A Heart for Peace. Literally

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Could there be Peace on earth, if we were to think with our hearts? Probably. Yes.

It seems, the more loving the initial thought upon which a project is created, the more heart warming, life changing the experience it creates. Here is one such intention.

In the year 2005, a conversation took place at the Israeli, Jerusalem based hospital, called Hadassa. A group of French physicians met Pr. Rein, a cardiologist and the head of the pediatric cardiology ward, to discuss the local political situation.

Asking where they could be of help, they soon realized there was a great need in medical assistance to the many Palestinian children residing in the West Bank and Gaza, where one out of every two marriages is endogamic, resulting in a three times higher rate of congenital cardiac malformations than that of a general population. Since Palestine has no public healthcare, nor are there pediatric cardiac surgery departments in the area, the solution became clear – to have these children be taken care of in Israel.

A Heart for Peace was born. A non profit organization aiming both to save Palestinian children, suffering from congenital heart diseases, as well as to bring Israelis and Palestinians together, through the initiatives of health and education. With the latest, state of art treatments, screening, diagnosis done by cardiac ultrasound examination and other extensive, complicated procedures, the children are treated free of charge by mixed teams of Israeli and Palestinian doctors working together at the Hadassah hospital.

“A humanitarian action first, the focus essentially is on saving human lives”, Dr Rein – “That’s what we do, we save human lives. I think this is the main action of A Heart for Peace.”

Proffessor Rein

In practice, once a child is diagnosed, his or her palestinian doctor calls Dr Rein to discuss whether or not a surgery will be beneficial; if so, Dr Rein then sends documentation to both check points – Israeli and palestinian, and in case of an emergency, the child is transferred to the hospital within three hours.

– In a hospital, where both Israelis and Palestinians are treated, a patient is a patient, regardless of their background.

“Often both Palestinian and Israeli mothers are present in the same waiting room. Suffering has no nationality. These women are not interested in the creation of war; they both want their babies to be healthy. We need to facilitate dialogue between Israeli and Palestinian families for a better understanding between those 2 people. When the two mothers bend over their suffering child, they might think that war leads nowhere. What do you think they do?
They speak to each other.

It is our bet that a Palestinian mother departing with her healthy child in her arms, is carrying a piece of peace in her heart.” Dr Muriel Haim, President and member founder of a Heart for Peace

Ramallah Cardiology center opening

In terms of the way the world sees the situation in this area, is mostly done through the yes of hopelessness and a big deal of skepticism as to the possible future scenarios. A Heart for Peace comes in to deliver a very different truth. A truth that not only brings hope with it, assisting with today’s needs, but one that takes practical steps to ensure the continuity of such loving, humanistic endeavors continue well into the future. A future of peace and loving care.

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During a gathering that is organized twice annually, followed by a joint lunch, the families of children treated in the hospital get together. The kids are entertained with balloons shows, have their faces painted and are being.. Kids. Playful, peaceful, happy.

“The reason for such encounters is to give continuity to the relationship begun during the children’s stay in the hospital and to continue to build a climate of trust between the families.”

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Dressed as a spiderman or face painted as a butterfly, the joy on a child’s face will hardly reveal its nationality – Israeli or Palestinian.

As to the mothers, watching their children recover in the same hospital room, the love and compassion they experience, naturally goes beyond the borders of separation.

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If you would like to read more about the organization and the heartfelt stories it brings, and/or help with donations and spreading the word about what they do, please visit their website: http://www.uncoeurpourlapaix.org/en/

Here are some facts to date:

– In the years of the foundation’s existence, more than 530 children suffering from severe cardiac malformations have been operated on for free. Such an operation’s cost comes to 14000 euros, of which half is paid by the Hadassah hospital and the other half by Heart For Peace.

– 1200 heart scans have been carried out every year in the West Bank.

– Several Palestinian doctors were trained to perform echocardographies and/or catheterizations and 3 technicians trained to stress test, holter, echo and genetic counseling.

– 197 general practitioners trained to be capable of detecting problems early on.

– 3 years of financial support for a centre for pediatric cardiology in Ramallah, entirely managed by a Palestinian crew, trained by A Heart for Peace, which takes care of children suffering from cardiac pathologies in the northern part of the West Bank.  This centre was opened on the 21st of October 2012 in the presence of the Governor of Ramallah and Palestinian TV.  Over 500 children have already been medically treated there.  42 of them were referred to Hadassah.  A cardiologist for adults rounds off the team.  This centre will be financially independent in 3 years time.

– Several  discussion groups between Israeli and Palestinian mothers took place

– Medicine was supplied to stabilize the children during their transport by ambulance

– 4 portable cardio-scanners provided in order to make both a diagnosis and a post-op follow-up in the West Bank

– establishment of the development of a true cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian doctors in the hospital and community clinics in the West Bank.

-the development of the recognition of the Other.

“At the Hadassah hospital, the enemy is disease …

The beneficiaries are not only the children, the women and the Palestinian families, as well as the trained doctors, but also the Israeli and Palestinian people who get to know each other better.”

The program has 5 key objectives:

1 Inform Palestinian women how to minimise the risks of congenital cardiopathology

2 Detection

– Twice a week, A Heart for Peace organizes a detection session in the West Bank in order to diagnose the children with congenital cardiopathy and do a follow-up on them after surgery.

3 Treatment

-The children are treated free of charge by mixed teams of Israeli and Palestinian doctors working together in the Hadassah hospital.  The development of cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian doctors is essential for two reasons : for developing a climate of trust and for transmitting knowledge in order for the Palestinians to have autonomy with regards to their health.

4)  Creation of a night-shift system in the West Bank

Today,  newborns suffering from cardiopathy can be hospitalized at any time of the day or night at Hadassah.  In fact, as of a year ago, Dr. EL Laham makes night-time visits in response to SOS calls from the neo-natal department in the West Bank centre.  A Heart for Peace wants to extend this system to the northern part of the West Bank.

5)  The transfer of knowledge and creation of networks

5.1 The transfer of knowledge – These training schemes are entirely financed by A Heart for Peace.  The annual cost of training a doctor is 12000 euros and 6000 euros for a technician.

5.2  The creation of networks :

A Heart for Peace develops contacts with numerous general practitioners and pediatric cardiologists in the West Bank.  A Heart for Peace works with the Palestinian Red Cross hospital, the Bethlehem hospital, the United Nations’ children’s clinics in the West Bank, the St Vincent of Paul childcare centre in Bethlehem and the children’s clinics run by the Palestinian Authority  in the West Bank.  Today, the doctors in the West Bank know that their young patients can be taken care of by A Heart for Peace at Hadassah.  

All pictures are a curtesy of Un Coeur Pour La Paix