Save a Child’s Heart volunteer learns valuable world lessons
July 31, 2012 | Jewish Tribune
Rena Green Tribune Intern
ISRAEL – Deciding to extend her Birthright trip, psychology student Alexa Yakubovich, 21, did some research on the many volunteer opportunities Israel had to offer.
After speaking with a few people, Yakubovich stumbled upon the humanitarian organization Save a Child’s Heart (SACH), which would ultimately change her world view forever.
“I found about four other people that volunteered at SACH,” she explained. “They were all very different kinds of people but each and every one of them had such amazing, positive things to say about the organization that it really convinced me that that’s where I should go.”
Volunteers at SACH live in a home with children sent to Israel from developing countries; all suffering from heart defects and awaiting treatment.
“[We] provide emotional support for the kids because a lot of them are actually coming without parents, so we play a really important role – to be a familiar face and be comforting for them because it’s a really traumatizing procedure,” she said. “Coming to a foreign country, [where] no one speaks your language and they’re getting heart surgery, so we’re there to make it easier on them.”
Taking the experience to heart, a key lesson Yakubovich has learned is to be mindful and understanding of people from other cultures.
“The Palestinian clinic was a huge moment for me,” she remembers. Referring to her experience making a Palestinian baby smile at the Wolfson Medical Centre in Holon, followed by the child’s mother insisting how much she loved her, Yakubovich saw.
“Being able to interact with the kids and the parents and realize, we could interact [with Palestinians] and it wasn’t scary or uncomfortable. It was pleasant in a lot of cases and really enjoyable in some of them. That was huge for me.
“I realized the profundity of the moment – that I, a Jewish woman, sat playing with a Palestinian baby in an Israeli hospital, where the baby’s mother exclaimed to me that her daughter loved me,” Yakubovich said on her SACH blog entry. “It is that moment that for me truly encapsulates the magic of SACH, where all barriers – religious, cultural, ethnic, political – can disintegrate and people can be brought together over a healed heart and a smile.”