Tel Aviv University students help young patients on their road to recovery with their Save a Child Heart program.
In the Talmud, the rabbis suggest that “one who visits the sick, diminishes the person’s illness by one-sixtieth.” (Baba Metzia, 30:2) Students at the Ellin Mitchell Hillel Program at Tel Aviv University (TAU) have learned about this tradition on a personal level.
A new tzedek project at TAU Hillel called “Save A Child's Heart” enlists students to adopt children who are undergoing treatment at a local hospital. Save a Child's Heart is the name of the sponsoring Israeli organization that helps children from underdeveloped countries who are suffering from heart disease by bringing them to Wolfson Hospital in Holon for life-saving heart surgery. More than 40 TAU Hillel students have adopted children who are alone in Israel as they undergo treatment.
The children, who hail from countries such as Ethiopia, Zanzibar, Romania, China and the Palestinian Authority, receive medical assistance that is not available to them otherwise. TAU Hillel students play with the kids before and after surgery and visit the children as they recuperate in a hospice outside of Tel Aviv.
“The students who participate in this project are enjoying it as much as the kids,” says Shirit Cohen, who initiated the project. “They bring a lot of joy to these lonely kids and gain so much in return.”
The project is also unique in that it unites students from a variety of cultures, including overseas students studying at the TAU Sachler Medical School, as well as Israeli Arabs (Muslims and Christians) and Israeli Jews.
At the final meeting of the semester, students evaluated the project and discussed what inspires them to volunteer. Students organized a text study that presented the values of giving, mercy, and compassion in all three faiths. Shirit quoted Deuteronomy, Chapter 15, which says we should give to the needy and not harden our hearts when we meet a poor person. Fida Wafel, a Muslim student, spoke about the value of mercy in Islam, explaining that Allah created human beings “to have mercy on the world forever.” Madg Shufin, a Christian student, spoke about how Jesus admired the poor and taught that helping people is the largest gift you can give in life. After the short text study, the students brought the children outside to clean and plant flowers in the garden at the Save a Child's Heart House.
“Everyone had a wonderful time, working together and making the Save a Child’s Heart House more of a home,” Cohen said. “Students loved working with the kids and learning about each other’s heritage. They appreciated the opportunity to learn about each other and to cooperate on a common social-justice project. The project did more than just heal the children’s hearts – it opened ours as well.”