20 March 2018
A refugee and her daughter walk to their makeshift home in Bechouat, Lebanon.
(photo: Tamara Abdul Hadi)
Our regional director in Beirut, Michel Constantin, recently sent us this uplifting note, describing how CNEWA’s donors are making a difference in the lives of refugees:
In Lebanon, the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary is a small congregation, with just 30 sisters. They are engaged in aiding the poor and needy — as well as helping Syrian and Iraqi refugee families.
For the fifth consecutive year, through CNEWA funding the sisters run a program that aims at reaching and making a difference in the lives of displaced and refugee communities of children, youth and adults who have and still are suffering from the fallout of the wars in their countries, as well as the hard conditions they face living in Lebanon.
Through their social center, the sisters — assisted by a team of psychologists and specialists provide moral, social and spiritual support by organizing retreats, trips and camps for the most affected members of the family. This helps them overcome their trauma and anxiety about their future — giving them hope.
To date, more than 700 families have been screened, guided and given support by the sisters and social workers, benefiting somehow from the various programs and activities that are offered.
This is the story of one such family.
Mariam and Mirna are Chaldean Iraqi sisters, ages 20 and 18, who found refuge among the Lebanese community with their mother and younger sister, Mina. After being deserted by the father, they had no support system when they arrived in Lebanon.
Related: Sister Wardeh’s World
Welcoming the Stranger
The Franciscan Missionaries, through their social work, reached out to this family and followed-up closely to help them get settled, find jobs and schools, and most importantly, help them cope with their new environment. The mother and three daughters attended various retreats and summer camp, which helped boost their spirits and sustain their faith.
At the age of 18, Mariam suffered a dislocated jaw, causing difficulty with eating and speaking and also causing frequent headaches. The social workers’ intervention and the devotion of the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary gave her a chance at a normal life; following several months of research and treatment, Mariam was able to undergo surgery to fix her jaw.
Mirna, to support her family, worked at a restaurant for less than a minimum wage salary, as she had no experience. The sisters guided her to pursue a learning program in food preparation and catering skills. Today, the family is settled in a small rented house in Jounieh, in the Kesrouan region; the mother works as a cashier at a grocery store, Mariam works at a bakery and Mirna still works at a restaurant — but with a much better salary. The youngest sister Mina attends the Syriac Catholic Angel of Peace School.
Social workers are following up with the family. The mother and her daughters continue to attend various activities and retreats sponsored by the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary.
Thanks to the sisters — and the generosity of CNEWA’s donors — these women have a new start and a new life.
14 March 2018
A young peoples’ choir sings during a liturgy during the “Vocation and Mission Day for Youth” in Emdibir, Ethiopia. (photo: CNEWA)
We received this report and some pictures this week from our regional director in Addis Ababa, Argaw Fantu:
Emdibir Eparchy was erected in 2003 with territories detached from the Archdiocese of Addis Ababa. Since the early 1920s, Catholic faith in the area stayed strong, due to the few devoted lay faithful, like “Abbabba” (means father in Amharic) Antoinios, Abbabba Ruphael and Abbabba Estiphanos. Their devotion was extraordinary: they used to walk for 15 days across the country, following the French Capuchin missionaries, so they could receive the sacraments. Returning home after another 15 days’ walk, they were seen to be especially graced and full of blessings. Family members and neighbors would even welcome having these travelers spit on their faces; they saw it as a blessing, for it came from mouths that had received Holy Communion.
At that time, foreign missionaries were very few in number, unable to speak the different local languages and incapable of traveling long distances on foot, horse or mule.
But missionary zeal and a deep faith persist in Emdibir.
One person eager to pass that on to the youth is the young local priest, the Rev. Misrak Tiyu, Pastoral Coordinator of the eparchy. He designed a pastoral project entitled Strengthen Youth Ministry and Revitalize Christian Communities. In this project, he creatively planned to engage catechists, youth leaders, members of the small Christian communities and young Catholic professionals.
