11 June 2015
In this photograph from the 1980’s, Mother Virginie shares a happy moment with the little boy she named Moussa, or Moses. (photo: CNEWA)
Name: Mother Virginie Maalouf
Facility: Maison Notre Dame des Dons pour L’Enfant Heureux
Location: Zahlé, Lebanon
In 1978, when Lebanon was in the grip of civil war, Sister Virginie Maalouf decided to leave her congregation, “and go on my way to try to make a little difference.”
The home for orphaned children that she established — Maison Notre Dame des Dons pour L’Enfant Heureux — began in a modest four-room apartment in the Lebanese city of Zahlé. “It wasn’t much,” she recalls. “But we made sure to surround all the children with all the warmth and care we could provide them with.”
By 1984, more than 50 needy children — many of them former street kids — had lived at the home for varying periods, with more arriving every year. Encouraged by generous supporters, Mother Virginie began to consider buying a plot of land for a new, larger house for the children.
“On the night of July 24th 1984, I heard a knock on the door,” she remembers. “I opened the door, and there I saw a baby in a basket just like Moses. He was very weak and it was a miracle that he was saved. I named him Moussa (Moses). I decided to go forward in buying the land we needed — and then found that next to the land was a place where people visit and pray, and where a holy painting of the prophet Moses was placed. I was at peace, knowing I was on the right track, and thankful that God was with us.”
Since moving into the new house in 1987, Mother Virginie explains that she and her staff have continued to provide children with “an embracing family atmosphere.” Every child attends school in the neighborhood, many study music and theater, and also sing at churches across the region.
As for the orphan left in a basket on Mother Virginie’s doorstep long ago: Moussa eventually attended Christian schools and university, where he graduated with a degree in Graphic Design. “Now he has been married for five years,” she says with pride. “He loves what he does, is very successful at it, and still comes home and helps me every day.”
Lebanon has strict laws regarding the naming of abandoned children, but Mother Virginie has won permission to give her family name “to the children of my heart. Today, seventeen children with unknown parents, including Moussa, bear my last name, Maalouf.”
Over the years, more than 1,400 girls and boys have been nutured by Maison Notre Dame des Dons pour L’Enfant Heureux. “I look back now from where we started,” Mother Virginie says. “And I am beyond grateful for what we have been able to achieve. I pray that God gives all the children graceful lives and happiness.”
In light of all the good she continues to do, she deserves solid support for her hard work. As Mother Virginie admits, “the last few years have been very difficult to us because of the wars surrounding us. People cannot help us a lot anymore like the old days. But thank God, we are able to survive.”
Thousands of sisters. Millions of small miracles.
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