Gabriella Ziff

United Kingdom

This summer I had the privilege of volunteering for SACH at their children’s home and hospital in Holon. I honestly struggle to find the words which describe my experiences during this time because, truthfully, no words can do it justice, but I hope that what I will share will provide some insight into the life-saving work that SACH do and encourage you, too, to get involved and volunteer at, what I believe to be, the most special place on earth!

A few weeks after I began volunteering, I was asked to speak to a visiting group about my experience as a volunteer. Whilst talking to the group I became lost for words, struggling to describe what it’s like to volunteer at SACH and, more so, why it had been a meaningful experience to me. Eventually, I came out with this: ‘we come here as volunteers to put a smile on the children’s’ faces, but ultimately it is the children who put a smile on our faces’. The children that are saved by SACH leave their homes, and often their families, to travel to an unfamiliar place, where no one speaks their language, in order to receive life-saving heart procedures. But you wouldn’t know that the children have been through such hardships when you see them at the children’s home. It is full of joy and happiness, there is constant laughter, there is every kind of toy imaginable, and the love is unmatched. That’s the most amazing thing about SACH; it’s a place of laughter, play and love, in a time when the children need it the most.

One girl who I, quickly, formed a particularly close bond with was called Gladis. Gladis is from South Sudan and she only arrived in Israel when I was already halfway through my time at SACH. Whilst many of the children will come in groups, with or without their mamas, from different places, Gladis was the only child who has, so far, come from South Sudan. I can’t imagine the fear she must have felt walking into an unfamiliar place full of unknown faces and children who appear to know each other, but Gladis had no trouble fitting in. From the moment she stepped into the garden and I first saw her, we were drawn to each other. Gladis would always run to greet me when I arrived and, at least I believe, I could always put a smile on her face when she seemed down (and the same goes for her to me)! Gladis of course become one with the group and watching her transform from the shy little girl she arrived as, into the giggly, sassy one, who was always dancing and pulling funny faces, brings me so much joy. I think the hardest part about my time volunteering at SACH is that you get to see the kids grow, build friendships with each other and bonds with yourself, only to realise you both have to go back to your respective homes.

I've had lots of opportunities volunteering with children of all ages and backgrounds, but I can wholeheartedly say that no experience has matched that at SACH. There is no more meaningful way to spend your time, no other way which I was I spent my summer and is exactly why I can’t wait to return to Israel and volunteer again! Thank you to the SACH family for everything – I am eternally grateful to you!