BBC is currently highlighting a series of local ministries who work with the developmentally disabled in this region.  We are helping to support these ministries by carrying their hand-made products in our gift shop, some of which we are especially highlighting for this Christmas season.

This week, we would like to introduce you to Al-Malath Charitable Society.  This center was started by two intrepid Palestinian Christian women who live in the village of Beit Sahour, which adjoins Bethlehem. Beit Sahour is the area where the shepherd heard the angels announcing the birth of Christ.  Al-Malath (the Refuge) came as the answer to the struggles that these two young mothers faced with their own developmentally disabled children, and the shortage of resources to help care for them properly.  The program specifically targets Palestinian youth above the age of 16 who suffer from a wide range of mental disabilities with a special focus on those with mild to moderate developmental and physical delay.  Programs include occupational, physical, and speech therapies; as well as workshop program, a kitchen program, gardening, summer camp and other life-skills programs.

As we toured the recently-renovated facilities, we saw students receiving one-on-one tutoring and therapy, while others were cooking in the kitchen and enjoying “class time” around a kitchen table with several volunteers. We were impressed that the center also has a Snoezelen room (a controlled multisensory environment) with lighting effects, color, sound, music, and scents.  But above all, we were impressed with the courage and dedication of the Center’s founders, the two mothers whose personal challenges were met with a wider vision, not just for themselves but for others in the same situation.  Their hard work and compassion has led into something that is a blessing to the community. Both of their children still participate in the program, joined by approximately 14 additional students from around the local area and the wider West Bank.  (Ministries for the developmentally disabled in the West Bank are rare, and many of them have arisen from the Bethlehem area).

While the Center obtains a small amount of income from the parents of the students, it relies on local and international donations, fundraising schemes, and the profit from locally-produced crafts to support the ministry.

To help generate income, Al-Malath recently obtained a new computerized machine that creates intricate laser carvings in olive wood. These include nativity scenes, ornamental boxes, pendants, votive holders and other items.  Students help to finish the projects and prepare them for distribution locally and internationally.  For our special Christmas catalogue this year, we are carrying a laser-cut olive wood votive holder made by the people at Al-Malath. Follow this link if you want to see it