Twenty years ago, a baby girl, Balkis, was taken to Israel to undergo critical surgery. Balkis had been born with a severe congenital heart defect, and in her native Zanzibar she could not receive the proper treatment.

However, only a couple of years before, in 1995, an Israeli non-profit organization, Save a Child’s Heart, had been established precisely with the mission of providing high-quality medical care for children from developing countries.

Balkis was therefore flown to Israel and hospitalized at the Wolfson Medical center in Holon. After the surgery, she made a full recovery and returned to Zanzibar. But when her daughter Fatma, now one-year-old, was diagnosed with the same heart defect, once again the doctors in Zanzibar could not help and Save a Child’s Heart offered their assistance.

Fatma was the 5,000th patient who underwent a life-saving procedure at the hands of the organization’s doctors, the NGO announced on Wednesday.

“I never thought I would make the journey from Africa to Israel again,” Balkis said, according to a statement released by Save a Child’s Heart. “I already owe my life to this incredible NGO and now that they have saved my baby, I owe them my happiness as well. We are going back to Zanzibar soon, but a piece of our hearts will always stay in Israel.”

Save a Child’s Heart has treated children from 59 countries, including more than 2,500 Palestinian patients from the West Bank and Gaza. All patients are treated free of cost.

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