July 16, 2024
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Out of the Shadows: Caring for Kids Disfigured by Burn Injuries

Sam Davis, founder of Burn Advocates Network (BAN), a Teaneck-based non profit that provides rehabilitation and recreation for burn victims around the world, plans to bring a kosher therapeutic burn camp to the US. It will be modeled on Camp Sababa, Israel’s first and only burn camp, located in Kfar Galim, a village outside of Haifa, also founded by BAN in 2009, which operates in cooperation with Schneider Hospital for Children. The proposed American camp will open in July 2017 in Barryville, New York, and will be a resource to Orthodox burn victims, as well as others, in the tri-state area.

“Unfortunately, there is an urgent need for supplementary burn care, and we must raise awareness,” said Davis. “Burns are one of the most common forms of traumatic injury for children under the age of 8. The numbers are much higher for Jewish kids. Think of how many candles are lit per year, burns from perpetual heat sources for Yom Tov cooking, cholent burns… the risks are higher among open-flame societies.

”Camp Sababa has had great success, and serves a population of 60 percent Jewish and 40 percent Muslim campers. “Burn camps provide an effective means to help young burn survivors cope with their painful new world, as they face the challenges of recovery, rehabilitation and reintegration,” said Camp Sababa Co-Director Yuliana Eshel. “They provide unique opportunities to challenge themselves and share their emotions and stories in a safe and supportive environment. In addition to participating in usual camp activities, they gain social confidence and the ability to cope with challenges that stem from their burns. Camp also allows interaction with caregivers outside of the painful medical atmosphere. Multicultural burn camps lead to new social connections and overcome barriers for both campers and counselors. They see themselves as similar because of their injury despite their cultural differences. The cruel injury is their common fate even as their faith is so different.

”Whether caused by a house fire or scalding cooking fluid (or an insurgent’s explosive device)—burn injuries have devastating psychological consequences, and are unfortunately more common than we would like to think. Physical disfigurement makes the recovery process protracted and excruciating. The external wounds often require multiple painful and complex surgeries, and Davis believes that the internal scars require structured processes to heal as well.

Davis and BAN have found that specialized burn camps are an integral part of the healing process.

For some campers it may be the first independent encounter with other survivors, a step that requires courage and self acceptance. For others it may be part of a long rehabilitation process, as they mature from campers to counselors. For all it is an oasis of understanding, where they can once again be children. “This is a crucial step in helping these kids through crushing depression,” said Davis. “When they experience such devastating injury, it’s almost like they stop blossoming as kids. It takes a transformative experience to get them to realize they are not alone; not the only kids with profoundly altered self images or disabilities. The only way to get that message across effectively is by putting them in a therapeutic setting with others in the same situation.

”Founded in 2007, BAN consists of tuition free pediatric burn camps and a burn care network. The organization is funded through private donations and fundraising events. With the help of funders and partners, they plan to have burn camps in 10 different countries by 2020.

As a personal injury lawyer who has dealt with countless burn victims in 30 years in practice, Davis said he’s seen first hand how a serious burn injury can wreak havoc on someone’s life. A resident of Tenafly, Davis became involved in burn advocacy through his work as a trial lawyer. “What really drew me in was the plight of children who had burn injuries,” he says. “No matter how much I did for them as a lawyer, these kids were never getting better, and that always affected me,” he said. “The literature shows that in the short time they attend camp, they experience dramatic improvements. You don’t have to be a detective to see joy blossom where there was just desert.

”For more information on BAN see burnadvocates.org/. For more information on Camp Sababa see burnadvocates.org/where-we-work/israel-camp-sababa/.

By Lisa Matkowsky

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