School’s out and summer is here, and Chai Lifeline’s i-Shine programs have completed another successful year.
i-Shine, an after-school initiative for children from families dealing with illness or loss, was founded 11 years ago in Long Island for the Five Towns Jewish community. It serves approximately 800 children each year and has since expanded across the United States, Canada and Europe. Other regional chapters include Brooklyn, Chicago, Los Angeles, Rockland County, Teaneck, Toronto and Antwerp. In February, Westchester and New Rochelle became the newest region to join i-Shine.
Volunteers span a wide range of age groups, including high school students, retired adults, and others with flexible schedules who are recruited by Chai Lifeline to serve as “big brothers” and “big sisters” to participating kids. The i-Shine mentors play games and sports activities, help with homework, and give kids their undivided one-on-one attention. In many regions, dinner is also provided with special care given to the dietary needs of each child. Volunteer drivers transport the kids from school to the i-Shine location and back home at the end of each session.
“We love i-Shine, it has been a real lifeline for us,” said Josephine Basher of North Miami Beach. “All of our younger children can all be in one spot together doing an activity that appeals to all age groups. It’s also good for the kids to see that they’re not the only kids who struggle with a diagnosis or loss in the family, that they’re not alone.”
Many parents also expressed their appreciation for how much i-Shine has impacted their child’s self-esteem.
Sheva Katz, Coordinator of i-Shine in Pico, North Hollywood and La Brea areas in Los Angeles, said, “We had a mother who often spoke about her daughter’s need to be a part of a group, to be around others who could relate to her experiences. Just a couple of months into i-Shine that same mother reached out to us to relay that i-Shine had finally helped her daughter feel accepted and part of a community. She is less isolated and more comfortable coming out of her shell.”
Chanie Friedman from Los Angeles shared her experience as a volunteer. “I wanted to do some volunteering work with kids and share my passion to help in any way I can, so I began volunteering at i-Shine twice a week. I help children with their homework and give them the necessary attention that they need. One doesn’t only have to give financially to make a difference. If you have the time and the emotional energy, you are impacting lives in a more direct way.”
“It is incredible how much our volunteers from all over the world can change the lives of so many children affected by the devastating challenges of illness and loss in their families,” said Andy Lauber, LMSW, who oversees the Long Island and Teaneck i-Shine programs. “Through i-Shine, we aim to bring out the best in each child in reaching their academic, athletic and artistic potentials and also enable them to have fun and really be kids again.”
To learn more about i-Shine go to www.ishinechailifeline.org.