From Donaghadee to Israel – with a heart

Originally from Donaghadee, Laura Kafif does not have to search around for job satisfaction. 

Fourteen years ago the former hairdresser and part owner of a salon in Bangor left Northern Ireland for a new life in Israel with her Israeli husband Boaz. 

When her own son was safely off to nursery school, Laura volunteered with Save a Child’s Heart (SACH), an Israeli charity, which brings thousands of children from around the world to Israel in order to carry out life-saving heart surgery unavailable  in their own countries. 

Laura at work in Israel

On January 28 this year Save a Child’s Heart hit the headlines when a 6 year old boy named Woodley, together with his aunt, flew from Haiti to Tel-Aviv with the returning Israeli rescue team.  Woodley was greeted at the airport by hundreds of well-wishers, including the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. 

Woodley was brought to Israel by SACH to undergo complicated cardiac surgery he desperately needs to survive. 

Laura explains that SACH is totally dedicated to the idea that every child deserves the best medical treatment available, regardless of the child’s nationality, religion, colour, gender or financial situation.

 Since  SACH was founded in 1995, by the late cardiac surgeon Dr Ami Cohen, it has saved the lives of more than 2,300 children from 36  countries – many of which do not have diplomatic relations with Israel. 40% of the children who underwent cardiac surgery are from Africa; 49% from the Palestinian Authority, Jordan & Iraq;  the remainder from many other countries including the former USSR, China, Sri Lanka and Vietnam. 

The children brought to Israel are treated at the Wolfson Medical Centre in Holon by a team of 70 dedicated experts who, from chief surgeon to the physiotherapist, contribute a substantial portion of their time without any payment from SACH. 

The children are hosted at the SACH children’s home in nearby Azor before and after their treatment. 

And that is where Laura comes in, her job is to run the children’s home. “As a child’s average stay in Israel is three months I get to know the children personally”, she says 

Laura explains: “My son had just started Kindergarden so I just decided to show up at the SACH house to see how I could help. SACH had grown and were in the process of moving to a larger house.   After volunteering for six months, I was offered a job. I have been with SACH for eight and a half years, travelling twice to Zanzibar on medical missions with the SACH  medical team”. 

In Laura’s care at the moment are five children from Gaza, children from Iraq, as well as children from Angola, Ghana, Uganda and the Gambia.

“Working for SACH is so completely different to what I was doing before I came to Israel.  Maybe it is a little clichéd to say, but there is nothing like working with these children and their escorts and seeing them within a few weeks after surgery,  running and playing like any child should.” 

 “During the month of February SACH is running a Valentines Day campaign.  Please visit their new interactive donation web page, watch world music innovator Idan Raichel hanging out with the children, and take a moment to “Give Your Heart…and Save a Life.”

 If you would like to know more about Save a Childs Heart visit their website : www.saveachildsheart.org

This story featured in the Belfast Newsletter, thanks to Laura and to NIFI.

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