Success stories of Our Lady of Peace Center: A special day for Aya

JORDAN – At the age of 15, Aya lost her leg following an accident. This Saturday at the Our Lady of Peace Center will change her life.

With her shy smile, Aya seems to be like any Jordanian teenager. A sidelong glance, however, suffices to notice the absence of her left leg as an offense to the carefree of her 15 years. Today, the girl who suffered an accident three years ago will benefit from a new prosthesis on her left leg. What happened? she was running in the class when suddenly her leg hit a table wildly… A string of small wounds led then the girl to contract a tumor impossible to absorb. The diagnosis? it was necessary to amputate it. She, who loved to play football, would no longer be able to kick a ball. She, who loved to run, must get used to moving with two huge crutches to climb the stairs of the school to class. But the girl is tenacious and disconcerts her entourage by the simplicity with which she faces events. No, except for the steps of the school to climb, she did not encounter any problem. Students in her class have also created a Facebook group to facilitate her comings and goings because her teachers did not want to move the class on the ground floor.

From appointment to appointment, she hopes this prosthesis that will allow her to walk again. The problem remains the cost: after empty promises, her insurance tells her that nothing can be supported financially. A shock quickly chased away by the phone call of the NGO Handicap International who told her about the Our Lady of Peace Center. This unexpected news will change her life.

In the small rehab room, Aya paces with this surprisingly straight leg, so strange still, that she will have to get used to. One foot in front of the other … it’s been so long since she did not make this move. From now on, she can climb these famous stairs, gently but without help. With the many operations related to her injury, she has almost two years of high school to catch up and the program is dense. Her mom is moved but Aya herself is already too busy practicing her new way of walking. She will not be able to play football anymore. She will not run anymore. But she will go to the University to pursue her dream of becoming a lawyer. And nothing will stop him.

Claire Guigou

Jordan: In Aqaba, the Church is committed to the disabled

AQABA – In the south of Jordan, the Church is fighting to provide dignified care for people with disabilities and to raise awareness on the subject.

At the end of the desert that crosses the country, between arid mountains, stands the city of Aqaba, on the borders of Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. The last city in southern Jordan has a more limited Christian presence than the rest of the country, a fact that does not prevent the Latin Church from leaving a strong social print. Our Lady of Peace Center, which provides care for people with disabilities, opened a branch in the heart of the city on May 15, 2011. “When the government saw the positive impact of our action, they gave us a land there,” explains Sahem Madanat, the Center’s director.

Compared to other existing structures for disabled people, Our Lady of Peace Center has the characteristic of offering individual and personalized follow-up. The institution offers different services: physiotherapy, speech therapy, intervention unit and occupational therapy. Each service has to deal with a long waiting list. The families of Aqaba and its surrounding areas come here for the professionalism and the free care. “We take care of a disabled person every hour,” says Ramy, the director of the Aqaba branch.

Carrying the cause of disability, a long-term job

In this establishment supported by the Latin Patriarchate, all employees are of Muslim faith; it is above all the fight for the dignity of disabled people. Before becoming the director, Ramy was a student at the University of Jordan. One day, while playing basketball with his friends, a young person with Down’s syndrome, who wanted to join the game was rejected by the rest of the team. Ramy got angry and outraged by this situation. “This story pushed me to get involved. It was from then on that I started volunteering to help people with disabilities, especially at Our Lady of Peace Center”. A few years later, his position as director allowed him to continue to invest in a cause he believes in. He is convinced that the model of the Center is ​​essential in Jordanian society, in order to raise awareness of the human wealth of people with disabilities and increase the opportunities for interaction between these young people and society. Recently, he launched a program to give computer courses to young people with a mental or physical disability. In addition to being a great medium that helps them overcome the problem of isolation, this training aims to become a professional one.

Like this trial program in Aqaba, Sahem Madanat would like to implement several training courses that aim to help with the integration of disabled people into Jordanian society in the main branch of the Center in Amman, where school children, who are above 14 years old, are not supported.

Claire Guigou

Success stories of Our Lady of Peace Center: Abdel Azziz, a fight for life

JORDAN – Born prematurely at seven months, Abdel Azziz was condemned to death. However, the selflessness of his parents has shaken the trajectory of this little boy, now almost two years old, who has been following physiotherapy sessions for the past three months at Our Lady of Peace Center. A testimony was collected as part of our new series of reports: “Success stories of Our Lady of Peace Center”.

