17 November 2016
Kamil and Agnes Shehade created House of Grace in Haifa as a humble ministry to serve the poor, the disadvantaged and newly released prisoners. (photo: Ilene Perlman)
You would be hard-pressed to find a couple with a deeper commitment to the Gospel — and more zeal for caring for the less fortunate — than Kamil and Agnes Shehade, a heroic couple we profiled in 1998:
Where in the Israeli city of Haifa can the poor and disadvantaged go? To whom can newly released prisoners turn? How can drug addicts kick their habit? Many find help at the House of Grace, a unique community that gives hope and succor to those in despair.
Located on a busy road in central Haifa, the House of Grace is literally an oasis of calm in a sea of confusion. Building construction almost surrounds the compound. Trucks roll continually and workmen toil daily in the scorching sun.
The House of Grace was established by Kamil Shehade, an Israeli Arab and a member of the local Greek Melkite Catholic community. He and his Swiss-born wife, Agnes, are the pivot on which the House of Grace revolves, the core of stability that the large community of staff, residents and volunteers needs.
...Kamil firmly believes God prepared the ground for this apostolate. He had spent 10 years praying for guidance as to how to help his community. With the support of his bishop he had traveled to Madonna House in Combermere, Ontario, Canada, to learn more about the lay apostolate. He had already worked for many years as a volunteer social worker and was only too familiar with the severe social problems of Haifa’s impoverished Israeli Arab community. He was determined to do something and believed his own Greek Melkite Catholic community (which is the largest Christian community in Haifa) should be at the heart of it.
“Our idea was to help society to live the Gospel, through the church, from the church,” Kamil explains.
Kamil’s dream was to help local Arabs find solutions to their own problems.
“Why should the church abroad always do everything for us? Why not help ourselves?” he asked.
The House of Grace also reaches out to those beyond its little community:
In addition to its residents, the House of Grace helps literally thousands of poor families in the Haifa area, giving them food or Christmas parcels; perhaps helping them write letters, especially to government or municipal agencies.
“It is difficult for people in our community to ask for help,” says Elias. “We emphasize their dignity. We consider them part of a big family.”
...The House of Grace also helps finance the education of gifted pupils whose parents cannot afford the tuition fees of local church-run schools. In addition, about 230 college students both here and abroad receive some contribution, however small — on condition that they return to work in their home community.
Two years ago, Melodie Gabriel, from CNEWA’s Canadian office, wrote about a visit to the House of Grace:
Mr. and Mrs. Shehade had five children, who also lived with these former offenders. They grew up treating them as a part of their family — and, at times, even babysitters.
It is a difficult transition for those released from prison, as they are often ostracized by society and can easily fall back into negative behaviors. For many former prisoners at the House the Grace, it is the first time they are treated as human beings with dignity, rather than lowlifes or criminals. At the House of Grace, they are shown what a real “home” is like.
People of different faiths — Jews, Christians, Muslims and Druze — live together at the House of Grace. They celebrate each other’s feasts and learn one another’s traditions. Eventually, they begin to understand and respect each other, even if they don’t always agree — which is rare in a society where there exist many deeply held prejudices.
We heard from one House of Grace resident who says their ministry has given him a new lease on life. He is very thankful to the people who gave him support and helped him to look positively toward the future. He has since obtained employment in construction, and is now focused on building a better life for his family.
Kamil passed away from cancer in 2000, at the young age of 46. But his wife Agnes and his children have continued his work — as Melodie wrote, “living out the Gospel simply, with kindness and love, changing one life at a time.”
Kamil and Agnes Shehade remain heroes not only to us at CNEWA, but to so many others whose lives they have uplifted.
15 November 2016
Sister Mary James Clines, R.G.S., served some of the poorest of the poor in Ethiopia.
For many years, some of the most dedicated heroes in CNEWA’s world were the Good Shepherd Sisters caring for the poor and destitute in Ethiopia. One of those we came to know and admire was Sister Mary James Clines, R.G.S.
Writing for our magazine in 1999, she described the sisters’ mission:
It was not until 1971 that the first Good Shepherd Sisters arrived in Ethiopia. Three years later, the Province of Ireland assumed support for the sisters, generously providing personnel and funds.
