Simcha Teachers Give Sick Children Lessons In Laughter


Kids who can’t go to school because of illness face more than boredom. The extra hours without stimulating activity can lead to sadness and even depression. Simcha Teachers, Chai Lifeline’s newest program for hospitalized and homebound children, matches volunteers with a specific skill or talent with interested children who are hospitalized or homebound due to illness.

Chai Lifeline has long offered tutoring in Judaic studies to children who can’t attend school. Simcha Teachers don’t replace the schoolwork necessary for students to keep up with their classmates. Instead, they will offer children who can’t be in school an outlet for their curiosity and creativity.

The program is the brainchild of Tzvi Haber, Chai Lifeline’s program consultant and director of volunteers for the Mid-Atlantic region. As a longtime volunteer from Baltimore and a division head in Camp Simcha, Tzvi saw children with hours of time and little creative stimulation. At the other end of the equation were people with myriad talents that ranged from magic to music, astronomy through zoology who were eager to impart their knowledge. He decided to put the two groups together.

Simcha Teachers is still in its infancy. Tzvi is actively recruiting “professors” willing to donate a few hours on a weekly basis to a child. “We’re looking for people who will share their excitement and show a kid how it’s done,” said Haber. “For example, a magician wouldn’t do a performance; he would teach a child how to do some tricks. A guitar player might give a child lessons. Someone who loves elephants and zebras might come with different books every week.”

Rabbi Simcha Scholar, Chai Lifeline’s executive vice president, praised the innovative program. “Keeping children engaged in something they want to learn goes a long way in keeping their spirits high and helping them feel better,” he said.

Haber added that Simcha Teachers “professors” are not professionals in the fields they teach. “You don’t have to be an expert. You just have to want to share your passion with someone else.”

Contact [email protected] to volunteer your time to this wonderful new program.

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