Children take part in the youth festival. (photo: CNEWA)
Though his dreams are big and resources are limited, Father Misrak didn’t hesitate to knock at the door of CNEWA for financial support in early 2016. CNEWA secured $25,600 for his work in 2017 and 2018. With this plan, a great pastoral outreach was observed in the eparchy in 2017. I had the opportunity to visit two events: a training day for catechists and a youth festival.
The three-day youth festival was very creatively organized with the theme “Vocation and Mission Day for Youth.” In the program more than 1,000 dynamic, enthusiastic and lively youth and children participated.
More than 1,000 young people participated in the youth festival. (photo: CNEWA)
This event has really helped strengthen the faith of the young people, exciting them to engage actively and to focus on reviving the zeal of their great grandparents.
In a real sense, CNEWA is not only responding to immediate needs of the local church, but it also accompanying the revival of faith in the younger generation.
We want to send a big THANK YOU with prayerful remembrance to all CNEWA supporters and people of good will. May the Good Lord, who sustained faith through his passion, death and resurrection, reward all!
6 March 2018
Father Jeevan is finding creative ways of preaching the Gospel to his flock in India. (photo: CNEWA)
CNEWA’s regional director in India, M.L. Thomas, recently had a chance to visit a mission, in the Diocese of Chanda, where he saw some of the work of a young priest — a convert from Buddhism named Father Jeevan K D.
Mr. Thomas writes:
The priest, on the right, lives a simple life among the people in his village. (photo: CNEWA)
Khurkheda is a village mission in the diocese of Chanda where Father Jeevan works. He is an ordained priest from Maharashtra. He has been developing this mission for 20 months.
Father Jeeven, looks like a ‘Sanyasi’ [a Hindu religious] and he is staying in a small rented room along with the people in the village.
“With CNEWA’s support we had a good beginning,” said Father Jeevan, who lives with few comforts and simple facilities. “I extend my heartfelt gratitude to you and to the CNEWA organization.”
Father Jeevan travels from village to village on motorcycle. (photo: CNEWA)
He is now working in 55 villages and preaches the Gospel.
“Every day, we visit a village with our catechists. We travel village to village by motorcycle or by bicycles. Sometimes we rent a jeep for the village visit —
especially when there are awareness programs, retreats or Bible conventions in the village. In the village, we visit the families; we listen to their problems and give them the Word of God and the Gospel values. And we teach them to pray every day. Also, we tell them the importance of education for their children and about the cleanliness.”
He explained how he has adopted some Hindu traditions to help catechize the peopl — including “Bhajan,” or singing devotional songs before an image of God [Christ]; keeping a fast as a kind of worship for a whole day; and wearing particular colors of saris for worship.
But he also emphasizes the importance of Catholic devotions in his mission.
“I started my mission with prayers and adoration,” he said. “With the power of the prayers and the adoration to the Blessed Sacrament, people started coming to the church. Many of the people were coming for the prayers and the adoration. And they used to share their problems and difficulties with me. I used to give enough time and listen to their problems and used to pray for them and they were happy and at peace. They used to invite me to their villages and to their families. I was very happy to visit them. I went to many villages visiting poor and sick and the afflicted. I preached the Good News to them.”
M.L. Thomas sent along some video, below, showing the creative ways that Father Jeevan has introduced Hindus to the Catholic faith, by incorporating some of their traditions in the liturgies.
28 February 2018
The new Day Care Center run by Caritas Georgia, and supported by CNEWA, is teeming with activity.
(photo: Caritas Georgia)
Last week we received a brief update from our friends at Caritas Georgia, describing activities at their recently dedicated Day Care Center. (You may remember we posted about this event last year.) The winter has brought snow to Eshtia, Georgia, but in many other ways, it feels like a new springtime. Read on.
Greetings from Caritas Georgia!
After equipping the Center with all the necessary equipment, furniture and computers, in February 2018 we hired the Center staff.
Freshly fallen snow covers the ground around the new Day Care Center at Caritas Georgia, in the village of Eshtia. (photo: Caritas Georgia)
Currently we have 116 children registered in the Center, with seven project staff supervising them. Total number of project staff is 7. We also have a vocational workshop of weaving and felt. The girls from the village attend the Caritas Georgia Art Therapy Studio project, developing important job skills.
