Elliah Lester

United States

This summer I had the life changing opportunity to volunteer at Save A Child's Heart (SACH) as my summer internship. While many of my peers Interned in an office setting I elected to spend my days at the children's home and in the hospital. A choice that has impacted me in countless ways and exceeded any expectation I had prior. Upon arriving at the Save A Child's Heart Home, I was welcomed by Liyabonga, a 6-year-old from Eswatini. Without hesitation or introductions, he grabbed my hand and challenged me to a memory game. With that, my journey began and I was welcomed into the children's life with less effort than I could have imagined. Any concerns I had about my abilities to work around the language barrier were immediately eased as he introduced me to so many of the children.

Through my new found friendship with Liya, I was introduced to Snothando (Sno), a 5-year-old, also from Eswatini. Although Sno and I could never communicate with words we fell into a routine of games and dancing. We formed a lasting bond and I will forever be grateful for everything that our relationship taught me. While I knew Sno and the other children were teaching me a lot, I at times found myself questioning whether I was making a difference or not.

That all changed when I began my shifts at the hospital. At my first shift in the ward, I was walking around looking for a familiar face when I found Liya and his Mamma in a hospital bed. I could tell he was feeling tired and recovering from his surgery, but when we made eye contact his face lit-up. He immediately asked me to play a memory game! I was shocked that my attendance could not only bring him joy but also give his Mamma a break. Watching and growing closer to Liya throughout his journey with SACH gave me a more full understanding of all that SACH does for these children and their families. Post surgery, Liya was a new person. He slowly became more active, challenging me to races and games of tag. His competitive nature and personality grew everyday. Liya’s life was changed. When I was on my way out on my final day, I asked Liyas Mamma if she was excited to go home, she told me she was happy “because [her] baby was saved.”

There are no words that can express how meaningful my time at SACH was. This summer allowed me to grow my passion for working with children and families in need. I learned invaluable skills and knowledge which will follow me through my future career. I was heartbroken to leave and am looking forward to connecting with SACH again in the near future. Thank you x100!