This “Healing the Children” Volunteer will Give You a New Outlook on Life

This “Healing the Children” Volunteer will Give You a New Outlook on Life 932 621 Emilie

Healing the Children New Jersey is a local chapter of Healing the Children, an amazing volunteer organization which provides medical services to children in need, both internationally and domestically. HTCNJ provides these services in many ways- from sending medical prescriptions abroad, to sending entire medical teams to perform operations in countries like South Africa and Panama.

Other times, when international children have especially complex diagnoses, it becomes necessary to bring the child to the United States for extended medical care. This stay can last a few months, or it could even last over a year. During this time, children stay with incredibly generous volunteer host families, who devote their time towards helping children in need.

One such host family is the Alectoridises. Incredibly, this family has hosted children with HTCNJ for over 20 years. Recently, I was lucky enough to talk to Jackie Alectoridis to learn more about some of these amazing experiences that she has had over the past two decades.

What is the most memorable experience you have had with HTCNJ?

Honestly every experience is memorable.  It is hard to just pick one.  I have always felt as though each experience is unique and a miracle in it’s own way.  I have seen burn victims scarred from head to toe share how grateful they are for life!  I have witnessed children who are blind or missing a limb learn survival skills that most adults haven’t learned in a lifetime.  And all of them are happy…..just purely and sincerely happy.  They have all taught me so much about living and have each been a gift in their own way.  I could write a book about each of them.
Can you tell us about one of the children who has stayed with you over the years?
Again, it is difficult to choose one child or story but Lesly’s story is quite a miracle.  Lesly is from the Domincan Republic and comes from a very poor family.  Lesly, like many other family members on her mother’s side, including her mother, brother, aunts, uncles, and cousins was born with cataracts.  This genetic condition would easily have been corrected when Lesly was a baby if she was born in the United States.  But none of Lesly’s family members received corrective surgery and Lesly’s case was worse than any other case in the family.
Lesly was completely blind.  She arrived in the United States when she was 3 years old.  She spent the first day in my home scanning the environment with her hands.  She covered the entire house, touching everything and learning where everything was.  She smelled and licked many things, using her other senses to learn about her new environment.  For a three year old child she was quite independent and a tough cookie.
We were so excited for her first appointment with the eye doctor to see what the process would be to help get this child vision.  Unfortunately the doctor explained that because Lesly had gone without vision for almost 4 years that even if they removed the cataracts her brain may never learn vision.  They went ahead with the surgeries but they were not hopeful.  They performed 3 surgeries.  They removed the cataracts one eye at a time and one last surgery to correct the muscles that were causing her eyes to cross.  After each surgery we waited anxiously for a miracle.  We stood in front of her and waved our hands and held up fingers and prayed for some kind of reaction……but nothing. 
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One day, several weeks after surgery, our friend’s daughter was playing with Lesly and stuck her toungue out at her.  Lesly mimicked her and stuck her tongue out also!  Just like that….Lesly started to see things.  She was recognizing her reflection in windows and looking at herself in the mirror exclaiming “It’s me!  It’s me!”  She was writing on everything.  Taking crayon and coloring on her own hands and proudly showing everyone the scribbles in the palm of her hand.  She would scribble on table surfaces and then stare closely at her creations for several minutes at a time.   On Halloween she admired her reflection in her witches costume and stared forever examining every piece of a candy in a big bowl.
By the time Lesly left us in her adorable glasses she could tell the difference between pink and purple.  Knowing that there was hope for her to read and write was a miracle.  After Lesly left her little brother Louie also came and received the same surgery and glasses and because he was younger his vision was even better!
Why do you volunteer for HTCNJ and what does HTCNJ mean to you?
Being a host parent is something that is part of me.  Every child that has stayed with me has become a part of my family.  When I think about how each child’s life is changed because of the work that Healing the Children does, I think about my own children and what that would mean to me…..and what it does mean to me because of how much I love each of these children.  One case at a time…..every one is worth it and changes the lives of many and hopefully changes the world for the best.
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How to Help

People like Jackie have made it possible for the lives of children all around the world to be completely changed. To learn more about the services of HTCNJ, go check out their website. You can help HTCNJ by being a host family yourself, or contact HTCNJ about giving a presentation about the organization at your place of work! Of course, doctors, nurses and translators can also offer to volunteer their services. Or, you can choose to donate: every bit helps, and 90% of all donations go directly to programs and services! Help out this amazing organization today!

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