In July 2015, as ISIS terror group callously attacked Yezidi villages, a small religious minority sect, in Iraq, CNN covered the story of Khairy Al-Shengary, a Yazidi brought to Israel with his son Wassam, in desperate need of life-saving heart surgery, by Israeli non-profit organization, Save a Child’s Heart.
Save a Child’s Heart (SACH,) an Israeli humanitarian organization and member of IsraelAid, is tucked away in the small Israeli town of Azur, twenty minutes outside Tel-Aviv. It is also the largest organization of its kind in the world.
SACH bring sick kids to Israel, suffering from heart diseases, from underdeveloped countries, often lacking medical staff and facilities, to receive lifesaving surgery. The procedures take place in Wolfson Hospital, a ten-minute drive from the SACH halfway house, by Israeli doctors who volunteer their time after work hours.
Wassam was blue in the face, from lack of oxygen as a result of his condition and his father waited anxiously throughout his sons seven-hour surgery, performed by Israeli doctor, Dr. Sion Houri.
El Shengary had a lot on his mind. Not only was he worried for his son throughout the surgery but at the same time he was desperately trying to gain information on his wife and four other children, who had fled on foot from the ISIS massacres, in his village.
“There were hundreds of young men and boys and they slaughtered them in the name of religion.” He says in disgust. “What kind of sick people are these?”
“To see a child who is sick and is now no longer sick, I know of nothing better,” said Dr. Houri, following the successful operation.
Soon after the operation El-Shengary is further relieved to learn of the fate of his family back home, who survived by entering a Kurdish stronghold, however with nothing left on their backs.
Save a Child’s Heart came into being in 1995 by Dr. Ami Cohen, an American Israeli serving as the Deputy Chief of Cardiovascular Surgery and Head of Pediatric Cardiac Surgery at Wolfson hospital in Israel.
Since then Save a Child’s Heart has saved 3,700 children’s lives from a wide variety of countries, including Africa, Eastern Europe, China and 40% from Arab countries including Jordan, Egypt, Iraq and Palestinian controlled areas, including the Gaza Strip.
Ami died in a tragic accident while climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in August of 2001.
His life’s project, Save a Child’s Heart, transcends national boundaries and political differences, building bridges of peace and understanding between Israel and the nations of the world.