surgery day.
My last big job as the intern was to assist at the clinic on Tuesdays when children and families come from the West Bank and Gaza to Wolfson Medical Center for cardiac examinations. Again, communication was a barrier, but this is just another example of how smiles and reassuring gestures go such a long way. It is so powerful for me as a Jew to have formed connections with people living in the Palestinian Authority. In the end, we are all just people and we all want these children to be healthy and have the opportunity to receive life-saving treatment! Working at SACH has brought me so much joy, growth, and a better understanding of both myself and the world around me. I am so thankful for the amazing opportunity I was given to be a part of such a special worldwide family.