The children attend various classes:
- Drama and Dance — 62 children
- Georgian and English Language — 116
- Computer class — 24
- Music and singing — 25
On Sundays the children attend the catechism class led by Father Anton Antonyan.
We invite you to read more Caritas Georgia in A Letter From Georgia in the Winter 2016 edition of ONE.
Learning the Lord’s Prayer at the Day Care Center. (photo: Caritas Georgia)
21 February 2018
The video above, from 2017, offers a look at some of the young residents of the Dbayeh Refugee Camp in Lebanon. (video: CNEWA)
CNEWA’s regional director in Beirut, Michel Constantin, passed along this update on the Dbayeh Refugee Camp, which was established in the early 1950’s to shelter Palestinian refugees expelled during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. CNEWA has been supporting an educational program at the camp, which is now helping Syrian children whose educational level is very low and who may need remedial studies and therapy in order to adapt and fit it.
Sometimes, the challenges can be quite daunting. Without help, the children could be doomed to become drop-outs. That could have been the fate for one young girl in particular — but Michel wanted us to know her story and how CNEWA’s support for this program had made a profound difference:
Sajida el Saleh is a 9-year-old Muslim Syrian girl from Aleppo who fled the war zone and found refuge in a small rented house on the edge of Dbayeh Camp. She lives with her parents and two brothers.
Following her admission in the second-grade remedial program for Syrian students in October 2016, Sajida was referred for a speech therapy assessment; the assessment showed written language difficulties. She had a weak ability to read and write, due to a variety of problems, including an inability to make the connection between certain letters and certain sounds.
Throughout the academic year 2016-2017, Sajida followed speech therapy sessions to help her improve her pre-reading and writing skills. Through follow-ups, it was discovered that Sajida also had hearing difficulties. Her parents were advised to consult a specialist. The diagnosis showed hearing malfunction that required a hearing aid.
By the end of the school year, Sajida, started hearing properly. With the assistance of a speech therapist, she showed major improvements. She is now able to read syllables and words and form simple sentences easily.
The specialist follow-up, along with the skills improvement in reading and writing, enabled her to take the end-of-year exams and pass her class. Sajida was admitted to public school in the third grade.
The remedial program, with the psycho-social support, gave Sajida the opportunity to grow on many levels — physically, intellectually and socially.
There are now about 520 families living in the Dbayeh Refugee Camp, a growing number are Syrians with young children.
20 February 2018
The Snehalayam Boys Home in Kerala bears a sign, expressing gratitude to CNEWA.
Last week, we received this inspiring news from M.L. Thomas, our regional director in India, with an update on a project CNEWA has supported in Kerala:
In 2017, CNEWA supported a project for renovating a so-called “smart class room” — equipped with the latest computer technology — for the Snehalayam Boys Home at the remote village of Pattikkad in the district of Thrissur in Kerala.
This home is run by the Malabar Missionary Brothers, which was founded in 1948. Now there are 90 poor children and young people there, between ages of 5 and 20. The brothers are engaged in a variety of important ministries in the area: teaching catechism, taking care of orphan boys, caring for older men who are destitute, training and teaching mentally handicapped children, providing vocational training for the unemployed youth, offering health care in rural areas, among others.
The majority of the boys at the home come from broken families; some are orphans and a few are street boys. Their parents are daily wage workers and struggling hard to maintain the families. They are unable to provide sufficient nutritious food to the children and are not capable of meeting the expenses for education. Hence, they send the children to orphanages for a chance at a better life.
The home now has a “smart class room,” with the latest computer technology, to help teach the students. (photo: CNEWA)
At the home, there are 12 computers for training the children. The smart class room is equipped with these computers and an LED projector. One of the students, Amal Jose, with training and support from the Boys Home, is learning to excel in learning English and using computers. His parents are separated. For the last five years Amal Jose is staying in this Boys Home.
The home also provides the students opportunities for higher education, such as courses in hotel management and accounting. Some of our students are attending these vocational higher degree courses.
