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Sunday, August 30, 2015

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Save A Child’s Heart presents photo exhibit

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Betty’s large brown eyes stare right though you as she clutches her doll. She is lying in a hospital bed, and her angelic smile emanates warmth and hope, revealing a deep understanding of life well beyond her five years.

Betty is one of the subjects captured in the international photography exhibition From Art To Heart, presented by RBC and Save A Child’s Heart (SACH), and opening at the MaRS Centre in Toronto Sept. 15.

From Art To Heart, a joint effort of SACH and the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is travelling across the world in celebration of Israel’s 60th birthday.

Betty, who was born with an atrial septal defect, and severe pulmonary stenosis, travelled with her mother from Ethiopia to Israel in 2006 to have her congenital heart defect repaired. Like the other children photographed, Betty is one of the children who has received life-saving surgery from SACH, a team of 70 Israeli doctors, nurses and support staff.

Established in 1995, SACH is an Israeli-based, international humanitarian program whose mission is to improve pediatric cardiac care in the Third World  and developing countries for children, regardless of their religious or national status.

The exhibition, created by seven Israeli photographers, bears witness to the emotional and physical journeys that these brave children and their families have experienced. The photographs reveal both the angst and joy that both parent and patient endure while dealing with their medical crisis.

Photographer Gili Yaari documented Betty and the other children in the group from Addis Ababa for more than a year, through their surgeries and recuperation.

SACH volunteer Sheila Shalhevet photographs every child who comes to SACH, in the hospital wards or at the SACH home, which is situated in Azur, near the Wolfson Medical Center.

The exhibit is free, and school groups from grades 5 to 12 are invited. “We want to draw the children in through the theme of journey, both in the emotional and physical sense,” Karen Diamond, president of SACH Canada says. “Children of all religious and cultural backgrounds can relate to these photographs. The photography exhibition is truly about mending hearts and building bridges.”

Having had the privilege of visiting the Wolfson Medical Center and SACH house, I can attest to the powerful and realistic images that were photographed for the exhibition. I will never forget the images that I took home with me: Palestinian fathers rolling out their rugs in the middle of the hospital room getting ready for their midday prayers; children and parents from the Palestinian Territories smiling and chatting with me; children from Zanzibar and Tanzania playing together with my children in the SACH home, while their mothers or caregivers cooked together and cared for one another; Muslims, Christians and Jews working side by side in Israel.

Unfortunately, these images etched in my memory, like the images photographed in From Art To Heart, are rarely picked up by the international press. An exhibition such as From Art to Heart highlights the positive connections being made between Israelis and the rest of the world.

From Art To Heart is a riveting exhibition that will undoubtedly educate and draw attention to SACH and its humanitarian mission.

From Art to Heart runs Sept. 15 to 25 at MaRS Centre Atrium, 101 College St. For more information, call 416-324-9113. www.saveachildsheart.ca


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