The Power of a Tuna Fish Sandwich

Volunteering

A volunteer accepts an assignment. What does that mean? In Ezer Mizion language it means to give over her whole heart. Like the middle-aged volunteer asked to help out a mother with MS. The mother was so severely handicapped that her six-year-old son once shouted at her: How can you be a mother if you can’t do anything?! Words that pierced through the mother’s soul. She was hurting and so were her children. They needed caring and she was unable to provide it. And so ‘Grandma’ joined the family. She was not actually related but what difference does that make for an Ezer Mizion volunteer? She took over in the practical details plus all the extras. A new style knapsack like all the other kids have. A new dress for a classmate’s birthday party.  Every single item on the beginning-of-the-school-year teachers’ lists plus a pen that could write in four colors. A Chol Hamoed (holiday) trip. Chanukah gifts. She even bought the six-year-old a scooter. There was a big black, empty hole before she came. Now their days are colored pink, filling the empty spaces as only a grandmother can do. 

Another volunteer tells the story of how she joined Ezer Mizion’s army of volunteers:

“Eat. Just a little.” In one hand she held a sandwich. The other was patting me on the shoulder. With such warmth. Such love. Such caring.

Twenty years ago, my son was critically wounded in a terrorist attack. They brought him to Sheba-Tel Hashomer Hospital, sedated and intubated. I knew that his days were numbered.

“A little more,” she gently urged me.

“I can’t! It’s my son!  He’s in a coma! They say….they say…he’ll never…”

She held me tight. I felt protected in her embrace.

“Eat. You need strength.”

I hadn’t eaten all day. Maybe for longer than that. Time didn’t exist. Only my son existed as he lay there in a hospital bed.  Dying.

“How can I eat?” I sobbed. “Soon my son will be gone.”

“You need strength. Strength to cry.”

She held my hand and fed me. Each bite laced in compassion.   I felt her strength holding me up. I finished that sandwich. To this day I can taste that tuna. And I began to feel stronger. Able to handle come what may.

I made a promise when she left. “Hashem (G-d), if my son wakes up. I promise You. I promise that I will become that volunteer. I will volunteer for Ezer Mizion and be on the giving end. For Your children, Hashem. For all your children who are in pain.

Four hours passed. I sat there. Waiting. Dreading. And praying.

Suddenly were shouts. Nurses. Doctors. They came running. The whole medical team stood there in shock.

I sat there frozen. Numb. Unable to process what was happening right before my eyes. Little by little… my son whom I had already begun to part from…began… to wake up. He looked at me. My precious son. And I remembered my promise to the ultimate Healer. A promise I never forgot. For twenty years, I have tried to give back what I received that day from the Ezer Mizion volunteer. The power of a tuna sandwich when garnished with love.

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Vitamin G

Giving makes the grumpiness go away

Woke up in a grumpy mood today? We have a sure-fire cure. Works every time. It’s a one-word recipe: Giving. Ask Shmuel and his wife, Batsheva. They are members of Ezer Mizion’s Linked to Life, a  whatsappp network where rides and deliveries  are handled to ease the burden of the ill. It may be a ride to therapy for an elderly patient or procurement of forgotten meds for a Parkinsons patient visiting his children. Perhaps a desperately needed ‘bankie’ for a hospitalized toddler or delivery of blood samples needed asap. Often only seconds elapse before the response comes in from one of the thousands of Linked to Life members: I’m on my way there and can pick it up in ten minutes.  This time it was a woman in desperate need of a walker not available through any of the standard sources. No problem. A few phone calls to friends by Shmuel and Batsheva resulted in enough funds raised to purchase a new walker, perfect for her needs. Note the smile on Shmuel’s face as he hand-delivers it to her door.

Battling cancer with puxxles

Then there is Elad. He has a different name when dealing with Ezer Mizion’s young cancer patients.  He is known as The Puzzle Man. There he is making his way with an immense pile of puzzles. Each child receives his choice and begins to work on it with Elad at his side cheering him on. The challenge takes their mind off the pain and fears they are dealing with and instills a feeling of confidence and accomplishment boosting their image of positivity.   The discipline and patience will spill over into his day by day battle with a monster named Cancer. The puzzle’s triumphant completion acts as a metaphor for the victorious completion of treatment accompanied by the longed-for glorious announcement: REMISSION!

If i can conquer that puzzle, i can conquer cancer, too!

Kofiko’s smile is hidden deep inside his monkey costume. Children know him as a popular entertainer in Israel  and can hardly believe he is sitting right there with them in the hospital room whose walls are now reverberating with squeals and giggles.  

Kofiko loves me!

Along with cancer’s frightening medical repercussions, the dreaded disease brings with it a host of other challenges, and drains families’ physical, emotional and financial resources. The Ezer Mizion Cancer Support Division offers cancer patients and their families comfort, love and support, as well as an array of services tailored to meet their unique needs: Oranit, Ezer Mizion’s guest home for children with cancer and their families, is a beautiful home away from home for families battling the dreaded illness“Mikol Halev”: From the Heart provides sick children with VIP visitors, parties, entertainers, gifts, computers, and games, and coordinates unique summer and winter retreats for cancer patients and their families.

