Pope Francis always reminds us that reaching out to the poor, especially children, means reaching out to Jesus:
“Let us allow ourselves to be challenged by the children who (…) lie in the squalid ‘mangers of dignity’: in the underground shelter to escape bombings, on the pavement of a large city, at the bottom of a boat overloaded with migrants. Let’s be challenged by the children who are not allowed to be born, by those who cry because no one satisfies their hunger, by those who do not hold toys in their hands, but weapons“. (Christmas Homily, 2016)
Our Association has made these words its mission. Thanks to you, we are able to help poor children, children who are victims of war, children who are hungry, to enforce children’s rights.
Like Pope Francis, we want to see them do what they do best: play, grow, study and be happy.
HELPING SYRIAN CHILDREN
“A Name and a Future” is one of the most important projects we are supporting thanks to your help. Many children in East Aleppo, Syria, are growing up alone in the rubble of the city, bombed in 2006.
They are the children of young women who were raped and forced to marry Jihad guerrillas. Those men fled to the north, abandoning them. Out of fear and shame, these mothers have never recognised their children: they do not exist and have no rights.
We care for more than 1,200 invisible children in our two emergency relief centres in eastern Aleppo. Our first objective is to give them a registered identity and a family, to help them catch up on their schooling and to see them grow up strong and healthy.
Thanks to our supporters, every two months the mothers or aunts of the children receive a package with food, clothes and basic goods, including powdered milk for babies, as it is no longer available in Syria.
For three days a week, a paediatrician visits the children of “A Name and a Future” free of charge. In the future, we would also like to set up a medical centre with a well-stocked dispensary and help them by distributing the necessary medicines for free.
More than seven hundred children and young people regularly attend remedial classes held twice a week and the day centre at weekends. Nour, Hussain and Fatima are three little siblings aged 10, 7 and 8. Their mother was abandoned by her husband five years ago. Now her children are teaching her how to write and read!
Around 40 of our students leave the centre every month. In the best case scenario, they are children who we manage to record at the registry office or who are placed with a family by the state.
In the worst cases, unfortunately, they are children who are forced by their parents to work. To deal with this emergency we want to create a “school on wheels” to reach the children in East Aleppo and provide them with training at least twice a week.
HELPING CHILDREN IN LEBANON
In Lebanon, crushed by energy, health and economic emergencies, we support 150 children with scholarships. Most of the parents, even though they both work, are unable to pay their school fees due to high monetary inflation.
Another way to help poor children and continue to support their right to education is to directly support the school they attend. We did this for the primary and secondary schools in Adonis, a village halfway between Beirut and Tripoli.
Thanks to the donations we received, we were able to give the school new desks, blackboards and books for the children. Part of the funds are used to buy petrol to run the electricity generators for a few hours a day.
The school, which has not received the government grants it is entitled to for years, manages to maintain subsidised fees. Teachers and friars who run it have become one of the few points of reference for the families of the village, abandoned by the Lebanese state.
In Beirut, many children were traumatised by the port explosion in August 2020. One of them is Daniel. He is only 13 years old but for a year he has not been able to get out of bed more than an hour a day.
Daniel is no longer able to study, read or play. His childhood has been stolen from him. For him and the many children emotionally tried by the current critical situation, we will soon open a new Franciscan Care Centre.
In this new day care centre they will be looked after by a team of psychologists and teachers who will take care of their psychophysical rehabilitation and school reintegration through art, music therapy and support classes.
HELPING POOR CHILDREN IN THE HOLY LAND
The 250 children in the Saint Vincent de Paul Sisters’ nursery and kindergarten are of eight different nationalities. They come from East Jerusalem, from the Old City, and all come from poor families or those with serious problems.
The kindergarten is housed in the neo-Gothic building that is the Mamilla Convent, a few steps from Jaffa Gate and New Gate. In the same building there is also our guest house, a place where tourists, pilgrims and travellers stay and through which we help to support the activities of the kindergarten and the rest home run by the sisters.
By paying a subsidised fee, families with special situations, including many Eritrean refugee couples followed by one of the organisations we work with, the JACC (Jerusalem African Community Centre), can entrust their children, aged between 3 months and 4 years, to the care of sisters and teachers.
These children already understand Arabic, Hebrew and a little English. The microcosm created by the Mamilla sisters is a laboratory of multiculturalism and sharing that faithfully reflects the surrounding environment. Holy Land is a point of encounter and confrontation, of tensions, wars and crises. The hope for a better future lies in the little ones, in reaching out to the disadvantaged. Help the children! Start building Peace with us!