“He fought to live”

In the cheerfully noisy hall of Our Lady of Peace Center, the low and serene voice of Suha, mother of Abdel Azziz trembles. The story of her son is recent and her voice is full of emotion, but she knows that this testimony can initiate change and open doors. So, she takes a breath and shares the story. “It was a terrible night. I was seven months pregnant and I started to feel severe abdominal pain. My husband immediately took me to the hospital”. As a nurse, Suha was worried because, she knew that these pains do not bode well for pregnancy. The doctors were not worried and made her wait for long hours… until her water broke. The little Abdel Azziz was born on November 11, 2015, aged 31 weeks, in critical condition. “He had a weak heart rate and his blood pressure was low… it seemed like the end,” said Suha. “I still remember the doctor ordering the pediatrician to cover him up and let him die. But I refused that because my son’s heart was still beating. They therefore agreed to put him in an incubator”.

Two weeks passed during which Suha and her husband, despite their close families and the health care team, were the only ones to believe that the child would live. Abdel Azziz simultaneously suffered a brain hemorrhage and a lung infection, caused by the hygiene problems of the hospital. “During this time, I could only pray. He finally managed to put on weight and he fought… he fought to live”.

Abdel Azziz was then sent home with his parents and was put in an isolated room to avoid any new infections. For weeks, Suha was the only one who helped him in this small space, only going out occasionally to take care of her other children. “Abdel Azziz is getting better little by little and his condition has stabilized. Despite all the health problems associated with early birth, he is alive. Suha has also follow up appointments with specialists of all kinds: oculists, physiotherapists… but the disillusion is great: care is too expensive and not always up to par. “Here in the Arab world, they do not care for people with disabilities because they think they will be useless”, Suha said. Far from being discouraged, she continues to search for the best for her son. The lack of oxygen at birth has caused a delay motor all over his left side and he must follow intense physiotherapy sessions. One day, by word of mouth, she heard about Our Lady of Peace Center and the free care. She put him on a waiting list after which doors opened.

At Our Lady of Peace Center, another chance in life

Three months later, the boy showed a great progress coming and going in the hall of Our Lady of Peace Center. Behind his round glasses, he defies with an amused look the strangers he meets and shouts his joy of life at the top of his lungs. Hanan, a physiotherapist is proud to see that in a few sessions, he has almost reached the motor skills of a “normal” child of the same age. Today, Abdel Azziz has taken a new step: he will follow his first session in the department “Early Intervention Unit”, a program that assesses all the cognitive and intellectual abilities of the child. “The love they give to children, the professionalism, the equipment and of course the free care … everything is different here and we are happy to have found the best for Abdel Azziz” said Suha smiling. For her, the model of the Center offers a beautiful response to a blatant suffering in Jordan: that of a disabled population still largely hidden because disability is still seen with shame in the eyes of society. Yet 13% of Jordanians have a disability. “For a disabled child to live, even more here than elsewhere, you have to sacrifice everything,” said Suha.

Gradually, the taboo of disability is slowly crumbling in Jordan thanks to the courage of Suha and so many other parents, convinced of the dignity of their children. But the road is long. On the waiting list, many patients are still waiting to be treated and accompanied because, even if the number of patients increases exponentially, the number of the care staff remains stable. Free care at Our Lady of Peace Center depends entirely on the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem and other organizations, and the financial stability of this immense infrastructure continually requires new donors. This free care is an unexpected benefit for many families who would not be able to seek treatment at the Center without this condition.

Claire Guigou

If you would like to help Our Lady of Peace Center, please click here.

Inauguration of “Mary, Mother of Hope Home” in Anjara

ANJARA – On Saturday, September 30, the “Mary, Mother of Hope Home” was officially inaugurated in the parish of Our Lady of the Mount in Anjara, Jordan.  This home welcomes boys and girls who are orphans or are in distressed family situations.

Bishop William Shomali, Patriarchal Vicar in Jordan, officially opened the Home in the presence of Ms. Hala Bseiso Lattouf, Minister of Development, Bishop Emeritus Maroun Lahham, Mr. Falah Al-Swailmeen, Governor of Ajloun, priests and sisters of the Institute of the Incarnate Word whose apostolate is carried out with these young children.  A large crowd also gathered to take part in this festive event for this small town in the governorate of Aijloun (northern Jordan), with about 20,000 inhabitants.

