Keeping kids healthy and happy during the long summer months can be a challenge. Having a sick child in the hospital over the summer can multiply that challenge manyfold.
Recognizing these obstacles, Colel Chabad, Israel’s longest continuously running charity, organizes summer camps in two of Israel’s hospitals, Kaplan Medical Center in Rehovot and Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon. Yes, summer camp!
“Hospitals get particularly busy with ill children in the summer, therefore, the need for hospital summer camp is crucial to helping sick children,” explained Chany Lieberman, administrator of Colel Chabad hospital summer camp programs, to Breaking Israel News. “Between summer injuries, like dehydration and accidents, and non-urgent surgeries scheduled in the summer so their child won’t miss school, pediatric wards become particularly busy. Of course, there are also those children having long hospital stays due to serious illnesses like cancer.”
The camps are run by post high-school volunteers connected to Colel Chabad. Lieberman told Breaking Israel News that although hospital staff were sceptical about the need and importance of the camps, they are now grateful that sick children have productive activities during their hospital stay to help make them happier and even healthier.
The camps, which run for half a day five days a week, offer sick children fun activities and ease the job of parents and medical staff by providing distractions from their pain and boredom. “Doctors, nurses, and parents are amazed at the healing effects the Colel Chabad hospital camps provide,” continued Lieberman. “For example, one girl, who had been in the hospital for over a month and never smiled, became joyful. Her parents were moved to tears hearing her laughter return.”
Other “miracles” which have been reported include the return of lagging appetites, listless children coming to life, depressed children returning to their youthful joy, and children refusing to leave their beds becoming active.
As Israel’s hospitals are filled with various cultures and religions including Jews, Arabs, both Christian and Muslim, Bedouins and Druze, Lieberman pointed out to Breaking Israel News that everyone is invited to join their camps. “The sole purpose of Colel Chabad is to help those in need with dignity and without discrimination,” she said. “These hospital summer camps have a strong positive impact on patients, families, hospital staff, and level the playing field of different ethnic groups.”
The hospital summer camp program has been running for 36 years and is the brainchild of Rabbi Mendel Lieberman, organizer of hospital activities for Colel Chabad. With impressive sensitivity, Rabbi Lieberman realized that, while most children were having enjoyable and relaxing summers, hospitalized children were not only suffering from sickness but were also bored and even depressed knowing that their days consisted of tests, surgery, injections, or transfusions.
By bringing joy filled activities and entertainment to hospital-bound children boredom, sadness, pain and frustration could be alleviated. “The children feel our love for them and appreciate the healthful attention they receive,” said Lieberman. “They love the arts and crafts, drama, sing-a-longs, shows, balloons and parties we make. We just purchased a printing machine to print the child’s picture on t-shirts. We bring in makeup artists who make the patients look beautiful and do fun things like butterflies. Then, we take pictures of them and print the pictures on t-shirts.”
Colel Chabad charity organization fully funds these hospital camps through donations made to the organization ensuring that no charge is placed on the hospital or participating families. Additionally, many of the parents must maintain their work schedules and cannot afford to spend full days with their sick child, making these hospital camps even more crucial to the well-being of the patient and parents.
“Science has now found what the Bible has always taught, that bringing joy to sick people helps them heal,” noted Lieberman. “Colel Chabad’s hospital summer camps help sick kids to feel better, heal faster, and lets them know that they are remembered and loved.”
To donate to Colel Chabad, please click here.
Written in cooperation with Colel Chabad.