Take a moment to read the testimonials of the very special volunteers who have contributed their ti

Thalia Shamash
I arrived at the SACH house early on a Wednesday morning, very unsure of what to expect: I did not know any other volunteers, did not really know much of what would be expected of me, and certainly did not know how I would adjust to living with many others from all over the world who most likely would not be able to communicate with me in English.
Almost instantly, I was welcomed into the home by staff, volunteers, mothers, and, most importantly, the kids. I met everyone, settled in nicely, and began my three and a half week volunteering session. After the first day, most of which was spent with the children and their mothers, I was in amazement at how smoothly it went: I could not speak any of the languages, but I had not once noticed a communication barrier. I did not need to know Swahili to know that Abeli from Tanzania was thrilled with the puzzle that we put together because his giggle made that clear, and I did not need to understand Portuguese to know that Andre from Angola wanted to watch the Lion King because his pointing to the TV and chanting Simba was more than enough. I began to realize that becoming close to the people living in the house would involve more than just speaking, aside from the universal terms such as kulala (Swahili: “sleep”), and balagan (Hebrew: “chaos”). During my time at the SACH house, I grew to love the children and people with whom I worked, even if I could not even ask them how their day was going or what they ate for lunch that day.
When I arrived at the home, most of the children had not yet had their surgeries. Some of them seemed like perfectly healthy kids, playing in the backyard with toys, constantly laughing, and dancing around. This surprised me a bit, and we were told that even though some of the children may seem well, they need to relax as much as possible as their hearts cannot take the exertion. There were other children who were clearly too weak to exert themselves at all. I remember one day, one of our boys, Daudi, from Tanzania, ran around for a minute or so, after which he immediately sat on the stairs with his chest pounding, trying to calm down his system because he was so uncomfortable. Daudi decided to take up art, and made beautiful pictures and drawings, since he clearly could not run and play outside much.
Most of these children had their surgeries while I was still living in the home. It was amazing to see the difference before and after their operations. Daudi came home from surgery, and almost instantly became the ten year old he always wanted to be. Even though he is now a bit of a mischievous child (enjoys running around the house in circles, throwing things around the backyard) it was so beautiful to see the change. He can now do things that he probably was never able to do before, and his operation has opened up a whole new world for him. I noticed this with so many of the children. They immediately had new energy that would fill a whole new life ahead of them.
Working at SACH has opened my eyes to a lot of things, and has made me learn much about myself and others. I was able to spend time and become close with children who I will most likely never see again, but who I was able to see get well. It has been an invaluable experience, one I would not change at all, if only to spend more time at the home. SACH is truly creating a new life for these children and their families, and I am so thankful that I was able to take part and experience this first hand.

Ari Diamond
A volunteer shares his thoughts with us
May 2010
“I love you”- these were the first words uttered to my girlfriend Jodi and I by a Palestinian mother from the West Bank who had brought her young daughter in for cardiac testing at the Wolfson Medical Center in Tel Aviv under the auspices of unique world-class organization called Save A Child’s Heart. The emotion behind her words was symbolic of the powerful impact that SACH has on its patients and families who are fortunate enough to receive the medical attention that this organization provides.
These words also offers one a starting point in describing the first-hand volunteer experience that taught us a valuable lesson about SACH that we could not have fully appreciated before- that Save a Child’s Heart is not just about the medical benefits, as we quickly came to understand, but also about bridging the gap between cultures byin the sharing of sharing difficult life experiences.
As part-time volunteers at the SACH house in Azur, a small-suburb outside of Tel Aviv, we were fully exposed to the life that the children lead while preparing for and recovering from their surgery. While many might assume that the House is a place where the children struggle, and the mothers worry, being there has shown us otherwise! In fact, life at the House is filled with joy, laughter, and tons of activity. Between the slew of volunteers and the number of organized tours/groups that pass through the House daily, the kids are always given full attention and are kept smiling. Whether they are shooting hoops, playing dominos, or practicing their multiplication tables, each child is blessed with eventful days despite having the burden of being born with a possibly fatal condition.
In addition to the daily successes of these activities, the aspect of the SACH House that touched Jodi and I most is the multicultural community it creates; mothers, children, and volunteers working together in cohesion towards one goal, to provide a safe-haven throughout the hardships of experiencing a fatal sickness regardless of race, culture, or religion. Whether you speak English, Hebrew, Swahili, Romanian, French, or Arabic, the over-riding principles of the organization mask the cultural and linguistic barriers that each individual at the house faces and the overall atmosphere is nothing short of warm, hopeful, and caring.
Jodi and I are just two of many Canadian volunteers working both full and part-time at the SACH house. Many other Canadian volunteers have given their time and energy to SACH over the past couple of months, which has helped solidify Canada as an integral part of the organization. The Canadian contribution is truly astounding and special, and is only a building block for more active participation expected in the future. The following Canadian volunteers should be commended for their work since the Spring: Jodi Solomon, Hannah Manson, Avery Seligman, Jeremy Chad, Samantha Sokol, Gilli Singer, Brandon Goldgrub, Amy Friedman, and Eleni Weiner. We hope many others can experience what the SACH House has to offer, whether first-hand in Israel or abroad. Its uniqueness, its achievements, and its life changing beauty touches the lives of the children and their families as well as the volunteers who give their time and energy as well.
– Ari Diamond

