Recently, I had a wonderful opportunity to see faith in action – healing the sick and welcoming the stranger – at the Jofeh Community Rehabilitation Center (or “Beit Saleem”) in the South Shuneh area of the Jordan Valley, Jordan.
This inspiring program, supported by Episcopal Relief & Development in partnership with the Diocese of Jerusalem, helped me understand more deeply the essence of our mission to help vulnerable people better their own lives.
The Center serves 13 villages in the South Shuneh region. In this area, disabilities are often stigmatized. When interpreted as evidence of a wrong committed by a family member, a child’s disability can be a source of great shame. For the sake of the family’s reputation and the marriageability of his or her siblings, such children are many times hidden away, unacknowledged, and denied access to the education and medical care that would improve their ability to function in a modern world.
In fact, Yousef Rizik, a Jordanian Christian and retired hotel manager who took on the administration of the Center as an extension of his faith, says the hardest part of helping these children is getting them into the building. When marketing and community education failed to overcome the stigma attached to disability enough that parents would bring their children to the Center, he decided to take more direct action. Now, he sends out two buses daily to pick up some 75 children and physically bring them back where trained volunteers are ready to help them.
Help can mean any number of things, as Yousef showed me. A wheelchair, which can go home with a child who would otherwise lack mobility; standing devices, so a child can remain upright and within reach of blackboards and painting easels; or hearing aids and eyeglasses, for which no money may be available at home. Physical aids are just the first step, though. After being kept at home for so long, these children and young adults need to develop the confidence and self-esteem that will allow them to operate on their own, regardless of their disability.
Sherrye Henry is a Major Gift Officer with Episcopal Relief & Development.
Photo: Yousef Rizik (left), director of the Jofeh Center, shares about the organization’s work with Sherrye.