All these facilities receive assistance from CNEWA. We are grateful to all our donors for the generous contributions to the Snehalayam Boys Home!
Below is a brief video showing some of the home. It includes a personal message of gratitude from one of the boys.
13 February 2018
Capuchin friars enter Gulele St. Francis Parish Church on 10 February to celebrate their vice-province becoming a province in Ethiopia. (photo: CNEWA)
Editor’s note: Our regional director in Addis Ababa, Argaw Fantu shared with us some joyful news about the Capuchin Friars in Ethiopia, whose vice-province last week was raised to the status of province:
The presence of Capuchin Franciscan missionaries in Ethiopia goes back to 17th century, when the first two French Capuchin missionaries, Father Agathange and Father Cassien, planted the seed of faith, and nourished it by shedding their blood and giving their lives within two days of arrival in Gondar from Egypt in 1638.
Later, the legendary Italian Capuchin, Cardinal Guglielmo Massaja (1846-1880), helped create the Oromo Vicariate in the western part of Ethiopia and expanded Catholicism in the country. In the later days, a group of French Capuchin Missionaries followed. The growth of the Catholic church and Catholic faithful is due to the presence of these missionaries who devotedly paid with their lives. These true evangelizers reached out to the remotest corners of the country — erecting churches, establishing schools, providing health services and witnessing to the faith with their simple way of life.
After decades of devoted work and growth, on 10 February the Capuchin Friars Minor Vice-Province of Mary Kidane Meheret in Ethiopia was raised to the status of Province.
The celebration took place at Gulele St. Francis Parish Church, with a Mass presided over by Cardinal Berhaneyesus D. Sourapheal, Metropolitan Archbishop of Addis Ababa, attended by Msgr. Luigi Bianco, Apostolic Nuncio to Ethiopia and Djibouti, the entire local Capuchin Franciscan friars, along with other invited religious congregations.
At this stage the new Capuchin province is blessed to have 101 local ordained friars serving in the country. The order, despite some challenges, is blessed by increasing vocations. Currently, there are 21 candidates attending Philosophy and Theology at the St. Francis Institute, which is fully administered and run by same order. There are also seven postulants and 10 pre-postulants in Nazareth/Adama. The last Custos, Rev. Br. Yohannes Wossen put it well: “Simplicity and brotherhood attracts many to join us.”
Related: Head of the Class
In Ethiopia, the Capuchin Franciscans serve in eight church jurisdictions (three Eastern rite Eparchies and five Latin Rite dioceses) in 20 community houses. Besides the focus on evangelization, the Capuchins run five highly respected Catholic secondary schools in Baher Dar-Dessie Eparchy and in Soddo vicariate, along with the Abune Andreas Girls’ Home in Dire Dawa. They also run many junior and primary schools; a boarding facility for boys in Dessie; and they also support a university chaplaincy programs. One of the secondary schools — Abba Pascal Catholic Girls’ School (named after Father Pascal, a French Capuchin missionary) in southern Ethiopia in Soddo vicariate — was established for educating rural girls. Most of these services were initially located in the most remote parts of the country.
CNEWA partners with Capuchins in Ethiopia, supporting five of these remotely located schools and the Girls’ Home in Dire Dawa, thanks to our generous donors who sincerely value the services of these missionaries, who continue to witness to the faith through simple lives of evangelization.
The Capuchins continue to be moved by the charism of St. Francis, eager to share their “joy, humility and simplicity.” We’re also reminded of the words of Msgr. Angelo Pagano, Vicar Apostolic of Harar and Capuchin who said at this celebration: “Wonderful pages were written by our predecessors in evangelizing the faith in Ethiopia. They left their foot prints. But now is the time for us to write new pages for the journey before us.”
By supporting these zealous missionaries for the good of the local church in Ethiopia, let us be part of that journey before them — accompanying the local church through the efforts of the Capuchins!
Below, you can see a brief video of some of the friars joyfully singing a hymn of thanksgiving during the Mass.