Fun, fun and more fun! A powerful tool in fighting disease!

Vitamin G – Giving – one tablet a day puts a smile not only on the recipient’s face but erases grumpiness and brings joy to the giver, too.

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To Really See. To Really Care.

It’s a talent. An innate ability found in only a few. The ability to notice. To really see. To understand what someone else needs. Only a few have it but the few can give it over to the many.

Rabbi Chananya Chollak

Chananya Chollak, who founded Ezer Mizion in 1979, was such a person. A new chosson (groom) who would be expected to be involved in his kallah (bride) and not be able to see anything outside of new marriage, was spending time with his hospitalized father-in-law and became aware of the many problems facing the families of the patients.  It was there that several divisions of the future Ezer Mizion were born. What began with 8 volunteers to provide meals for family members spending hours at the hospital bedside and a professionally outfitted van to transport the wheelchair-bound has mushroomed into an empire of chessed with 30,000 volunteers, all who have absorbed Rav Chollak’s ability to really see and really care. 

Cancer Support Comes in Many Forms

Like Rina, a patient in the oncology ward. She was battling for her life but right now, uppermost in her mind, was her daughter who would normally be celebrating her bas mitzvah. What with all energies going toward fighting the cancer, this most special day was expected to pass with hardly a blip.  But Rina was an Ezer Mizion client and that made all the difference. Professional studio pictures taken at her home. A sweet table to vie those at the fanciest event. A cake donated for the occasion by an elite patisserie. A makeup artist for both of them who would wield the wand and turn them into princesses.  No detail was omitted by Shula, the volunteer who really saw and really cared.

Caring Eases the Trauma

Then there was the recent fire in Yerushalayim. People were being evaluated en masse. The need to evacuate was obvious and the volunteers were working hard. What wasn’t so obvious is the fact that a group of yeshiva bochurim (students) had not had anything to eat since the early morning. Moments after they arrived to safety, there appeared pizza pies galore. The starving boys never would have asked but grins on their faces showed how welcome the unexpected treat was.

A Day to Look Forward to for the Disabled

The first step in creating a new division is seeing the need. Matan in Nechalim was born because it became obvious to Rav Chollak that handicapped adults need something more than care. They need self-esteem – the kind that comes from accomplishment. And how can they accomplish when they cannot even move from here to there? Ideas were tossed around, debated, discarded, re-evaluated until a full program came into being. A program that gets these talented young people to leave their homes early, excited to begin their day. They’re taught 3-D printing, crafts, and much more…skills that can generate income, activities that create positive social interaction. Recently their creations were proudly displayed at a fair where crowds converged at the individual tables where each one’s products were admired and many purchased.

The files are filled with thank you notes from people who are longing to express their gratitude for the practical and emotional support. Many join our volunteer groups, anxious to give back to others what they received in their time of crisis. And many are accompanied by donations but none so poignant as the following written in childish scrawl:

I’m a 12 year old cancer patient sending you my donation. I want to thank you with my whole heart for all the good and fun things you give me.

Thank you so much,

Y.S.

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A Network of Thousands of Family Members

Next week is my birthday and I want…The words are those of an eight year old but can easily be the thoughts of a thirty-eight year old. She’s just learned to be more polite. Natural feelings. We like being pampered and appreciated. We may be giving parents, neighbors, friends but on a birthday, it’s nice to receive. But then there are others, those rare few, who receive the most by giving. They don’t even realize how special they are and will casually send a message like the one below.

“Today is my birthday and I want to really celebrate by filling it with chessed and helping others. Please count me in for as many transports as possible today, my special day!”

This message was sent to Ezer Mizion’s Linked to Life, a whatsapp network offering rides to benefit the sick, delivers meds, pick up a lab sample etc etc. 

Her coordinator complied and made it a very special birthday indeed. It began with taking volunteers to Hadassah Ein Kerem, a cancer patient to treatment, bringing food to the family of an oncology patient, and that was just for starters…

How blessed we are that these are our volunteers!

Another coordinator relates:

A resident of Rishon Letzion was walking down a hospital corridor to visit a relative when she passed by a woman crying in pain.  She couldn’t simply walk by and so she called the phone number used by so many in Eretz Yisroel       : Ezer Mizion. I asked her to put the woman on the line. Amid her tears, the woman explained that, having no one to advocate for her, she did not seem to be receiving the care that she needed. I had no way of knowing if that was really the case but the Ezer Mizion Medical Referral Department would be able to get to the bottom of it and so I referred the call to them.

The staff member who took on the case investigated in detail as if she had been a close family member. Result? The woman received the surgery she needed and is doing fine. The woman who had been visiting her relative followed the case and was open-mouthed at seeing how swiftly and how carefully and professionally the situation was handled, a situation that began with a simple phone call. She was so amazed that she called me again and asked how she could join the family (because it truly is a family). And so Ezer Mizion’s Linked to Life gained a new volunteer.

