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Today, that impulse has translated into a comprehensive, multi-disciplinary school for deaf children and, more recently, also for children with developmental disabilities. The Father Roberts Institute begins its work with children as young as 6 months old, leading them through the same curriculum followed by all Lebanese students, right up to a high school diploma. Beyond this, the school offers pre-university training courses and vocational training.

In parallel to academic studies, children at the institute benefit from an array of therapeutic and clinical support programs — from physical therapy to speech therapy and psychological counseling.

“They wouldn’t get this kind of therapy in a mainstream school,” says Joelle Wheibie, the school’s speech therapist.

Ms. Wheibie sits, microphone in hand, at a “vibration board” along with one of the students, 9-year-old Hamze. Underneath the board is a large speaker to which the microphone is connected. She urges Hamze to make various sounds into the microphone. Using the force of the vibrations coming from the speaker through the board and up his entire body, he can judge how to modulate the force and pitch of his voice.

“Using this technique, over time, and combined with other techniques, the child manages to gain power over his or her voice so as to be able to produce pitch and force appropriate to various contexts,” Ms. Wheibie says.

This scene, a small moment of one-on-one care, conveys something grand — a glimpse into just one of the myriad ways men and women of the churches of Lebanon work to serve the underserved, and provide for the needs of the nation's most vulnerable.

That ethos of care that guided Father Roberts in his mission also led another towering figure of Lebanon: the Rev. Jacques Haddad. A Lebanese Capuchin priest beatified in 2008, he sought to build institutions to provide care for the mentally ill, likewise with a focus on the poorest of the poor. He is remembered for having sought out ill children and mentally ill adults at the margins of society, and taking them in to care for them. That spirit lives on today in the institutions he founded — such as the Psychiatric Hospital of the Cross in the Beirut suburb of Jal el Dib — administered by the order he established: the Franciscan Sisters of the Cross.

On a recent afternoon, about 20 psychiatric patients at the hospital sit at desks scattered about the room, busy at work in the institution’s art therapy workshop. On the walls around them hang the fruits of their labor: a heterogeneous hodgepodge of paintings, varying in color vibrancy and abstraction.

“The act of drawing is very important,” says art therapist Mona Esta. “For the patients, it’s a chance to externalize and express inner conflicts out on the page, through a painting.”

Making up between 60 and 70 percent of the hospital population of 550, schizophrenia represents the most common mental illness treated here. Other patients struggle with bipolar disorder and extreme obsessions or phobias, among other conditions. The hospital also treats a growing population of people recovering from addiction to drugs or alcohol — or both.

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