31 January 2018
The sisters, staff and a number of volunteers prepare a meal for the 29 residents and the 50 members of the day care center at the Antonian Charitable Society in Bethlehem. CNEWA provided a grant for improvements to the society’s building that helped save money and provide water to the residents. The kitchen equipment was also donated by CNEWA. (photo: CNEWA)
Editor’s note: We were delighted to receive this note from Joseph Hazboun, regional director for Palestine and Israel, describing how a grant from CNEWA is helping a group of religious sisters care for the elderly in Bethlehem.
At the Antonian Charitable Society, Sister Caterina, responsible for the kitchen and Sister Lizy, Mother Superior, were overwhelmed with joy when the society’s large old rainwater cistern was repaired and cleaned, and made ready for the winter rainy season.
The cistern stood neglected for years and the society relied solely on Bethlehem’s water network. That could be problematic. Piped water was often shut off (due to water shortages) or made prohibitively expensive, due to price increases because of a longstanding drought. Rainwater cisterns are common in Bethlehem and other urban areas and are in fact, an ancient method developed and perfected by the Nabataeans. They began to appear in Palestinian cities during the Assyrian period. Since then, the rainwater cistern was always a practical way for locals to have access to potable water, especially in the summer months. As technology advancement and urban growth became apparent in the past half century, many Bethlehem residents and institutions moved away from these ancient practices of channeling and collecting rainwater and utilized the water system as the main source of potable water.
In recent years however, a severe drought has decreased water reserves throughout Bethlehem. Last summer, Bethlehem had a water shortage that lasted more than a month, as reserves reached all-time lows and water tanker trucks became the only method of distributing potable water.
For the Sisters at the Antonian Charitable Society, that meant their water bills were soaring last summer — far higher than what they had budgeted for. As part of CNEWA’s efforts to care for the marginalized, a grant was provided to the Sisters of the Antonian Charitable Society in 2017 to provide photovoltaic solar panels. These could generate free solar electricity to operate medical equipment, lights and kitchen appliances at the society. That grant also eliminated the society’s reliance on piped water and water supplied by trucks through the rehabilitation of the society’s old rainwater cistern. The grant also enabled the installation of hydroponic units for the kitchen to grow organic vegetables. This is an alternative method that feeds 50 elderly members and 29 women residents daily, saving much money on groceries. There is also enough water left in the cistern for household cleaning and bathing.
The sisters have expressed their gratitude to CNEWA for helping to make these practical solutions a reality — and they are especially grateful that they can continue to provide services for the elderly in Bethlehem.
30 January 2018
Thanks to a project supported by CNEWA, Wagdi Attalah is healthier and working to get his high school diploma. (photo: CNEWA)
Editor’s note: CNEWA is privileged to support numerous initiatives and institutions that serve marginalized, poor and vulnerable populations in Egypt. One such establishment, called Good Samaritan, comprises two facilities that provide care for children in need. CNEWA helps Good Samaritan centers to shelter, feed and clothe children whose parents have died or are too poor to afford these necessities. We also help share the gift of education with underserved children in areas where schools are scarce or unaffordable. Michel Constantin — our regional director in Beirut, who oversees our work in Egypt — recently shared this story of one family benefiting from these on-the-ground services.
Wagdi Attallah is 17-years-old and suffers from asthma and lung problems. His family consists of his mother and himself. Before Magdi was born, while she was pregnant, she had health complications which affected Wagdi’s present condition and requires chronic medications. His mother now suffers from many problems with her eyesight.
Their main source of income was from selling buffalo milk, but after the buffalo died, they lost that revenue and became poorer and poorer. Their house was in extremely poor condition, with just two small rooms. There was no toilet or kitchen.
Related: Egypt’s Good Samaritans
Through a project supported by CNEWA, and in collaboration with the Good Samaritan Center, we were able to improve conditions for Wagdi and his sick mother. The house was rehabilitated. A bathroom and kitchen were built, along with concrete and tiling to repair the house. We installed doors and windows and painted the walls, and also did some electrical work on the building.
Wagdi’s condition has improved dramatically. He is now studying for his diploma. We are still there to help him as needed — supporting him with assistance in his health care and education.
