Hope Lives Here...with Noa

By Adina Saban

The guiding theme for Chai Lifeline Canada in 2023 is Hope Lives Here. When children and families are impacted by illness, hope feels hard to come by. Through our programs and services, our professional staff and volunteers, Hope Lives Here. Meet Montrealler Noa Rollansky, Chai Lifeline Canada superstar volunteer, sharing what Hope Live Here means to her.

If you have been following our social media accounts for the last few years, you may have seen some fun dance videos created by a Big-Little Sibling duo, Noa and Maya. We recently had the chance to interview the big sister of the duo, Noa Rollansky, and learn about how those TikToks, as well as her involvement with Chai Lifeline Canada, came to be. 


Noa has been volunteering with Chai Lifeline Canada for the last four and a half years and the reason she got involved is a personal one. When she was a teenager, her cousin was diagnosed with leukemia and received support from Chai Lifeline Canada. Her cousin was paired up with a big sibling, who gave the parents relief, and overall, Chai was a big support in their lives. They gave high praise to Chai Lifeline Canada, and it encouraged Noa to get involved. As an older sister and a dance teacher, Noa already had experience working with younger children, and enjoyed teaching and learning from others, so it was a good fit. 


When Noa first became a big sister in Chai’s Big Sibling program, she was nervous and did not know what to expect. After meeting Maya, the little sibling she was paired with, she recognized her as one of her dance students and it was a perfect match.  Their shared interests helped their relationship feel easy and natural. They started posting dance videos on TikTok as a fun activity they could do when they were together and doing so allowed them to capture their sisterly bond on camera for everyone to see. Maya knows that she can always ask Noa for advice and the girls feel comfortable just lounging around and chatting when they’re together, instead of only doing activities. They both consider their relationship a bond for life. 


After growing comfortable in the Big Sibling program, Noa decided to get even more involved, working at Camp Lifeline. During Covid, Camp Lifeline Montreal ran as one-on-one backyard camps to accommodate strict social distancing and safety for our immunocompromised campers. Noa went to two different campers’ homes (one was Maya’s), and using a box of supplies given by Chai, “created” camp. It was as fun as it was challenging. As the summers went on Noa realized that box was just a box, but the camp experience came from the campers themselves. They brought their personalities, interests, and imagination, which made each day different and unique. In 2022, Camp Lifeline Montreal moved back to its central location and Noa became a co-director. She oversaw hiring the staff, communicating with parents, organizing activities, and she met so many new kids.  


There are a few things that Noa came to realize and took away from her job as camp co-director:  


  1. At the start of the summer, campers were quite shy, but with new, shared experiences, they became more confident and outgoing as the camp session progressed. Surrounded by peers facing similar life situations, campers felt safe and were able to recognize their distinctions and who they were outside of their illnesses and disabilities.


  2. Working closely with the parents of campers and meeting the families opened Noa’s eyes to how invested everyone in a family is when a child is sick. Every family member is involved and impacted in some way. 
  3. Overseeing counsellors, who worked one-on-one with the campers, Noa saw what many of the counsellors came to realize: a child with an illness or disability is still a child They have extra needs to think about, but they have the same interests and wants as a normal kid. And being sick is only one small part of their identity, it should not overpower other aspects of their lives.  

When asked how she thinks Chai Lifeline Canada brings hope to families, Noa shared that hope is found done by “proving over and over again that families will always have someone by their side.” There will always be someone at Chai doing their best to help a family in need and that is what brings so much hope. Families know that they’re not alone. “Really how Chai Lifeline Canada helps is by showing up when a family needs it.” 


Having four and a half years of experience volunteering with Chai Lifeline Canada, Noa was asked to give some advice to people who want to get involved, but don’t know how to start. Her answer was simple: “Just do it! Just start!”