Haji first came to Israel at 15 for life saving surgery. Now 23, he’s here again for second procedure all thanks to Israel’s Save a Child’s Heart association
This is the second time that Haji Hamis from Zanzibar is visiting Israel: He first came here when he was 15 to undergo life-saving heart surgery at the Wolfson Medical Center through the Save a Child’s Heart (SACH) association.
At the time he was living with his parents and six brothers and sisters in a small house in the village of Mondoli – he could barely walk and had trouble breathing.
After the surgery Haji was able to walk, run and play like any healthy child his age but now he has once again been brought to Israel with four other children from Zanzibar who need urgent heart surgeries, for an additional operation.
On the surface, Haji seems perfectly healthy and even jokes about not understanding why they brought him here again, but SACH’s doctors who examined him on their last trip to Zanzibar made the decision – he needed another surgery. Haji told Ynet that he was very happy to be coming here for the second time and was excited about going back to his family, his life and his job – which he put on hold to undergo the second procedure.A long tiring journey lies ahead for the other children who arrived in Israel for medical purposes; Haji has been sharing his own experiences with them and has given them advice on how to make the process easier.
The Save a Child’s Heart association is an international humanitarian project based in Israel that offers life saving heart surgeries to children from developing countries. The association’s activities are centered at the Wolfson Medical Center where 70 staff members volunteer their time and skills to the project.
In addition to the surgeries carried out in Israel, the doctors from the developing countries also come to Israel for special training while Israeli medical teams send delegations to work with locals and establish medical care centers that can operate independently.
Since its establishment in 1996, the association has helped more than 2,600 children, from newborns to teens from over 42 countries, 50% from the Palestinian Authority and Iraq and 43% from African nations. The rest are from such countries as China, Ecuador, Russia and Vietnam.
The association’s funds all come from donations from Israel and abroad, including from the EU.
It doesn’t receive any funding from the Israeli government but the hospital charges a very reduced rate for the surgeries – an indirect donation from Israel.
Wolfson Medical Center Director Dr. Yitzhak Berlovitz said that “The Wolfson Medical Center was proud to be a partner in this humane project. The medical team including doctors, nurses and other professionals at the medical center who care for the patients carry out their work with incomparable professionalism and dedication and for that I thank them from the bottom of my heart.
“Moreover, my gratitude goes out to the Save a Child’s association without which this wonderful project would be impossible.”
While the association defines its activities as offering medical care to children, the youths that undergo heart surgery often require additional procedures some years later as in Haji’s case. “When we care for a child, he’s ours for life,” the association doctors said.
One of the doctors, Dr. Tamir said he felt a great deal of satisfaction from his contribution through the association. “Our way to help Israel is to present it as it is – a country with good intentions, capable of helping the Palestinians and children from throughout the globe without focusing on political agendas.”