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Sylvan Adams – Showing Israel’s true heart in Rwanda

CM 19/05/2021

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‘I just got back from Rwanda,” says Sylvan Adams, in a typical burst of enthusiasm. “It was a wonderful and fascinating experience!”
Rwanda is one of the smallest, most impoverished countries in Africa, but for Sylvan Adams, Israel’s self-appointed ambassador-at-large, it was the perfect location to practice his unique brand of sportsmanship, philanthropy and kindness. In a one-week whirlwind visit in late April, Adams brought Team Israel Start-Up-Nation to compete in the Tour du Rwanda cycling race, delivered a message of friendship to Rwandan cyclists, and met with the Rwandan Health Minister to arrange to bring a group of Rwandan children to Israel for life-saving medical care. 
“It was a very interesting, productive trip, both on the sporting side and the social investment side,”says Adams.
Cycling is one of Adams’s passions, and Team Israel Start-Up-Nation, the Israeli cycling team which Adams co-owns, traveled to Rwanda to participate in the Tour du Rwanda, Africa’s largest and most important cycling race. Adams added, “As the biggest race in Africa, we think it is important to come there and show solidarity with Africa.”
Adams speaks highly of Rwanda, noting that it is perhaps the most progressive country in Africa. 
“Once a month,” he says,“they have a national cleanliness day, where everyone goes out in the street and picks up garbage, including the president of Rwanda. It’s a really special thing to see. I wish Israel could adopt such a habit,” he says. 
In addition, he adds, the country is safe. 
“I was in a sea of people in the heart of Kigali, riding my bicycle, in the heart of the neighborhoods, surrounded by all kinds of people, and I never felt a moment of discomfort.” Finally, he notes that the country is very supportive of women’s rights and women’s empowerment.

Five members of Team Israel Start-Up-Nation competed in the Tour du Rwanda, the eight-day stage race that passed through seven cities and four provinces, along with other leading teams from Africa and Europe. James Piccoli, a Canadian rider representing Israel Start-Up Nation, finished in second place. Adams was especially delighted that three of the five riders from Team Israel Start-Up-Nation at the race are native-born young Sabras, two of whom race for the Israel Cycling Academy development team. 
“I am determined to develop Israeli cycling,” he says. “We are taking young riders to big races, so it’s working. The plan is to make cycling into one of the most popular sports in the country.”
Team Israel Start-Up-Nation made many friends in the cycling community in Rwanda with its adoption of the only women’s cycling team in the country, donating bicycles, racing outfits, helmets, tires and other accessories. The team mechanics also tuned up the women’s bikes. 
“We spent a lovely day with the women’s team, and we have committed to adopting them. We want to help them reach higher levels of the sport and race in high-level women’s competitions and inspire other younger girls to become bike racers,” he says.
For Adams, sports are a means to reach out and communicate with people around the world, showing the true face of Israel abroad. This trip to Rwanda was no exception. 
“I rode my bike with the Israel Start-Up Nation team on Rwandan roads in the days leading up to the race. As for the race, the local viewership and support for our team was spectacular,” he enthuses.
“I am carrying the blue and white all over the world and showing our ancient cultural imperative of tikkun olam [repairing the world], and showing our true heart,” says Adams. This quality is perhaps best exemplified by his involvement in the Save a Child’s Heart organization, which offers life-saving heart surgery to Israeli, Palestinian and other children from 62 countries where access to pediatric heart care is limited or nonexistent, at Sylvan Adams Children’s Hospital, as well as mobile teams operating on children in Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe. MEETING WITH Simon Fisher, executive director of Save a Child’s Heart, in Rwanda. (Photos: Sjors Beukeboom)MEETING WITH Simon Fisher, executive director of Save a Child’s Heart, in Rwanda. (Photos: Sjors Beukeboom)
ADAMS HAS been a devoted supporter of the program for the last number of years because, says Simon Fisher, executive director of Save a Child’s Heart, “It represents so much of what Sylvan believes in terms of showing Israel at its best and showcasing Israel around the world.”
Save a Child’s Heart was created by the late Dr. Amiram Cohen, an American physician who immigrated to Israel in the early 1990s. While serving as a doctor with the US Armed Forces in Korea in 1988, Cohen joined a program that helped poor local children with heart disease. The experience introduced him to a network of doctors doing similar work in developing countries, inspiring him to create Save a Child’s Heart after moving to Israel. Cohen’s team operated on their first two children in 1996, and 25 years later, the organization has performed heart surgery on almost 6,000 children.
During the meeting between Fisher, Adams and Health Minister Dr. Daniel Ngamije, held in the Rwandan capital of Kigali, a memo of understanding was drafted to provide life-saving treatment for 70 children from Rwanda in Israel at the Sylvan Adams Children’s Hospital in Holon over the next several years, jointly funded by the Rwandan Health Ministry and Save a Child’s Heart.
Over the years, 22 children from Rwanda have come to Israel for treatment through the organization. During their visit to Rwanda, Adams and Fisher organized a reunion of the Rwandan children who had undergone treatment in Israel and have gone on to lead healthy, successful lives. 
“We are seeing young children whose lives we have saved turning into young adults with their own families, with the ability to give life to others,” says Fisher. 
He noted that many of the patients, inspired by their experiences, have gone on to study medicine and nursing. Fisher adds that one of the first Ethiopian  patients, a young man named Yared, opened a home for children who have grown up on the streets. 
“Yared is now responsible for the lives of thousands of street kids who benefited from his dream, which resulted from his life being saved in Israel,” he comments, adding that “meeting families of the first children who were operated on in Israel from Rwanda in 2007 was extremely exciting.”
Save a Child’s Heart trained physicians from Tanzania and Ethiopia in advanced cardiac techniques, at Wolfson Medical Center in Holon. Adams says that those doctors will work with local surgeons in Rwanda to help treat cardiac cases in there. Children with severe heart issues who cannot be treated locally will be treated at the Sylvan Adams Children’s Hospital in Holon. The hospital is a seven-floor state-of-the-art medical center that includes a pediatric intensive care unit; a three-room operating suite, consisting of a hybrid operating room that allows the medical team to perform open-heart surgery in parallel with catheterization; a heart institute; two inpatient floors; and a department for pediatric outpatients. Other public-spirited individuals and foundations, including Morris Kahn, the Ted Arison Family Foundation, and the Azrieli Foundation, have generously supported Save a Child’s Heart and the children’s hospital. The pediatric ICU is named after Jaqueline Kahn, and the Azrieli Foundation donated the equipment used for the operating and catheterization floor and for the two inpatient floors of the hospital. In addition, the Ted Arison Family Foundation has committed to donate the new pediatric Emergency Room.
“We want the world to know what Israel really is,” says Simon Fisher, “and what we stand for and how much we do not only for our own but for the whole world. The principle of tikkun olam is at the heart of what Save a Child’s Heart does and very much the heart of Sylvan Adams.”OVER THE years, 22 children from Rwanda have come to Israel for treatment through Save a Child’s Heart.OVER THE years, 22 children from Rwanda have come to Israel for treatment through Save a Child’s Heart.
This article was written in cooperation with Sylvan Adams.

Source: Jerusalem Post

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