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|The Best Summer of Our Lives [ 01/08/2011 ]|
The Best Summer of Our Lives
"This was the best summer of my life!" was the sentence repeated over and over again by the eight excited young girls, students from New York's leading Jewish high schools, as they said goodbye to their no less emotional hosts at Reuth Medical Center. This was the conclusion of an intensive three week internship program, brimming with totally new experiences: hard work and exciting challenges – both intellectual and emotional, combined with much youthful laughter, high spirits and fun. An unforgettable time in which the young interns learned a great deal about working in a hospital, while absorbing an inestimably meaningful lesson - about giving, compassion, and what it means to be a volunteer at Reuth.
"When I first visited Reuth Medical Center, 18 months ago, I immediately realized that the medical center offered an incredible internship opportunity for young Americans," says Tamar Major, Executive Director of American Friends of Reuth. "Moreover, Reuth, the very epitome of chesed, is the perfect place to inspire young Jews who want to connect with Israel today." And so Tamar, assisted by the Reuth teams in both the United States and Israel, began to put together an internship program targeting motivated 11th graders who are interested in a learning experience in a medical center, care about Israel and truly want to make a difference.
The eight rising seniors (from Frisch, Ma’ayanot, Ramaz, Sar Academy and Yeshiva University high schools) - selected for their maturity and serious intentions, as well as their sunny smiles and vibrant personalities - arrived at Reuth Medical Center in Tel Aviv at the end of June. With the entire experience, except for airfare, fully funded by American Friends of Reuth, they roomed right on campus, becoming part of the scene the moment they stepped through the gates.
Soon the patients in the different wards began to look forward to visits from the radiant young Americans in the yellow volunteers' robes. Always attentive and caring, the girls shadowed the professional caretakers, gaining hands-on experience in diverse paramedical practices, such as physiotherapy, occupational and speech therapies, music and garden therapies, animal-assisted therapy and alternative medicine. They helped patients eat and dress, rolled them out in wheelchairs for outings in the sunshine, cheered and encouraged people in rehabilitation, and played with children connected to life-support machines. "It is amazing how deep a connection you can make in such a short period of time," says intern Jessica Willner. "I feel that my fellow interns and I really made a difference in the lives of the Reuth patients." Work on the wards was complemented by daily lectures on a range of stimulating topics - from nursing care, through rehabilitation medicine, to religious law and medicine. In addition, the interns prepared PowerPoint projects on subjects of their choice.
Yet the program was not all demanding, serious work in the hospital. The welcoming team at Reuth Medical Center, led by Deputy Executive Director Miriam Frankel and RMC Project Coordinator Hadar Shaked, had worked hard for several months to put together an enriching, well-balanced program that also included time for fun and unwinding. The interns went on trips to the north and south of Israel and outings to Jerusalem, and spent their evenings partaking in the many delights offered by Tel Aviv itself– from beautiful beaches to fascinating museums.
When, all too soon, it was time for goodbye, all parties felt fully confident that this farewell was only temporary. "We all know that one day we will return to Reuth," said intern Gabrielle Segal. "Here we learned that Reuth is a family. Reuth is our family, and families take care of each other. We will continue to love and support Reuth as much as any family would support one another." And the team at Reuth embraced the new members of the family with all their hearts: "This is only the beginning," promised Reuth Chairperson Merav Mandelbaum. "All your lives you will be part of Reuth. You are the future of Reuth!"
Back home after a life-changing experience that exceeded all expectations, these eight dynamic, enterprising girls are the best ambassadors Reuth could have hoped for. Telling their story to parents and friends, spreading the word in their schools and communities, they are, at this very moment, laying a fertile foundation for the next generations of Reuth supporters.
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