We can say it in numbers. 650,000 hot meals for family of seriously ill. 80,000 medical equipment loans. 4400 special needs children. Big numbers. Impressive, aren’t they? Or we can say it in people. Real people. People with feelings. People who cry.
People like the mother who had been looking forward to a delightful reunion with her family after birth until corona cancelled her plans. Diagnosis: positive. Tremendous tension. Will she be ok? Will she be able to care of the newborn? Will the newborn be ok? Quarantine. For the whole family. No preparations. No family to take her home. No exuberant welcome. No gleeful hodgepodge of a welcome-home supper put together by small, eager hands. No anticipation of Mommy soon taking over the kitchen providing that homey security that only mommies can do. No joy. Just anxiety, stress and worry. And then… on the heels of her entry – a warm delivery of 10 falafel portions. A message of caring and support for the difficult days to come. And the sun began to shine.
Avichayil is a science teacher but her real expertise lies in math. Avichayil knows – really knows – that subtraction is the best way to add. She lives quite far from Hadassah hospital and her twice weekly traveling to volunteer in the corona ward subtracts many hours from her schedule but adds so much to her life.
“I live alone. All of my children live out of town. The volunteering does a lot of good for the person who does it. It fills you; it’s so important to give of yourself to others. There is no lack of whom to give to nowadays. My children also volunteer, to the extent that they can, and my parents, too, used to volunteer in the past. They taught me all my life to look for how I can make the day brighter for someone else. That’s what I was taught and that is how I train my children and my students, too.”
Avichayil was one of the first corona patients. When she was well, she spotted an Ezer Mizion ad looking for volunteers in the corona ward. .She has been volunteering devotedly over the past few months, coming to every Corona ward or room where help is needed, even on Shabbos and Yom Tov (Sabbath and Holidays): “Suddenly, I’m on the side of the caregiver and it’s amazing! After all, I understand what the patients are going through. I know the feeling when family is not always present nearby and I’m familiar with the loneliness. I have experience: I, too, had the virus. She is now able to say to her patients, “ I was here in this very ward.” It gives them hope.
One of the 50 Ezer Mizion volunteers in the ward, Avichayil dons the hot and clumsy ‘spacesuit’ twice a week. The ‘corona alumni’ volunteers have become a vital part of the hospital community Due to the tremendous overload weighing on the caregiving staff, help was needed to provide an adequate human response, a listening ear, and aid in things like serving a cup of coffee or a drink of water, helping patients eat, and other simple everyday actions. She and the other former corona patients become the listening ear for the patient suffering from loneliness. “It means so much to them,’ she says’ for someone to be there to give them a sip of coffee, to recharge a phone so they can talk to a family member. We’re the liaison between the patient and family. A message from a daughter will light up a wan, discouraged face. . “I am part of a wonderful project. We fill the vacuum with real love. The patients become part of our own families and we become part of theirs!”