COHI, the Circle of Health International is a volunteer organization helping refugees who arrive in Israel. The story of these volunteers is never published in the International media and I hope that by sending out this story and others there can be a greater awareness of the humanitarian side of Israeli society.
Rochel Englander is the Group Organizer of the Sudanese Refugee Project and she writes the following:-
Being an active member of the Sudanese/Hillel refugee project is hard work but nothing can beat the satisfaction you get when you see the joy on a mother's face when her baby is handed to her for the first time. For those who are not aware, a group of midwives volunteering with COHI are participating in the Sudanese/Hillel Project in Arad, a small town in southern Israel, and in a women's shelter in Northern Israel. The aim of the project is to help and empower refugee women throughout the birthing process.
But unfortunately, not every birthing story has a happy ending. Working in this position exposes you to your fair share of heartbreaking situations. Here is one such story:
Recently, I was called in to deal with a Sudanese couple who had been through a harrowing experience.
The young couple had come from Sudan to Egypt in mid-April. The couple, along with the group that they had fled Sudan with, had attempted to jump the Egyptian border to get to Israel, but unfortunately, not everyone made it. The rest of the group was shot by the Egyptian border patrol and the young couple fled to the desert where they wandered for two days without any food or water.
The wife, 19 years old and pregnant for the first time, gave birth to a baby boy on a mountaintop in the desert. Because of the unforgiving desert conditions, the baby was dead by the time the Israeli army found them. The army doctor transported the couple on a helicopter to a hospital in Be'er Sheva. He stayed with them the entire day and even helped them find a Catholic priest and cemetery to bury their son. I cannot begin to express how impressed I was by the gentle treatment given to the couple by the army doctor and the Israeli border police. And it didn't just end there – it seemed like the entire community came to their aid, even students from the local university who donated clothes to the young couple. It appeared everyone was trying in their own way to soothe the pain of the turmoil that they had been through.
Unfortunately, the experience had left deep scars, not just physical but emotional as well. I stayed with them and explained what was going on as best I could. I helped the hospital staff in their care and was able to bring the community leaders from Arad to help explain the situation. But the husband was inconsolable and terrified. He didn't believe that the border police was not there to hurt him. He thought the nurses were typing a deportation notice on the computer, when in fact they were simply entering medical records.
The couple seemed a little reassured when the Sudanese community leader came and talked to them. They felt even better when they were released from the hospital, because they weren't sent to a detention center but were free to do as they pleased.
The wounds from the turmoil that the young couple went through cannot be easily healed. But when I, along with other members of our Program, went to visit them the young wife said they were doing a lot better but her “body still weeps a little bit.” When you've lost your first born in such terrifying circumstances, what mother's wouldn't?