Founded in 1995 by American immigrant and heart surgeon Dr. Ami Cohen, Save a Child’s Heart began operating at the Wolfson Medical Center, where he worked.
It started out when a pediatric cardiologist from Ethiopia asked for Cohen’s help with two children he was treating. They were sent over to Israel for surgery, sparking Cohen’s mission to help developing countries with pediatric cardiology care.
To date, the organization has treated 5,000 children from some 60 countries at Wolfson. It also trains doctors from these countries at the hospital, and regularly sends out medical missions to many places across the globe.
All this is carried out by some 100 doctors and nurses from Wolfson, who volunteer their time and experience.
“I believe Save a Child’s Heart represents Israel at its best,” British-born Executive Director Simon Fisher says. “At the core of the activities are universal values that are at least part of my DNA as a Jew, as an Israeli and as someone who immigrated from the UK to Israel and feels the need to showcase who we are.”
“If there’s a child we can help, then we’ll help,” he says of the different populations that the apolitical organization treats, noting that nationality does not make a difference. This is particularly true in the case of Palestinian kids, who have a special weekly clinic at SACH.
While the organization is non-governmental, it does receive support from the Israeli Ministry for Regional Cooperation and at times the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as the European Union and other private donors.
“As a member of the international community, Israel is giving to humanity, per se, and in many cases leading and leading by example,” Fisher says of SACH. “It’s very much based on the values of tikkun olam,” he adds, concluding that “children are our future.”