The first task of the three sisters who began the mission was to become familiar with the most deprived areas of Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia.
“Everywhere we saw sad, downtrodden women — carrying water and firewood, caring for malnourished children, lining up outside hospitals and clinics,” Sister Mary Teresa Ryan recalls. “Equally visible were the city beggars, street children, handicapped persons and prostitutes.”
Following their constitution, the sisters resolved “to help bring about change in whatever condemns others to live a marginalized life.”
In 2003, photojournalist Peter Lemieux reported on the sisters’ work and said they were providing a “flicker of candlelight amid the darkness” among those poorest of the poor in Ethiopia — through education, a day care center, and health care in the midst of a growing AIDS epidemic. All this was geared toward trying to provide families with a sense of hope:
Since 1976, sisters at the Good Shepherd Day Care Center have been trying to help families in the Gotera section of Addis Ababa. During her recent evaluation of the program, Sister Enatnesh realized that in more than 25 years, the sisters “started by helping the mothers in a cooperative, then continued to help the children, and now we are continuing to help their grandchildren. “That’s really depressing. You want to see improvement — you help somebody and then they can go on by themselves. To keep helping the same families over and over is depressing.”
But in the struggle there is joy. Joy that so many children have passed through the center. Joy in seeing the children clean, happy, in uniform and at play in the school compound. “At school, they have a day off from their situation,” Sister Enatnesh said.
Equally, Sister Mary James added, “The highlight of my day is when I can be at the day care center.
“The children hold and kiss your hand. And when I look in their eyes...I see hope.”
Dwindling vocations eventually compelled the Sisters of the Good Shepherd to leave Ethiopia. But Sister Mary James Clines, now retired and living on Long Island, has left behind a remarkable legacy. As she said in an interview in 2009:
“We have always emphasized the need for education and are gratified that many of the children who began in our day care program or who benefitted from our education fund or training programs are now employed,” she said. “Considering an overall unemployment rate of 50 percent in the country, our work has made a difference.”
It is work CNEWA has been privileged to support — and that continues in so many different ways today. To be a part of our ongoing work in Ethiopia, visit this link.
10 November 2016
Mahinder Singh sits with neighbors on charpai (cots of woven ropes) in their tiny village in Gangapar, India. (photo: John Mathew)
We never cease to be humbled by those we serve who persevere in the face of difficulties and discrimination.
One of those people is Mahinder Singh:
Mahinder Singh’s life has been fraught with hardship. His troubles began in 1947, when Britain — which had occupied the Indian subcontinent for generations — divided its colony into India and Pakistan, causing a migration of people considered the most extensive in recorded history. Major riots flared among Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs. The ensuing violence killed roughly a million people, including Mr. Singh’s son and many of his relatives.
Born more than 90 years ago to a Sikh family of farmers in the Okara district of present-day Pakistan, Mr. Singh became one of the estimated 14.5 million people forced to abandon their ancestral homes and cross the new border after the partition. Complicating matters further, Mr. Singh is a Dalit.
A Sanskrit term, Dalit denotes the former “untouchable” groups in India’s multilayered caste system that segregates people on the basis of their birth. According to the 2011 national census, one in six Indians belong to this caste; in Uttar Pradesh, now home to Mahinder Singh, some 20 percent of the state’s nearly 200 million people belong to this group. And though Mahatma Gandhi called the Dalits “harijan” (children of God) and the Indian constitution bans caste discrimination, those once identified as such continue to lag behind, socially and economically.
The Indian government recognizes and protects Dalits, but Mr. Singh cannot claim any benefits; his community, Rai Sikh, is not listed as a scheduled caste in Uttar Pradesh. Nor may Mr. Singh appeal this status, as the special concessions for those of low-caste origin are restricted only to Dalits who identify as Hindus, Buddhists or Sikhs.