Samantha Haber
Last week when I went to the Save a Child’s Heart house, I had no idea what I was expecting to see. When I walked in however, I was so excited by the warm and homey atmosphere. Being at the house reminded me a lot of a program I did this summer in Costa Rica, where you just have to jump right in and play with the kids, learning to communicate despite the language barrier. The children were all adorable and only wanted to play and have fun. They were amused and entertained by the littlest things and I enjoyed trying different activities with nearly every one of them. Even though I could barely speak to any of them because of language, the children were all still eager to play and helped me to communicate without words. After only 2 hours I left feeling so happy and excited to go back.
This week at the hospital I was a little bit more nervous. I was worried that the environment at the hospital would be more intense and that it would be more difficult to get through to the children. Luckily, two other volunteers were already there with toys they had brought and helped me to again jump right in. I spent all of my time in one room playing with the 3 children in it. While I really enjoyed my time with these children, I was still a little nervous to go into other rooms; I didn’t know how the mothers would react to a random person just coming in and playing with their kids. For next time, I now know to bring activities to do and to just go in and play. The children are so interested and can spend so much time with even the simplest toys, and I’m excited to see them all again next week!

Sara Glassman
When I arrived to the hospital today, I went to Adrianna’s room. Even though she was eating, she greeted me with a hug hello. She attempted to talk, but had some trouble. Her mom explained to me through hand movements that Adrianna couldn’t speak right now because of something to do with her breathing. Nonetheless, we played with her toys and attempted to communicate with one another. I also played with Asaam who was having fun with a blown up rubber glove. I talked to Jenna’s relative from Gaza, too. I am constantly amazed at watching the children from other countries play with one another and seeing their families try to communicate without knowing more than a few words in the other language.

Hannah Martin
I got the opportunity to stand in on open heart surgery. It turned out that I got to observe one of the girls that I knew really well. Her Rosana and she is 12 years old from Angola. She came to Israel with a life expectancy of about 20 years old, a PDA (kind of like a hole in one of the heart valves), and without a mother or any family. She is so sweet and warm and Ive spent that past few weeks bonding with her. It felt so special to be able to be with her all morning, keeping her calm and smiling. I got to hold her hand as they rolled her down to the OR. I got to see her laugh at me when I was all dressed in scrubs and a hairnet and those little bootie things you put over your shoes. I was in the room with her as she was anesthetized and drifted off to sleep. I felt so incredibly lucky and privileged to even be in the presence of such an incredible operation. The doctors and staff were amazing and surprisingly welcoming – the surgeon even talked us through each step he was doing and how he was doing it. I was able to watch him fix this amazing girls heart, watch as she was given the opportunity to live happy and healthy for decades to come.