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Wherever, Whatever, Whenever We’re Needed

Giving…with all our heart

Do you know where Kiryat Shemoneh is? Many people have never heard of it.  It’s a-l-l the way up North in Israel. Somewhere out there at the far, far end of the country. Geographically so distant from the nearest metropolis.  A bit lonely, perhaps, but certainly not alone.   Even there, Ezer Mizion’s dedicated volunteer works hard to prepare Shabbat meals for a lonely patient, spiced with lots of love. She does it together with dozens of other volunteers, who share one giant heart. Together they arrange meals for patients and their families for weekdays and Shabbat, feeding dozens of patients, adults and children, dispersed throughout the North, from Netanya all the way up to Kiryat Shemoneh

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Angels from Heaven

An Ezer Mizion ‘stranger’ becomes family

She was eighty years old. Life was difficult. But a home attendant? “Never! I don’t want a stranger in my home!” But things got worse and ‘never’ became ‘maybe’. Ezer Mizion’s Home Attendant Division was contacted and Tzivia entered Sara’s home. One year later on Chanukah, Tzivia found balloons awaiting her as she entered. “These are for you,” Sara smiled. “For you, my Chanukah miracle. Since you came, I felt I have a daughter. Today our friendship is a year old, and I, too, feel like I am a year old, because I am a new woman since you entered my world.” Several days later, Sara fell and broke her arm.  The ambulance came but Sara did not go alone. Tzivia accompanied her, spent hours of her free time in the ER with her. It was not long before Tzivia’s husband arrived at the ER to bring them both food and drink.  Still retaining her independent streak, Sara was appalled, “I feel so bad that your husband had to go through so much trouble just because of me.”

“If I am your daughter, he is your son-in-law. We’re your family.  Family members help each other. “

Sara was too choked up to reply but her eyes said it all as she gazed with wonderment at her family, the ‘strangers’ she had not wanted to allow into her home.

  • A father is battling cancer. Their situation was heartbreaking: The mother was torn between hospital, where her husband needed her attention, and home where their five children, two of them with special needs, were left alone at home for hours, without proper meals, supervision or occupation. Ezer Mizion got to work… Our fantastic volunteers contacted the director of Ezer Mizion’s services for children with special needs, who arranged for the girls to go to an afternoon club, complete with meals, help with schoolwork, and quality attention until five in the afternoon.

Two volunteers visited the parents in the ward, bringing cake and support, showering them with warm encouragement.

Ezer Mizion’s Linked to Life took care of delivering hot meals cooked by Ezer Mizion volunteers  to the house on a regular basis.

A home had been on the verge of collapse. Now it was shorn up with planks of love and compassion. The wife of the cancer patient couldn’t stop thanking Ezer Mizion for all this magical support that descended upon her!

  • From the Ezer Mizion Inbox:

 Our family is dealing with my cancer which is so stressful for everyone. Between not knowing if mommy will be home when they get home from school to having to eat strangers’ food, life has become unpredictable for my kids. 

You can imagine our surprise when someone came to our door on Chanukah with two big bags for the kids (treats and presents!). 

Thank you for bringing a smile to my children’s faces and may you continue to do your holy work. 

All the best,

Sarah B.

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Special Children – Special Opportunities

pr summer camp
Special Needs- Special Opportunities

In a quiet moshav, an enigmatic natural phenomenon is going on. Unfathomable chessed is being done by youths who have chosen to enable parents and families of special-needs children to vacation.

Bein Hazemanim (vacation). Families are on the road from here to there. Yeshivas are traveling to summer camp. And those who aren’t — go out on day trips, looking for a change of atmosphere, at the seaside or on trails throughout our beautiful Land of Israel, to gather strength for the year to come. Continue reading Special Children – Special OpportunitiesFacebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinmail

Bein Hazemanim Break: Perfect Opportunity to Build Character

pr summer camp
Special Children – Special Opportunities

In a quiet moshav, an enigmatic natural phenomenon is going on. Unfathomable chessed is being done by youths who have chosen to enable parents and families of special children to vacation.

Bein Hazemanim (vacation). Families are on the road from here to there. Yeshivas are traveling to summer camp. And those who aren’t — go out on day trips, looking for a change of atmosphere, at the seaside or on trails throughout our beautiful Land of Israel, to gather strength for the year to come. Continue reading Bein Hazemanim Break: Perfect Opportunity to Build CharacterFacebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinmail

The View from Both Ends of Giving

helping-hands
It feels good to give!

It feels good to give. Seeing the joy on another person’s face because of something that you did is an experience that cannot be defined. I know about that. I joined Ezer Mizion’s Linked to Life awhile back. L2L is a  WhatsApp group that can be called for rides, deliveries of vital supplies and a zillion other requests by people who are dealing with serious illness. Continue reading The View from Both Ends of GivingFacebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinmail

Linked to Life: One Week

Image result for image numbers subtraction
Giving away adds, not subtracts

It’s interesting. When I was in second grade, my math teacher told me that if we take away, the total amount is less. When I grew up, I found it wasn’t true. If giving my time, my energy, my expertise made me have less in the end, then why would I and 9,000 of my fellow Linked to Life members race to click on any request that comes in and do our best to respond whenever possible? Second grade math teachers notwithstanding, giving away plusses so much more to our lives. Continue reading Linked to Life: One WeekFacebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinmail