The Jofeh Center: Faith in Action (Part 2)

One young woman, Manwa, is a shining example of how the Jofeh Community Rehabilitation Center is empowering women, men and children and transforming lives. Like many mentally challenged children in this area, Manwa was kept at home for the first 15 years of her life.  Though she refused to speak and repeatedly tried to escape when first brought to the Center, she slowly grew into the caring community around her.  She was allowed to choose whatever work she preferred, on her own timetable; first it was woodworking, then embroidery.  Then she became so proficient at a paper recycling technique that she now trains other children at the Center.  Not only is Manwa invested and productive, she also earns her own pocket money, which she takes home with her.

That pocket money means a lot to these young workers. A young man I met is partially paralyzed, with the use of only one arm and one leg.  He receives money for his embroidery work, accomplished by holding the frame with his good leg and sewing with his functioning hand.  The volunteers who train the children also go home with pocket money for their work, in addition to small sums they earn by cleaning the building and doing embroidery work at home. 

The Center is able to operate on a lean budget, thanks to the volunteer help it receives and because it buys only what it needs and can use.  A young woman in the sewing room was working on a used industrial sewing machine that cost $300, instead of the $700 it would have cost if purchased new.  Yousef needs another machine just like that one, as it would greatly increase the Center’s output – much of which is sold to the public through a local hotel chain.  Profits are shared equally between the Center and its productive workers, who benefit in a number of ways: they not only gain dinars (the local currency), but also opportunities to excel.

This is a joyful place — faces all around attest to that, as does Manwa’s unshakable determination to be here.  Her father remains ambivalent about the Center, occasionally refusing to let her board the bus.  On those days, she simply marches out the door on her own, back to the Jofeh Center and her new life.

Sherrye Henry is a Major Gift Officer with Episcopal Relief & Development.

Photo: Manwa (right) demonstrates to Sherrye her paper recycling technique. The Jofeh Center’s programs empower disabled young people with skills that are also creating economic opportunities.