During her speech, the Minister for Social Development reaffirmed the involvement of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in drawing attention to the efforts in the development of care facilities for vulnerable children and families.  She referred to King Abdullah’s steadfast commitment and the many accomplishments already made in the spirit of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, signed by Jordan in 2006.

Bishop Shomali thanked all who have contributed to this project: the Knights of the Holy Sepulcher, Dr. Bertrand Ferrier and Madame Nathalie Ferrier of the Belgian Lieutenancy, the Portuguese Knight Tiago Teles de Abreu (who donated all the gifts he received for his wedding), Dr. Ursula Fuerst of the Order of St. Lazarus and the Jordanian benefactors, friends of Anjara. He highlighted the essential role of the Church in supporting and helping the most vulnerable in the Jordanian society. The bishop concluded with a farewell message to Father Simon Goliardo, the parish priest of Anjara (who is leaving for to work on other humanitarian projects) for his apostolate and service in the parish of Our Lady of the Mount in recent years and for his involvement in the project of the “Mary, Mother of Hope Home.”

Remy Brun

More picture here.

Syrian refugees in Mafraq: “the true face of the Church is not afraid of anything.”

JORDAN – After seven years as chaplain of the parish of Mafraq, north of Jordan, Father Francis tells us of his apostolate to Syrian refugees. Five years ago, and thanks to the Latin Patriarchate and its generous partners, he launched a school support program and various activities for this particularly disadvantaged population.

Interview follows.

 Can you tell us about the town of Mafraq and the context of your former parish?

The town of Mafraq is located 15 kilometers from the Zaatari camp in northern Jordan. It is heavily marked by immigration, following the Syrian conflict. Today, 90,000 Syrians live in Mafraq and more than 81,000 are living in Zaatari. It’s no longer possible to go to Zaatari as I have done several times, the Church has an apostolate to this Syrian population living in Mafraq, often it’s refugees with special permits to live in the city.

What mission does the Church have for this population?

Five years ago, however, we launched an apostolate to this population with the help of Caritas, a social arm of the Church. This was first achieved through providing school support for Syrian children, in the afternoon. Some thirty students from the parish have joined the project, offering Math, Arabic and Science courses. Each year, from October to June, we received an average of 300 children aged 6 to 14, in the afternoon, all Muslims. Various activities were added to this: sport, visits in the families … To carry this project, our support was the Blessed Sacrament. Every week we organized adoration.

What do you remember about the apostolate?

You cannot imagine how much good the young the students have received from their volunteering. It is a real concrete experience that speaks of the universality of the Church. The relations between Christians and Muslims in Mafraq are, on the whole, very good and one can say that relations of friendships have been established. For example, some Muslims warned me when they noticed an unusual movement in the church. It happened regularly that some also came to visit me. Voluntarily, I kept the door of the church open all the time. I believe that the true face of the Church is not afraid of anything. The apostolate of the Church is not just for Christians. That is our strength.

Interview conducted by Claire Guigou

Summer camp at Ader: “As the father has sent me, I send you” (John 20:21)

JORDAN/ADER – From July 17 – 30, the parish of Saint Joseph, Ader, organized a camp for children aged 5 to 14 under the direction of the YCS (Young Christian Students) Jordan. A project encouraged by the Latin Patriarchate and supported by Belgian donors.

In the center of Jordan, in the heart of Ader, one of the villages that borders the desert route, connecting the country from north to south, 90 young children and adolescents aged 5 to 14 met at the parish of Saint Joseph for a week of summer camp every day from 16.00 – 20.00 hours. This year, the camp was centered around the theme of sending, thus relying on a well-known verse of the Gospel of St. John: “As the father has sent me, I send you” (John 20:21). To make the experience both fun and informative, the parish presented a balanced program: the young children began to study the Gospel through a biblical account and then continued in the afternoon with various rotating workshops: karaoke, handicrafts, sports … In the middle of the camp, they also donned their walking shoes for a day of hiking, despite the summer’s heat: “a way to understand that, despite the small or great hardships of life, Jesus is still there and it gives us the strength to move forward”, said Abouna Bassam Al Deir, former parish priest of Saint Joseph, who helped to organize the camp. Finally, the children ended the week with a night under the stars, very close to the Church.

This type of event is of critical importance for the Christian families of this region, who remain a minority. It is a unique moment of sociability in the year when all meet for a lively and joyful catechesis. “The purpose of this camp was simply to let them love the Church and Christ,” concluded Abouna Bassam.

Claire Guigou