Mr. Singh is a Christian. “I have wandered all my life for happiness,” he says, “and finally found peace in the Lord.” But the challenges he faces are many:
Dalit Christians and Muslims are excluded from any concessions under the pretext that Christianity and Islam do not recognize the caste system. For the past 65 years, churches have been fighting to redress this injustice, saying it violates the Indian constitution’s prohibition of discrimination based on religion, caste or gender.
But Mr. Singh is not alone. He belongs to a community of hundreds of Syro-Malabar Dalits united within the Syro-Malabar Catholic Eparchy of Bijnor, which includes Uttarakhand state and the Bijnor district of Uttar Pradesh.
...Theirs is a story of both purpose and perseverance. Despite tremendous obstacles, the parish community has managed to thrive, buoyed by a fervent and unshakable faith.
You can read more about Mr. Singh’s witness in Caste Aside from the Summer 2014 edition of ONE magazine.
For decades, CNEWA has worked to improve the quality of life for Dalits throughout India.
Want to help us help them? Take a moment to visit this link.
8 November 2016
The Good Shepherd Sisters in Egypt are heroically working to rebuild after Christian institutions were attacked during political uprisings in 2013. (photo: David Degner)
Last year, we met the heroic women of the Good Shepherd Sisters in Egypt, who have survived violence and persecution amid political upheaval, and are now patiently working to rebuild. One of the women we met is Sister Amal:
Sister Amal was drinking tea at the Good Shepherd Convent in the Egyptian port city of Suez when the first stone came through the window.
It had been a chaotic year. For months, massive protests against President Muhammad Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood had rocked the country. By late June the protests, which had gained the public support of Christian leaders, culminated in the military’s forced removal of the Islamist president. In the eyes of some Egyptians, especially those who supported Mr. Morsi, an alliance had been forged between the military and Egypt’s Coptic Christians. (Ethnic Egyptian Christians are known as Copts, derived from the Greek “Aigyptos,” meaning Egyptian.) This was affirmed further by the interim government’s subsequent brutal crackdown of Islamists throughout Egypt.
Picking up the shattered glass, Good Shepherd Sister Amal was unaware that earlier that same day, 14 August 2013, the interim government had used lethal force to end two massive sit-ins, resulting in more than 600 deaths. In retribution for the alleged alliance, supporters of the ousted president stormed churches and Christian institutions across the country.
A mob of possibly hundreds attacked the chapel near the convent. Sister Amal and her team rushed about, attempting to save as much as they could from both the sanctuary and the structure. Frantically, they turned off the gas and electricity, and eventually found a way to extinguish some of the flames. But as they worked, arsonists set fires elsewhere. Looters helped themselves to furniture, electronics and money.
The flames proved too much to fight. In the chaos, Sister Amal ushered the workers out a rear exit. The police and army were nowhere to be seen. The mob had already killed one soldier operating an armored personnel carrier outside the chapel. Another fled. No one else came to help.
But Sister Amal’s tenacity and faith speak to the courageous spirit that is helping Suez start over:
On the final Friday of November, Sister Amal dreamed she had asked for a candle, but instead a friend named Raheb, who had helped her put out the flames all night long after the August 2013 attack, brought her the Virgin Mary wrapped in blankets.
“At the end of the next day I told Sister Mariam the dream. She told me, ‘God willing, the Virgin will come in a flash, but I have to tell you some bad news.’ ” Sister Mariam told her the military had withdrawn from the area. They were once again without any protection. Protests were taking shape intermittently, and looters were still entering the chapel, which was open to the street. Anyone could walk in or out of the grounds.
“There was no one. The teachers had left and the workers had gone. There was nobody but us two.”
She turned to Sister Mariam and said, “Look, our Lord is who will protect us in the beginning and the end. Don’t worry.”
She was right. They have prevailed. Schools and churches are being rebuilt; the faithful will not be dissuaded or discouraged. And the heroic heroic sisters will not give up or give in:
The sisters did not wait for help and have not forgotten what they have been through. As Sister Amal tells her story, she drinks out of the same teacup she held when the first stone came in the window. And sitting in the chapel, next to a statue of the Virgin Mary, is that very first stone.
Read more about Sister Amal in Out of the Ashes in the Spring 2015 edition of ONE. And learn how you can help Egyptian Christians rebuild here.
