Held in serene rural or resort settings throughout Israel, Chaiyanu retreats are designed to address the emotional and social needs of each member of the family through lectures, small group discussions, mutual support groups, art therapy, and interaction with peers. Periods of rest and relaxation are included in this full schedule, enabling families to engage in the same kind of fun-filled activities they regularly enjoyed before serious childhood illness entered their lives.
Chaiyanu sends over 50 Israeli children to Camp Simcha in New York free of charge every summer. A pioneer in kosher summer camping for Jewish children with cancer and other life-threatening illnesses offers to over two hundred children the chance to experience summer camp in separate three-week sessions. Located in the Catskills, medically fragile boys and girls from around the world can enjoy a few emotionally and physically refreshing weeks of summertime fun and recreation while receiving their individualized treatments at Sloan Kettering’s satellite facility right on the campgrounds.
20 children with cancer enjoy an unforgettable trip to a majestic country. During an eleven-day excursion, they are hosted and entertained by the wonderful people of Johannesburg and Cape Town. Spectacular outings include the world renowned Game Reserve and Zwartkops Motor Raceway where they are driven in real Lamborghinis, Ferraris and other thrilling race cars. At the end of each exciting day, the children are treated like royalty at a lavish dinner party at one of the host families with music and a variety of entertainment.
Families desperately need to take a few days off from the grueling routine of a serious illness. There is an inexplicable need to decompress, reunite and create new positive memories. Arrangements are made for a weekend getaway or a short trip during the week to a beautiful villa in Northern Israel. All accommodations are addressed by Chaiyanu’s volunteers, including delicious meals. The families are allowed to rest and relax, while putting all the responsibilities of daily living out of their minds for a few days.
Throughout the year Chaiyanu organizes many events and programs that offer a rejuvenating experience for the family, including trips to water parks, concerts movies and amusement parks to name a few. This enables families to reunite in a fun, happy atmosphere as well as with other families who are in a similar situation.
Specially trained volunteers create a close bond with the patient, as well as, with his or her siblings. Becoming an integral part of the family, at times as close as family members themselves, the big brother/big sister lends a loving hand and a listening ear whenever needed. This special attention helps give peace of mind to the parents whose time and energy is spread so thinly. By staying in constant contact with their assigned youngsters, Big Brothers and Big Sisters also serve as vital links between the family and Chaiyanu, enabling Chaiyanu to have a better gauge on the family’s needs.
365 days a year, Chaiyanu volunteers travel throughout Israel to the hospital beds and homes of boys and girls during their various stages of cancer treatments. Bearing arts and crafts, games, movies, books, baskets of fresh fruit and freshly baked cookies, and even musical instruments, these energetic volunteers offer support, comfort and practical assistance to patients and family members. This vital project brings a breath of fresh air and joy to the pediatric wards, hospital staff and the patients’ homes.
Six cars of Chaiyanu volunteers travel throughout the entire Israel distributing over $130,000 of the gift of their choice to over 530 children with cancer, as well as exciting toys to their siblings. Many of these children receive their awaited gifts at hospital parties sponsored by Chaiyanu. The gifts are presented in the most celebratory manner with music and dancing, bringing joy and magic to a holiday that may have gone unnoticed due to the other distractions in their lives.
Frightened, over-whelmed, stressed and alone; these are just a few of the myriad emotions of any mother of a child with cancer. In order to allow these moms to feel like the heroes they truly are, Chaiyanu volunteers take over the daily responsibilities of the home and family, while Chaiyanu sends the mom away to the Dead Sea for a carefree day of pampering. The much dreamed of relaxation, nurturing, and emotional “facelift” allows her to feel like a woman again while regaining the energy to garner a positive attitude so necessary to assist in her child’s recovery.
Trained volunteers are available to provide daytime, overnight, Shabbos and Yom Tov respite care to hospital bound or home bound pediatric patients. This invaluable service allows the parents to spend time, either in the hospital with the patient or at home with the siblings, depending on where the parents feel they are needed most. All this while have the peace of mind that no family member’s needs are neglected.
Regardless of level of religious observance, the escorting out of Sabbath is celebrated in the homes of our families across the country. This is just one more opportunity for our energetic volunteers to dress up and bring a spirit of joy into the homes with the excitement of music and dancing along with delicious treats. The children and their families are reminded that they are not alone in their valiant battle to survive.
Hundreds of thousands of dollars in financial assistance is provided to hundreds of families throughout Israel to help alleviate the sudden onslaught of unanticipated expenses. Besides the monthly financial support, special stipends are distributed prior to each Holiday season enabling the families to celebrate the Holiday free of the stresses that accompany the extra Holiday spending.
One of the most traumatic effects of cancer is the sudden hair loss subsequent to chemotherapy. In order to maintain the child’s self-esteem and dignity, Chaiyanu provides high quality wigs to children, preserving their self-imagine and allowing them to feel a semblance of normalcy. The presentation of the wig is done in the utmost positive manner, many times within a party setting, creating a happy occasion during a very frightening time in the child’s life.
Chaiyanu assigns a highly skilled case manager to each patient’s family. The case manager acts as a liaison between the family and Chaiyanu. By assessing the unique needs of each family and sharing the results with Chaiyanu’s administration and volunteers, a seamless coordination of services and assistance is provided community-wide.
Chaiyanu avails professional counseling and support to families during crisis situations. Lectures are held for the parents with special guest speakers on a regular basis. These sessions are held in both private and group settings. Group Grief Counseling is also available to parents in the warm and comfortable Chaiyanu office where dinner is provided and parents are able to create bonds with other parents, gaining the strength and encouragement to continue forward.
One of the biggest challenges is addressing the debilitating boredom of a child who is hospital bound or home bound. The traumatic loss of their social life, both in school and at home can lead to depression and a lack of positive attitude so crucial to winning their battle. Chaiyanu provides videos, books and computers for hundreds of children undergoing cancer treatments. Media Players are available on loan along with a choice of educational and entertainment programs.
The Chaiyanu office has established a place where children and their siblings can escape their trials and tribulations and play for hours at a time, enjoying the latest game technology in a room of their own, along with billiards, ping pong and soccer table games. A Jamboree for ages 6 months and up is also available so that the entire family can enjoy this magical place. Nutritional meals are available as well. Siblings of the patients consider this an after school “home away from home” on days when their family is at the hospital.
A common reality in Israel is the reliance on public transportation, as many families do not have the luxury of owning a car. The abundance of medical visits to doctors and hospitals, once a child is diagnosed with cancer, is prohibitively expensive. The time entailed by public transportation can often make punctuality for appointments impossible. Transporting the child with a wheelchair and other accessories is simply impossible. Chaiyanu provides transportation, cost free, for any family member to get to and from Hospitals and Medical centers for treatment, reducing the stress involved in traveling while maintaining the dignity of all family members.