Alumni Young Judaean is ‘Mending Kids’ Around the World
Humans of Young Judaea Feature, by Ayal Willner
The values of Tikun Olam, the numerous lines in the Torah where we are enjoined to remember that we were once slaves in Egypt and to treat people well, along with the sayings of the prophets about taking care of each other, are all values that Young Judaea holds dear and imprints upon all who participate in the movement. While I have always been involved in giving back to my community, I decided to step up my game in 2013. As a Pediatric ENT doctor, I searched for a way to use my skills and experience (yup, I’m old enough to have a lot of that!), to find my corner of the world and fix it up as best I could.
I found Mending Kids, an organization whose goal is to provide medical care for children in need. We do this by sending medical missions and sometimes solo surgeons to places where care is difficult to get, and by arranging for patients to be sent to centers of excellence to get the care they need. This is very often on different continents from where the patients live (including a partnership with Israeli hospitals). We also bring education to physicians around the world via teleconference symposia on many topics. Mending Kids has a yearly Hometown Mission, where kids from the LA area and beyond can receive care that they would otherwise have not be able to receive.
With Mending Kids, I have travelled to Guatemala about fifteen times and to Tanzania three times. In Guatemala I have led fifteen member surgical teams where I’ve treated about 100 patients and performed over 100 surgical procedures in one week. Some cases are relatively straightforward, while others can be very complex requiring staged operations over many yearly missions to achieve the goal of helping one particular child. Each one of the kids and their families are always so grateful for the care they receive, and each member of our team is grateful to them for allowing us to make the world just a little closer to whole.
In Tanzania, where there are physicians are eager to learn, but where surgical equipment and training is in short supply, the Mending Kids team brings both. Mending Kids recently arranged for a $60,000 set of airway surgical instruments to be donated by the Karl Storz company to the Bugando Medical Center in Mwanza, Tanzania. Over the last two missions to Mwanza, we delivered the instrumentation as well as trained the residents and attending staff on proper use of them by performing surgical cases together. We are working to secure the necessary surgical instrumentation that will be required for our ultimate goal: to have a self-sustaining program where the surgeons we train will go on to create a pool of ENT physicians that serve the 15 million people served by Bugando Medical Center.
My years in Young Judaea from 7th grade chanich, 2 years at TY, Year Course ’79-’80, through being a madrich for the UNYS region and at TY, have all brought me lifelong friends, and helped me integrate Jewish Values into my very core. I am now a YJG board member; an opportunity to give back to such an important piece of myself, Young Judaea.