Michael Avesar
During the summer between my first and second year at Dartmouth Medical School, I was a medical intern at Save a Child’s Heart (SACH) in Holon, Israel. I applied to the program for the opportunity to learn about caring for Congenital Heart Defects (CHD), and to better understand how SACH operates.
There are many different wards and procedures to learn from at SACH. In any given week, there are several open-heart surgeries, Catheterization based treatments and diagnosis, ECHO diagnosis and follow ups, ICU rounds including CHD and a variety of non-CHD cases. I made sure to see each class of procedure at least twice, allowing me to ask questions and look up details in between for a better educational experience. The physicians at SACH have frequently hosted medical students and physicians from partner organizations/ hospitals, creating an excellent learning environment. For example, during a surgery, the chief surgeon narrated the entire three-hour procedure for me and two other medical students. Moreover, the frequent ICU rounds taught me in great detail about the various SACH cases, as well as Severe Combined Immune Deficiency, Nesidioblastosis, Epilepsy, Central Apnea, and several other cases.
I would also chat bedside, and check up with several of the SACH patients and their relatives. If it were not for the SACH volunteers and staff, people in their position would feel very physically, culturally, and linguistically isolated.
In addition to the medical experiences, I was very interested to see how SACH operates as an organization. I focused on the Wolfson Medical Center’s (WMC) relationship with patients from the Palestinian Authorities (PA). In addition to interviewing SACH staff, I worked with SACH’s translator to interview the relatives of the Palestinian patients, and also traveled to speak with primary care doctors practicing in the West Bank. I learned that without an international referral system these patients only have access to primary care options. I learned of a third organizations by the name of “Shevet Achim”, which partners with SACH in the transportation and housing of the patients. I found that SACH, Shevet Achim, and the Palestinian primary care physicians all work within close relations to the Israeli Heath and Foreign Ministry, which provide much funding and hastening of medical travel between the boarders. I learned that the PA-Israeli borders are easier and quicker to work with than medical immigration between any other SACH associated countries. Also given a choice of treatment options, the Palestinian patients choose to come to Israel because of the excellence in medical care provided.
While I hypothesized that any extra level of bureaucracy between the PA-Israeli borders could hinder the speed of medial support, within the limited perspective of the SACH program I found evidence to the contrary. According to the medical records of several Palestinian patents that came to WMC in an emergency – from the time of referral at their local clinic to their time of admittance in Israel – the delay was approximately the time it takes to physically drive distance. The smoothness of this particular system is made possible from the established protocol between SACH, the hospitals in the PA, and the both governments.
I feel that SACH has proven the effectiveness of pediatric cardiothoracic service using a regional hospital model. I hope that other advanced practices feel inspired to established similar programs in pursuit expanding how many people have access to humanities most impressive medical technologies.

