A volunteer makes sure each child has a great time, wheelchair or not!

Recap: They were there. They lay in the hospital beds, or sat next to family members for long hospitalizations. They know exactly what it feels like — the paralyzing fear, the loneliness, and the helplessness.

They know the importance of a sister’s outstretched hand, accompanied by a genuine sense of partnership and the knowledge that even though you walk in the darkness — you are not walking alone.

We turned to five volunteers who had been on the other side, on the dark, painful side, and who promised that the moment they were able to, they’d help others — and then carried out their promise.

S. Tovi, 21, had cancer four years ago.

Just before completing his degree, he was forced to take time off for treatment at the Adult Oncology ward in Sheba Hospital. Very soon, Tovi made his way deep into the hearts of the volunteers and the Ezer Mizion staff, among them, Ayelet, the Social Services Supporter, who still remains in close contact with him and his family.

“Ezer Mizion took care of everything I needed at that period. The climax was when I was invited to participate in a trip to Italy, for five amazing, action-packed days,” he relates. “Beyond all the fun, it was a chance for me to get acquainted with people my age who were going through what I was going through. We keep up with each other to this day.”

In the course of the trip, Tovi saw that there were children who experienced hardships that were similar yet different from his. He saw that some had trouble walking for an extended period, and already then, he wanted to help them. “I took them around in the parks in their wheelchairs. I know this trip is for me to have fun but part of my fun was to see to it that they, too, had fun. This period of the illness is challenging not only health-wise, but also emotionally, mentally, and socially. I saw how the Ezer Mizion staff supports, assists, and escorts the patients, and I also wanted to be on that side.”

Last summer, he decided to volunteer at Ezer Mizion’s summer retreat for cancer patients and their families. “For me, volunteering is a great source of satisfaction. I feel and know that thanks to what I went through, I can really understand the families and serve as a listening ear.”

At the closing event of the camp, Yumi, Director of the department of support services for children with cancer and their families, called him up to the stage, along with the rest of the staff, and gave him a certificate of honor for his work at the retreat. Afterwards, Yumi explained to the families about his past as a patient and participant in the organization’s activities, and he shared the pride he feels when a former patient comes to join the staff. After that revelation, many families in the audience came over to Tovi. They were starved for words of encouragement and hope, seeing him as one who had gone through exactly what they were going through, and was now on the other side.

“I felt a great pride in who I am. I’m happy to be able to provide strength and hope to others and I’m glad that I can do it under the auspices of Ezer Mizion.”