The beginning of a new relationship between ‘Basma’ and the McCabe Educational Trust
A Visit to ”Basma”
Andy Webster recently visited the Jerusalem Princess Basma Centre for Disabled Children which is situated on top of the Mount of Olives, not far from the traditional site of Jesus’ ascension to Heaven. The reason for his visit was to present a cheque for £5,000 to mark the beginning of a new relationship between Basma and the McCabe Educational Trust.
From small beginnings
The centre opened in 1965 as a fledgling hospital helping Palestinian children suffering with polio and cerebral palsy. At this time Jerusalem was part of Jordan and the new centre enjoyed the active support of the Jordanian royal family. King Hussein’s sister, Amira Basma, officially opened the first building and gave her name to the work. Almost fifty years later, Basma has gone from strength to strength and for thirty of those years, Betty Majaj has been the remarkable Christian Director.
Helping families cope with disability
At any one time there are up to 24 mothers living in the centre with their disabled children. They are resident during the week and go home at weekends. The rehabilitation programme deals with the whole family so that the mother learns as well as the child how best to deal with everyday life when they return home. Of the staff, 80% are disabled or have special needs and many are former patients.
This work is encouraged by the Israelis who grant visas for West Bankers to enter Jerusalem, and partly funded by the Palestinian Authority. The budget, however, does not balance. The cost per day to treat one family is approximately £100 with Palestinian Authority funding of only £70 – and this money is regularly left unpaid. A daily heating bill for the mother and child unit in the region of £250 is a constant worry.
Betty told me the frustrating story of their hydrotherapy pool, and I was delighted to present her with the solution to one of her long-standing concerns. They have an excellent facility but are unable to use it, basically because of lack of funds. Frustratingly, if the pool was operational, it would be used amongst others by the Israeli social services, who would pay for the privilege.
Our initial grant will pay for an essential chlorination machine. An Israeli expert has visited to train the staff how to maximize the benefits of the pool and it is hoped that the circa £100 daily running costs will be largely covered by the Israeli social services.
A unique school
In 1987 Betty expanded the work and a school was opened where disabled children could be taught alongside able-bodied in a supported environment: a unique concept at the time. Today, the school caters for 3 year olds right through to 18 year olds and of the 650 children enrolled, almost 200 have special needs, including 75 who are deaf and 33 who are physically disabled. All of the children are Palestinian residents of Jerusalem and the surrounding area. To read more about the school click here.
We admire the Basma centre’s Christian witness in this divided city and the way it co-operates with both Palestinians and Israelis. For these reasons, the McCabe Educational Trust will be focusing on this need during 2013.
A special thank you to McCabe pilgrims who helped us raise £15,551 during January, a magnificent start to our fund-raising year!