In a perfect world, the words ‘children’ and ‘hospital’ would never be uttered in the same sentence. But ours is hardly an ideal world. Tragically, too many children find themselves hospitalized or tethered to a hospital for chemotherapy or dialysis. Even one such child is one too many.
During the summer months, the plight of such children becomes especially painful. These kids are acutely aware that their peers are having a blast in summer camps, off on vacations with their families, or just free to hang out in the neighborhood playground with their friends. Meanwhile, they languish in sterile pediatric wards, deprived of sunshine, swimming, and the joy of being on vacation. Instead, their days are filled with tests, surgeries, chemo, and therapy. And for some, tragically, there is no light at the end of their tunnel.
It’s not fair to be a sick child, especially in the summer, forgotten by
friends and classmates, left to deal with life’s greatest challenges alone inside a hospital.
Years ago, Colel Chabad – Israel’s largest, oldest, and most diversified social services tzedakah – decided to do something about this by creating the Colel Chabad Summer Camps for Hospitalized Children. Perhaps we use the term ‘camp’ loosely because there are so many activities that sick kids can’t enjoy, such as volleyball, archery, boating, and campfires.
But we make up for it with other activities that can be held in a hospital setting, such as a cutting-edge arts and crafts program, organized board games, electronic and musical mats, medical clown entertainment, and, most of all, a whole lot of unbridled love.
The camps operate all summer long in two hospitals, Barzilai in Ashkelon with 40 juvenile beds and Kaplan in Rehovot with 66 beds. Over the two-month summer season, some 400 campers ages 2-13 can forget their sickness, pain, and loneliness thanks to the Colel Chabad camp experience.
Each of the Colel Chabad hospital camps is staffed by four full-time counselors, a head counselor, and a coordinator. These are extraordinary young men and women because it takes a special gift to put on a happy face under such grim circumstances– to keep smiling and singing and hugging day after day despite being embedded in such a challenging environment. But, then, this is typical of Colel Chabad’s
volunteers and professionals, to have a capacity of selfless love that – since 1788 – has become legendary.
Colel Chabad’s Summer Camps for Hospitalized children is just one of the
organization’s myriad programs to help improve the quality of life for those less fortunate. From feeding the indigent to providing holistic care for widows and orphans to making a meaningful life possible for patients with degenerative diseases. From helping poor couples get married to providing interest-free loans for those seeking to reverse the cycle of poverty. Colel Chabad is there for all deserving Israelis regardless of gender, age, or religion. And we’ve been doing it for 234 years,
always with love and always while maintaining the dignity of those we help.