Daniella with Fenan

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By Daniella Freeman, Birmingham University

The UJS Lets BeLeaders trip has provided me with a new insight into Israeli life, which I was never really aware of before. The trip gave me contact with inspirational advocates from many different NGOs (non-governmental organisations) ranging from ZAKA to The Jaffa Institute.

The main focus, was the charity, Save a Child’s Heart (SACH), which gives children from all backgrounds in underdeveloped countries the opportunity to receive life-saving heart surgery in Israel. 

Children from all over the world benefit from this service, including children from Ethiopia and Kenya who I had the privilege of meeting.

On the 22 December, we visited both the Wolfson Medical Centre (where SACH’s medical team performs the incredible surgeries) and the organisation’s Children’s Home.

In the hospital, we were fortunate to meet with the surgeons and SACH’s medical trainees. The doctors studying with SACH demonstrate the organisation’s dedication to looking beyond Israel as a place for these surgeries and creating centres of medical competence in the developing world.

Later in the week, Simon Fisher, SACH’s executive director, spoke to us about the organisation’s future aims and ambitions.

Visiting SACH’s Children Home three times throughout the trip ensured we built a connection to the charity and the children, and each time left us wanting to go back.

I began to bond with one of the girls awaiting surgery called Fenan – she is known as ‘the drama queen’ and we danced to Ethiopian music together. I cannot wait for her surgery to be complete, and to see the transformation it will bring to her young life.

SACH not only brings children eligible for surgery to Israel for free, but younger children also travel with a relative. These parents and relatives fill the house with their unique cultures. I found it amazing to see the parents of the children cook their specific national dishes in the kitchens of the house, ensuring that the children truly felt as if they were at home in their natural environment.

During our time there, we were able to eat with the children, draw with them and dance to their favourite songs. Dancing to the “Macarena” was a key moment in my experience at Save a Child’s Heart, as the children not only learn something new, but also were able to participate as a group.20141222_100105

Upon returning home, my focus is to raise awareness of this charity on Birmingham campus and raise as much money as I possibly can along with Daniel Seligman, another Birmingham student, who attended the trip.

At the Sheba Medical Centre, where we had the opportunity to join in the interfaith Chanukah party with the children there. I found it amazing that even those children who were unable to leave their beds were able to join in the party, as hospital staff moved their beds to join the circles of dancing.

This was especially inspirational and the whole experience from handing out doughnuts and the lucky dip dreidel, to lighting the candles proved to be very heart warming.

Something that had an especially profound impact on me was the NGO, Innovation: Africa.

Innovation: Africa is a non-profit organisation bringing Israeli innovation and technology to Africa.The organisation was founded in 2008 providing clean water, light, food and medical care to more than 675,000 people in Ethiopia, Tanzania, Malawi, Uganda, South Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

After hearing Genna Brand, Marketing Coordinator, speak about the charity, I decided that I wanted to start up an Innovation: Africa chapter in Birmingham aiming to fundraise and build awareness of the charity, improving Israel’s image by engaging both Jews and non-Jews. 

For those of you reading this from Birmingham (or further away), feel free to join the chapter to help fundraise and join this worthy cause!