Chai Lifeline recently hosted its first-ever conference for leaders of i-Shine, the organization’s after-school program for children living with illness or loss in their homes. Held in Chai Lifeline’s New York City office, the i-Shine conference brought together the lay leaders and professionals who care for more than 500 elementary school-age children throughout the academic year. The conference participants shared best practices and new ideas to further enhance this unique program, which provides a much-needed service to families across the country.
“i-Shine is one of the most innovative programs that Chai Lifeline offers,” said Rabbi Simcha Scholar, Chai Lifeline’s executive vice president. “Since every community adapts the ideas to fit its own dynamics, strengths, and capabilities, we wanted to give its leaders an opportunity to share their experiences. Additionally, the day allowed our dedicated professionals and volunteers to further advance the identity of this highly successful program.”
According to Andy Lauber, LMSW, the program’s director, i-Shine was conceived to offer support to siblings of sick children, children living with an ill parent, and those living with untimely loss in their homes. “Our founders, three educated, aware, and dynamic mothers from the Five Towns, understood how these circumstances were adversely affecting children and created an incredible program to address their emotional, social, and educational challenges. In the eight years since it started, parents, educators, and the volunteers who interact weekly with the kids have seen the positive difference it makes.”
Though the daylong conference focused on concrete issues ranging from recruitment to programming to dealing with behavioral patterns among children experiencing dysfunction in their homes, the real benefit to participants was the free-wheeling discussions that stirred their thoughts and ideas.
“I learned so much from everyone here,” commented Ellen Weiss, MSW, director of Chai Lifeline’s southeast region.
“We got so much from each other,” agreed Stacey Zrihen, who founded i-Shine’s original program in the Five Towns/Far Rockaway eight years ago together with Annette Kaufman. “They learn from us and we learned from them.”
i-Shine currently operates programs in the Five Towns/Far Rockaway, Brooklyn, and Rockland County in New York; Teaneck and Lakewood in New Jersey; Lincolnwood, Illinois; Toronto, Canada; Los Angeles, California, and Antwerp, Belgium. Chai Lifeline’s Southeast region, which already runs successful Sunday and summer programs, will begin a new branch in the south Florida area in September 2015.
The i-Shine program has had a profound impact on countless families. “We cannot adequately share with you how much i-Shine has meant to our family this year,” said one parent. “Our children enjoy the activities, the smiles, the food, and the companionship that you have brought to them each week, and it has been a welcome respite for us as parents.”
“i-Shine is a lifesaver in a stormy sea and a place where the typical siblings are the special ones,” said another parent. “The time you have given to our kids has been well spent. They have benefitted so much from your friendly faces, the homework help, the fun activities, and the delicious dinners you have served with a smile. Thank you for everything and we wish you much continued success.”
Chai Lifeline is a worldwide organization that was founded in 1987, whose mission has been to restore the light of childhood to children whose innocence ended when life-threatening or lifelong illness was diagnosed. Through programs, activities and services that address the emotional, social, and financial needs of seriously ill children, their families, and communities, Chai Lifeline restores normalcy to family life, and better enables families to withstand the crises and challenges of serious pediatric illness.
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