Project Lavi

15Mar10

For the past five years, Hadassah has been the home for a unique and one of a kind voluntary project. The project brings together medical students from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and patients and their families during their hospitalization. The student volunteers offer patients and their families their attendance, a sympathetic ear and emotional assistance as well as participation in daily activities and communication with the medical staff.

Uri Ilan, currently a sixth year medical student, founded the project when he was in his first year of medical school. The project is named in memory of Uri Lavi, his childhood friend, who died of illness at the age of 23. “Despite his serious health problems, he was always joyful and a symbol of unconditional caring and love to his fellow- man. I felt that this project would properly honor his memory” Uri recalls. The project was born out of Uri’s inner drive and desire to bridge the human factor gap between doctors and patients, as well as patients’ families. “It is important that as future doctors we learn to know and experience our patients on their side and through direct communication, only then could we become better and more complete doctors” Uri describes his vision.

Recently Uri turned over project management to Roni Schwartz, a second year student. Roni describes the project by highlighting its three main focal points: The patient – To assist patients first and foremost on a  personal and emotional level, offering attention, human touch and energy, as well as participation in activities such as reading a newspaper, watching a movie or strolling to the nearby shopping center. The patient’s family – In many cases a patient’s family becomes ill itself. Families are forced to alter their daily routines and often lose vitality and fall apart. The project’s volunteers offer a sympathetic ear and lend a helping hand, allowing family members to vent out emotions. Assistance is also provided by replacing family members at their watch at the patient’s side. The volunteers – Being medical students, the volunteers gain significant added value by being exposed to patients through their social aspect using direct eye level communication. Undoubtedly, this will contribute to their quality and functioning as future doctors.

Both Uri and Roni agree that volunteering in the Lavi project has been the most important “course” they’ve taken and most valuable lesson they’ve learned in medical school.

The project began with 7 volunteers in the Bone Marrow ward and currently numbers 80 students in 10 0f Hadassah’s medical wards. For each ward there is a volunteer coordinator which keeps continuous contact with the ward’s head nurse and social worker. The ward’s staff locates patients and families in need of assistance and together with the coordinator try to optimally match the patient with a volunteer. The volunteer first meets the patient accompanied by the head nurse and social worker, after which he is left to continue independently.

In addition to individual, one on one activity, volunteers also take part organizing social ward events such as music and song nights and holiday celebrations. An example of another such activity is the painting of the children’s ward corridor guided by artist Ilan Shaul.

The Lavi project student volunteers roam Hadassah’s wards like an elite unit, performing their missions quietly and humbly. They accompany hundreds of cases a year of which the vast majority are moving success stories. Cases range in duration from days and weeks to months and even years of one on one volunteer – patient relation. In some cases the relation between a volunteer and a patient or family extends beyond Hadassah’s walls and after formal treatment is over.

Ever since its conception, project Lavi has come a long and significant way and the road ahead certainly looks thrilling and full of promise.

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