September 3, 2007 / 20 Elul 5767
Through the Jewish Agency’s Magen David Adom Ambulance Volunteer Program, young people from across the globe are volunteering as emergency first aid responders, saving lives, rescuing those in distress and strengthening their connection to Israel.
Four years into studying to be a pharmacist at the University of Paris, Carine Sakh, 27, decided to leave her studies and volunteer in Israel. "I didn't feel that being a pharmacist was the right thing for me," says Carine. "I had been active in the student government in trying to promote mandatory first aid courses for all students, as I think this is really important. When I left university, I chose to volunteer for the Magen David Adom Ambulance Volunteer program in Israel."
Carine grew up in a traditional Jewish family in Paris and attended a Jewish day school. She came to Israel most summers with her family to visit relatives and had always felt a strong connection to the country. When she arrived as a tourist to volunteer she already knew a fair amount of Hebrew.
Carine participated in an intensive 10-day training course in Jerusalem, with more than 50 other volunteers from all over the world. After the course, they were placed in different MDA stations around the country. Carine stayed in Jerusalem and lived at the Beit Canada Absorption Center.
"I loved the time I spent with Magen David Adom," says Carine. "I worked different shifts, riding in the ambulance and attending to different kinds of situations. We worked in teams of three, a medic, a woman doing national service and a volunteer. I became friends with so many wonderful people."
Three incidents stand out vividly in Carine's mind. One was when they were called to attend to a woman whose blood pressure had skyrocketed. When the ambulance arrived, she was barely breathing. At one point she stopped breathing altogether, but the MDA team resuscitated her, took her to the hospital and she was okay. "What impressed me so much," says Carine, "was the way the medic handled everything – so professionally, but with such tenderness and care."
During another shift, a woman almost gave birth in the ambulance and Carine was with her throughout the entire labor, holding her hand, wiping her face, and trying to ease her discomfort. There was also the time a Christian tourist from Canada fell in a church in the Old City and was bleeding profusely. At first all she could do was focus on her pain. However, on the ride to the hospital, as the bleeding subsided and she started feeling better, she and Carine started talking about Israel, the beauty of the country and the people. "She was a nurse by profession and was so grateful for the wonderful service she felt we gave her."
Following her three months with MDA, Carine decided to make aliyah. She passed her college entrance exams (which she took in French) and started college again. This time, she is majoring in special education for seriously disabled children at the David Yellin Teachers College in Jerusalem. Her studies are financed through a Jewish Agency supported Student Authority Scholarship, and Carine is happy with her new direction.
"Working with severely disabled children is very challenging and extremely rewarding. The key is not to get disappointed and to be able to see every small step forward the children take as a huge victory."
Carine, now in her sophomore year, hopes to finish her undergraduate studies and then continue on to graduate school. She is considering majoring in animal therapy.
The Magen David Adom Ambulance Volunteer Program is named in memory of Yochai Porat, coordinator of the Volunteer Program who was killed by a Palestinian sniper on March 3, 2002, while trying to give medical care to a fellow soldier. He was 26 years old at the time of his death. With your help, the Jewish Agency can continue to help other Jewish young adults pursue Yochai’s dream-and their own dreams- of providing vital emergency services in Israel and relating to Israel in a deeper, more meaningful way. To learn more about how you can help, click here.
If you or someone you know is interested in joining this program, please click here.