Daniel Hillyar
February 25th: This Thursday, I brought my friend Alex Dobkin, a student in my program at Tel Aviv University. I explained to him how things go at the house and what the program is all about. It was nice to feel like a veteran volunteer at SACH. A lot of students come to me to ask me for information about the program. It’s amazing that so many of my peers have expressed such interest in SACH. When we got to the house, I introduced Alex to the kids. There were very few children in the house – probably the least number of kids I had seen since I have been volunteering. Alex and I played a few simple games with kids. I introduced Alex to Enselmo who was a little shy at first, but as time progressed Alex and Enselmo began to form an amazing bond. At 5 o’clock, a women’s group came to the house with costumes and toys for the kids. They played music and put on a small Purim celebration for the kids. The kids were all so happy as they traded masks, played with balloons, and ate snacks. We helped the group get to know the kids and set up and disassemble their small show for the kids. The kids seemed to be very happy and healthy. As Alex and I walked out of the house at 6 o’clock, I could see the look of satisfaction on his face. The house had a profound effect on Alex. On the way back, we talked about the kids and he couldn’t stop raving about his new friend Enselmo. It was a very successful day at the house, and once again very rewarding.
March 4th: This Thursday, I went to the Wolfson Hospital, accompanied by Alex Dobkin and Aaron Califf. This was my first time visiting the children in the hospital and I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I made my way through the hospital until I found the children’s wing. I entered the room and immediately saw some familiar faces. In the small room lay Woodley, Samson, and Brian. When I walked in, Woodley was sitting in a chair, an oxygen tube running to his nose. There were a few people in the room handing him gifts and taking pictures. Shortly after I arrived, the people left and Woodley decided to take a nap. I was so happy to see the kids for it had been weeks since I had last seen them. I walked over to talk to Samson and was totally stunned. This was the first time that I saw one of the kids in a seemingly poor condition. At the house, the kids are always so happy and seem so healthy. At times one can forget that they have any problems at all. Samson lay there coughing and moaning. I kept watching the doctor to make sure everything was all right and that the doctor was aware of Samson’s condition. I said a few words to him, but he wasn’t very responsive and I felt like it may be best to give him some space. I walked over to Brian who was lying next to his mother. Brian was so excited to see me. His yellow tinted eyes widened as I took a seat next to him. He explained how happy he was to see me and how he was feeling much better. He then proceeded to tell me about his heart condition. “As other kids were jumping, running, playing, I knew that I had something wrong with my heart. I asked myself, why do I have this heart disease? What did I do to get this heart disease? But I am so lucky that I am here and that it will be fixed. And now I know that there are good things that have come from having this disease. If I never had a heart disease, I would never had met you Mr. Daniel.” It was very moving to hear Brian say these words to me. I sat next to him and talked to him until he became very tired and fell asleep. I later spoke to Samson’s sister who reassured me that Samson’s cough was normal and is typically a good sign for recovering heart patients. Finally, Woodley woke up and I tried to use my broken French to make him smile. I told him that he was a big guy, a cat, a dog, and a fish. His smile is one of the most amazing things I have witnessed.
Daniel’s photograph was taken by his father, Jonathan Hillyer, when he came to visit his son in Israel

Talia Hasid

I volunteered at SACH for 5 months and it was one of the most incredible experiences I had during my time in Israel. I didn’t know what to expect at my first visit to the SACH house, but when I walked into the house for the first time, a little girl from Romania came running up to me and gave me a huge hug. She took my hand and led me into the play room and we spent the next two hours coloring, making bracelets, listening to music, and playing with the other kids. I knew then that I would be coming back to volunteer at SACH as often as I could. Originally, I thought that communicating with the children would be difficult because of the language barriers, but I quickly learned that the language didn’t matter – I could communicate with these kids by playing with them, by giving them attention, by putting a smile on their faces, and that’s all they needed.
I also spent some time visiting the children at the hospital. I became close with this little girl from Romania, Adrianna, so I went to visit her in the ICU. I remember sitting in the chair beside her bed for 5 hours just holding her hand because that is all I could do, but it was enough. Her mother was so appreciative of my visit and I was so glad I could help Adrianna through her difficult surgery.
I looked forward to going back to SACH every week – it was certainly one of the highlights. The kids are amazing, the mothers are so warm and trusting, and it is such a wonderful program to be a part of. I am so grateful I had the opportunity to volunteer with SACH, I look forward to volunteering again the next time I visit Israel!

Hannah and Adam
We volunteered weekly at Save a Child’s heart for a few months. This provided us with the opportunity to see many different groups of children from all over the world come to Israel with life threatening conditions and after a short time return to their homes happy and healthy. Our time at SACH was juggled with our hectic lives, but each Tuesday morning we knew we would have a few hours to be surrounded by children who could make us forget about everything and remind us that it is the simple things in life that bring the most happiness. Whether it was Woodley from Haiti wanting nothing but lots of hugs and attention, Amelia from Angola bringing us outside to lay with her on the ground and take a nap, or seeing the smile on Kelvin’s (Zimbabwe) face when he woke up from surgery, there was never a dull moment. We will never forget our time at SACH and hope to volunteer in the future.

