ANJARA – On March 15, the Anjara branch of Our Lady of Peace Center opened a new speech therapy service for children, which completes the physiotherapy service established at the end of 2008. Thanks to the support of benefactors, “Our Lady of the Mount” Center can now provide free care for children with mental and physical disabilities in this particularly poor region of Jordan.
A center entirely free and open to all …
At the door of the Anjara Center, Arwa, a speech therapist, and Abrar, a physiotherapist, welcome their patients in a small room next to the parish of Our Lady of the Visitation maintained by Father Hugo. On March 15, a completely new free service for children with speech disorders was opened. The young speech therapist now cares for an average of thirty children aged 2 to 16 years. She shares this room with Abrar, who receives children with a physical disability for rehabilitation sessions. The goal is to teach mothers a few simple and effective exercises to advance their children. In just a few weeks, the new speech-language pathology service already has a long waiting list. “The fact that the service is free allows families who do not have the means to come,” says Abrar.
Anjara and the governorate of Jerash, a region in need
In this predominantly Muslim and particularly poor region, the services offered by the center are valuable. Disability is disturbing and is often hidden because it is synonymous with shame, leaving many children on the sidelines of Jordanian society. “Little by little, in Anjara, news of the Center is spreading and these children come out. Yet there are still many young people with disabilities to look after in Anjara, but the social context gets in the way of things. Here, women drive little and it is difficult for a mother to leave her other children for several hours to take one of them for treatment, “explains Sahem Madanat, Director of the Center. To meet the needs of these families, Sahem would like to develop both services on a full-time basis and, in the long term, offer an occupational therapy service.
Our Lady of the Mount, or Interreligious Dialogue in Action
Like Our Lady of Peace Center near Amman, the Center for Speech-Language Pathology and Rehabilitation of Our Lady of the Mount presents a unique model of interreligious dialogue, not theories but action, through the service provided to these young people with disabilities. A dialogue that bears fruit as evidenced by the story of a man, who was initially very defiant and violent at the action of the parish, was gradually transformed as he noticed the rapid progress of his handicapped granddaughter.
This Center for handicapped children finds its place in a larger setting of Our Lady of the Mount, mainly directed by the Latin Patriarchate. There is a home for young girls and boys supervised by Father Hugo. These children and adolescents, often orphans or in situations of family distress, are housed, fed and educated free of charge, thanks to the Church. In order to continue this project, the Latin Patriarchate undertook the funding of a new building that accommodates 20 young boys, the latter residing until now in the same building as the Sisters of the Incarnate Word, who are in charge of their education. In addition to this home, more than 200 children, Christians and Muslims alike, are enrolled in a primary school also run by the Brothers and Sisters of the Incarnate Word. The Patriarchate also contributes to the renovation of the kindergarten of this school, a very important place for socialization. At a very early age, Christians and Muslims learn to play together. For this project, the Latin Patriarchate project development office is seeking funds to continue to financially support this institution, which depends on the generosity of the donors.
Our Lady of the Mount, a Marian place
A home for orphans and refuge for handicapped children, Our Lady of the Mount has a special charism. According to historical references, the Virgin would have come here with the Child Jesus taking refuge in a cave. In memory of this passage, Father Yousef Salmeh Nammat, the former parish priest, had a sanctuary church built.
On May 6, 2010, in the same Church, a statue of the Virgin that sits in the middle of the parish house shed tears of blood; a miracle witnessed by Patriarch Emeritus Fouad Twal. In this place where Muslims and Christians meet daily, the Virgin weeps, as a loving mother, with these very different children. Since this appearance, many pilgrims have come to pray to Mary. In order to welcome them, the Latin Patriarchate contributes to funding a pilgrim center and the construction of a parish hall for the faithful to come together for various occasions.