Thanks to the generosity of CNEWA’s donors, his future now looks much brighter.
26 January 2018
Children at St. Rita School in Zahleh, Lebanon, gather for class. (photo: CNEWA)
Editor’s note: we’re pleased to share with you this update from Michel Constantin, our regional director in Beirut, describing how CNEWA’s support for a school in Lebanon is helping young refugee children from Syria recover from the trauma of war and look forward to a better future.
Being close to the Syrian border, Zahleh and the region were a safe destination for around 2,650 Syrian refugee families. Some 2,000 Syrian Muslim refugee families found shelter in tents and 650 Christian families rented small apartments. Out of the total number, around 500 were children — the main victims of the war in Syria.
Dozens of Syrian children were screened by the Greek Catholic Archbishopric Social Center to be out of schools in Zahle; they were at risk of becoming a lost generation, along with nearly 80 vulnerable Lebanese host community children. They had been enrolled in school but had learning weaknesses that made them at risk of dropping out of school.
For this reason, the Greek Catholic Archbishopric of Zahleh approached CNEWA for help. We were able to provide assistance during the academic year in remedial classes (Arabic, French, English and mathematics lessons), psychosocial support and summer school. Children were taken out on trips to discover new places in Lebanon, enjoying a more carefree time, with the hope of releasing the stress of their daily lives.
Initially, St. Rita School provided regular classes to Lebanese children in the morning shift. As the needs rose, it was decided to use the location to provide remedial classes in the afternoon shifts for the Syrians, along with tutorial classes to some Lebanese who were at risk of dropping out of school.
A student at St. Rita works on his classwork. (photo: CNEWA)
Below is the account of one student who benefited from this arrangement, sent to us by the school’s director, Zeina Aamoury:
Lea, a 10-year-old Syrian girl in the 5th grade, has been enrolled in Saint Rita School since 2016.
Ever since Lea was four-years-old, and still living in Syria, she would wake her mother up early in the mornings, wanting to go to school. Lea would literally cry when told by her mother to go back to sleep. The family circumstances were difficult; along with her mother, Lea lived with her father, who worked as a laborer in wall painting, and her brother Elias, who is three years younger, all sharing a tiny house with two rooms in Syria. Unfortunately her father spent his money on drinking and gambling.
Lea’s mother tried her best to ensure that her children lived peacefully. She wanted to create a nice family atmosphere for her husband and children, and never stopped praying to God to give her strength to endure this hardship. But it took a toll on her. Eventually, she became weary and got very sick. To add to her misery, in 2011 when the war broke out in Syria, the family had to flee the country seeking refuge in Lebanon.
But in Lebanon, life was still difficult. The father continued drinking and gambling.
Since the family became refugees in Zahleh, they received assistance from different social charity organizations. They lived in one room which was furnished by the mother’s relatives.
During the last academic year (2016-2017) when St. Rita School offered afternoon remedial classes for the Syrian children, Lea was the first student to register.
At the beginning, it was very difficult for her to adjust and to adapt to new methods of learning; in Syria all materials were taught in Arabic, while in Lebanon our core education is based on foreign languages. As school staff and teachers, we try our best to overcome all these obstacles to ensure that the refugee students attending the remedial classes are supported on both levels educationally and socially. We are fully aware of their hardships: losing all their belongings, having their houses completely demolished, living in a strange country and wondering all the time whether they will ever return to Syria.
But for Lea, the classes and supportive environment made a world of difference. Her life took a new turn. She amazed her teachers with her dedication and good work. She showed huge interest in her education and astonished all her teachers and administrators when she asked them to cover a two-year program in one year — and she completed her year successfully!
Lea is determined to study hard — to be part of the generation who will restore her beautiful homeland, Syria. She strongly believes that if it weren’t for the efforts exerted by all those who are helping her and hundreds other refugee children to study and follow their education in Lebanon, she would have lost her future for sure. Instead, she now has the chance to dream and hope.
For more on life among the refugees in Zahleh, read Hardship and Hospitality in the June 2017 edition of ONE.