Welcome Back, sweet girl

Early this morning, coworker Doro and I were able to escort some very special friends of mine from Kurdistan to Israel! It was a sleepless night for all of us, but two-year-old Mariya was the happiest little passenger on the plane.

She impressed all the flight attendants by settling right down and happily wearing her seat belt, and charmed them all with her big grin.

Mariya and her mother were among the first people I got to know when I arrived at Shevet in 2021. At the time, Mariya was just eight months old and about to undergo open-heart surgery to correct her coarctation of the aorta. I barely spoke a word of either Kurdish or Arabic, but her mom patiently helped me learn both, all the while learning words and phrases in English herself, so we could communicate. Mariya spent four months in Israel, most of that time in the Pediatric Ward at Sheba Hospital, before going home to her dad and big sister with a healed heart.

Now, over a year and a half later, Mariya’s heart is still well, but a cyst on her left kidney is inhibiting kidney function and causing recurrent infections. After a year of visiting nearly every pediatric hospital in Kurdistan trying to find treatment, Mariya’s parents asked if we could help her get back to Sheba, where she may need to undergo a nephrectomy surgery. It took several more months of coordination with the hospital and the Interior Ministry, but Mariya and her mother’s visas arrived just in time for them to fly back to Israel with us this week.

We’re so excited to have these two back in Israel with us. It’s hard to believe how big Mariya is now! She’s still the sweetest girl– though it takes a bit of time for her to warm up to a new person, once she’s decided to be friends, she’s all smiles and giggles. Please pray for Mariya and her mom as they’re getting settled in and beginning another round of treatment.