Bethlehem Angels is truly a “three for one” story.
The Holy Family Hospital of Bethlehem.
The Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul run a maternity hospital just 500 yards from the Church of the Nativity, where Mary is said to have given birth to Jesus in the town of Bethlehem. The hospital is committed to ensuring that no expectant mother is ever told, “there is no room”.
This obstetrical and gynecological facility is the only one in the region that can handle complicated medical conditions, using state-of-the-art birthing equipment and a neonatal intensive care unit for preemies. They treat women living in extreme poverty and under the shadow of political strife within the Gaza region with 25 percent of the women seen living in refugee camps and 13 percent of the babies born being placed in the neonatal intensive care unit. Since they opened their doors, there have been over 34,462 live births (as of 2008) with only one maternal death. They see 200 women a month.
Care is never conditional — no one, regardless of ability to pay, nationality or religion is ever turned away. The hospital is almost entirely funded by donations, with different groups around the world contributing on an international level.
If you would like to donate, I give you a direct address at the end of this page. One idea is to hold a baby shower with your friends, neighborhood and church. At www.BirthPlaceofHope.org, you will find ideas for the shower, where shower donations cover needed items by this charity instead of actual presents to the expectant mother — or you can do both. It’s a great fundraising idea for such a wonderful organization that truly needs the support of the world.
The Holy Family Children’s Home of Bethlehem, known as the Creche
Sister Sophie Boueri, a pediatric nurse from Lebanon who worked in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit of the hospital discussed in Part 1, began gathering abandoned infants from the streets about seven years or so ago. What began as a personal ministry has expanded as more children found their way to her. Using an old, unused and run down part of the hospital, renovated with the help of the Pontifical Mission for Palestine, there are now three sisters and 11 lay people (as of 2008) who work full time, under the direction of Sister Sophie at the Creche.
With all that is going on in Palestine, the normal tradition of such infants being cared for by the extended family is falling short with all the political fighting and wars with Israel. Many of the fathers have been killed, imprisoned or fighting, unable to care for their families. Unemployment and underemployment are high. The women are unable to feed and clothe the children. Some mothers are unwed or children are of mixed birth. Many of the children are found abandoned on the street, while others are brought anonymously to the Creche (means ‘manger’). The Creche is the only such place on the West Bank.
The Creche takes children from newly-born to five years old. They care for them and teach them living skills that are age appropriate, providing a home, love, stability and security. When a child reaches five years, Sister Sophie begins looking for a safe foster family in which to place the child. The Creche holds up to 52 children on a permanent basis with another 70 for daily free daycare. They have a waiting list that is just too long. The sleeping rooms currently are crammed with beds with no room between them. If the sisters could fit more beds in, they would; because that means more children would be cared for on a permanent basis. Obviously, donations are desperately needed by the Creche.
In addition to the Children’s Home, Sister Sophie started a Concealed Shelter for women pregnant outside of marriage and women experiencing domestic violence who have no place to go. The Shelter is divided into rooms according to age group, since many women must bring their children with them or run the risk of them being abused if left behind.
Please consider this three-part good works for you, your family, and especially your church (denomination doesn’t matter). To ensure your donations get to these needed projects for the poor, send them directly to:
Sister Sophie Boueri
Bethlehem, 91114, Palestinian Authority
Telephone: (02) 274 11 51 or 52 or 53
Please include in your letter whether the donations are for the hospital, the children’s home, or the concealed shelter.