At Chai Lifeline, we know that family comes first. We offer a holistic approach to supporting our kids, because we know that in a crisis, every member of the family suffers alongside their brother, sister, or child. So, we offer services to serve every member of the family, and each service is unique and tailored towards the needs of each member of the family. And appropriately enough, I started out my association with Chai Lifeline as a Big Sister to an adorable 4-year-old named Samara.
I first met Samara last September as a volunteer, and she quickly became my favourite kids in the world. Her younger brother is ill, and she needed a play partner, so I pick her up from school, take her to play places, we go for lunch or ice cream, we do arts and crafts, and so much more. Sometimes, for a treat, we go to Bayview Village, so that Samara gets to try out the lipstick at MAC Cosmetics. It’s her favourite activity, and I love watching her try it on. And for her fourth birthday, Samara and I got to see Disney on Ice! And because of Chai Lifeline, I get to be a part of her family and develop a close, long-lasting relationship. I get to be her big sister, not just her Big Sister.
When I first started working at Chai Lifeline, I got to experience another kind of family, the mentorship that I can give new volunteers. I can speak to their concerns and salute their accomplishments, because I’ve been there. It’s such an incredible and rewarding experience.
A week or two after I started working here, I told my father-in-law how amazed I was at the diligence and commitment of our volunteers and staff. How perfect strangers could care so deeply about someone they’ve never met, how a teenage girl will sacrifice her night to do an “overnight shift” with one of our warriors at the hospital. He looked at me and very slowly told me that I was wrong. “These aren’t strangers,” he said, “they’re family. We, the Jewish community, is just one big family.” And I’m intensely grateful to see the power of that family, and proud to see the support it gives every single day.
Linsday Frieberg is a volunteer coordinator at Chai Lifeline Canada’s Toronto Office