Olga Mutter

I never realized how unnecessary verbal communication was.
Smiling with pride as the Epifania eagerly turns to me, exclaiming “Olga, Olga, Olga” with her hands up high, raising up the tiger mask she made or the picture she just drew.
Watching as Rossanna jumps to the aid of the younger children, naturally assuming the role of older sister.
Giggling as Azmina runs around the room jokingly teasing other children, radiating the space with her contagious laughter.
Staring in awe as I see Ancelmo put away his Michael Jackson dance moves for a moment to run for the first time, straight to the basket and score.
All of this happens with no communication.
And even so, all of the children learn and grow from each other, even picking up a few words in languages not their own.
An average stay was several months, but that was not enough time to adjust to each child leaving- it was just enough time to get to know their individual personalities. It was as if the children each had an extra strong, mature personality to make up for their heart problem. I had the opportunity to get to know these children and watch as they were finally granted the full potential to live life like a normal kid.

Ricci Postan
The first time that I walked into the SACH house, I walked in on an impromptu Christmas party where every child in the house had the opportunity to sit on Santa Claus’ lap and tell him what they wanted for Christmas.
What the children didn’t know was that Santa was a 17 year old volunteer who could hardly speak any English. The amazing thing about being witness to this experience was more than smiling children and a festive house, it was what it meant to everyone. For many of these children, they have never seen
santa claus before.
For some of the ‘mothers’ in the house, a Christmas present was dream, whose reality is often unaffordable. For the volunteers
(from various backgrounds, cultures and countries) it was an opportunity to share the best part of the December holidays with the other members of the
house – a Channukah party with latkahs took place a week later. For SACH, this was an opportunity to illustrate how exceptional this organization is.
I could have never imagined how my 5 weeks as live-in volunteer would impact my life. It gives me hope that day by day, the wonderful SACH staff, doctors and volunteers’ hard work is recognized by more and more people around the world. Its ironic that SACH deals in the trade of healthy hearts because this is an organization that once touched, always stays close to your heart.

MinGi Cho

I was able to meet Tarikua, a 15-year-old girl from Ethiopia, in ICU on my fourth day of volunteering. She was in isolation due to possible TB infection. I was very worried for her; to be isolated in an unfamiliar place far from home where she knew practically no one sounded rather intimidating. However, regardless of my deep concern, she greeted us with a big smile showing that she was fine. She responded with a greater smile at my motion trying to tell her “get well! Everything will be fine!”
That night, her smile kept recurring. She had amazed me with her remarkable courage, which seemed to claim “I deserve to live” by showing her determination to get well.
For me, my volunteering experience in SACH was an eye-opening experience where I came to realize that the statistics so often heard regarding the children affected by lack of access to medicine means more than just numbers. The breath of Newaz, an one-year-old baby from Ethiopia, who felt asleep in my arms while waiting his turn for echo, Sintayehu’s laughter while taking funny pictures, were all telling me that these unbelievable numbers consists children as lovely and precious as the ones that I’ve been volunteering with, in the medical center.
Obviously, there is a lot of work left to do. However, I was glad to see the bright side in SACH where I was shown that a group of people can indeed make a big difference in many lives. It was an honor for me to be able to be part of a life-changing experience.

Lucy Sullivan
When my taxi first pulled up to Borochov 1 I was flooded with memories from my initial visit to SACH with a Birthright group, which led me to want to be a full time volunteer. Upon entering the front gate visitor’s eyes are quickly caught by “Baba Lemon’s Garden” along with the scooters and baby carriages lined up outside the front door. With my luggage in hand I took a deep breath and entered the house unaware that I would be forever changed. Walking through the door I was immediately greeted by the SACH welcoming committee which consists of beautiful, charismatic, and vivacious youngsters and pre-teens from all over the world.
Getting to know the ins and outs of the house doesn’t take long and neither does getting to know the very distinct personalities of everyone living in the house. Although there are several different languages spoken everyone understands the importance of caring for one another. As one sees the hard work done by the moms in the kitchen to make sure not only their children but other children in the house have warm meals all day and the genuine love and care with which the older children take care of the younger children in the house it becomes evident just how strong the bonds grow to be.
From seeing these children laughing as the whiz down the slides at the park to seeing them with oxygen masks in the hospital we became fully integrated in each other’s lives. Being there on good days was great but it was being there to bring a smile to a forlorn face that made my experience truly indescribable. The overwhelming feelings of joy and hope I got from seeing these unbelievably strong children take on life gives me inspiration to live my own life better.