3 November 2016
Rahel Zewde, 13, is sustained by CNEWA’s food program — and by her faith.
(photo: Petterik Wiggers.)
Heroism comes in many sizes and ages — and sometimes, it can be very young. Consider Rahel Zewde, for example, a 13-year-old girl from Ethiopia who every day battles hunger in a land blighted by drought.
Despite everything, though, she is nourished by her faith:
One student, 13-year-old Rahel Zewde, only rarely has the chance to eat meat — it is a luxury usually reserved for major religious celebrations, such as Christmas and Easter, she says, looking away shyly and biting the neckline of her thin green and black hoodie. She adds she “sometimes” eats breakfast.
Rahel lives close by with four younger brothers and her single mother — her father left them for another family — in a compound belonging to extended family. With the two main buildings bolted shut, Rahel’s family occupies a corner screened from the sun but open to the elements, and sleeps under sacking on the stone floor.
When Rahel returns from school, she collects water and firewood, and looks after her brothers when her mother is away.
Sustaining Rahel in this delicate balance is her faith. “I pray to Mary, and ask her to save me from bad things,” she says.
Rahel is one of many receiving help through CNEWA’s food programs — which to date have helped feed more than 8,000 children in 24 Catholic schools in the Horn of Africa.
Learn more — and learn how you can help children like Rahel here.
27 October 2016
Issa Nesnas received help from CNEWA in his youth—and now helps others as a CNEWA donor.
(photo: Greg Kandra)
I first met Issa Nesnas last winter, during a visit to meet CNEWA donors in California. To my surprise, it turns out that CNEWA had helped him during a time of need in his youth. Born and reared in Jerusalem, he received scholarship help from CNEWA to study in the United States. Not only that, but our magazine profiled his remarkable family in the 1990s. Issa has come a long way from Jerusalem; he now works for NASA in California, where he lives with his wife and three young children. He continues to give generously to CNEWA and believes in the philosophy of “paying it forward” — giving back in gratitude to those who gave to him.
I contacted him recently and asked if he’s share some of his story. He graciously agreed, and sent us the email below.
I was born on Christmas Day 1970 in Jerusalem, to Antoine and Eileen Nesnas. I grew up with two siblings: my older sister, Nayla, and my younger brother Nasri. I attended Collège des Frères, a Christian Brothers’ school in the Old City from kindergarten through 12th grade. Both my paternal and maternal ancestries can be traced back well over 400 years to the city of Jerusalem.
While I was growing up, my parents both had to work to support our family. My dad worked at the American Consulate in Jerusalem, while my mother worked at the Pontifical Mission for Palestine [CNEWA’s operating agency in the Middle East] for more than three decades, starting at the age of 19. (In fact, it was 36 years in all, which included assisting both the late Helen Breen and Carol Hunnybun for the visit of Pope Paul VI to Jerusalem in 1964). Through her time there, many directors served in that office. In the mid-1980’s, when I was in the ninth grade, the Rev. Andre Weller was in charge there. He was an unassuming figure with a genuine care for people. During that time, personal computers started to hit the market and the Pontifical Mission had just acquired their first personal computer. I recall that computer laying there with its nylon cover for many months on end.
My parents had the great foresight to buy us a small computer, which was a substantial purchase for a family of modest means. To ensure that their investment was fruitful, they enrolled my siblings and me in a Palestinian summer camp that focused on early computer education, which had yet to reach the high school and college curricula. We eagerly embraced these unique but rare opportunities. Armed with this knowledge, I offered Father Andre help with setting up their computer and tailoring it to their needs. t that time, personal computers had few applications. The main purpose was to automate the office’s accounting system. His agreeable response reflected his trust in my abilities, which invariably left me with a sense of confidence.
I knew very little about accounting; however, I was adept at writing computer programs. So I started to work on programming their accounting system during my free time. I recall spending numerous hours working on that. It took many months and I was making good progress. It was through that experience and interaction that I got to work with and later know Father Andre quite well.
Father Andre appreciated my effort through the many volunteer hours that I spent helping with the computers in the office and he wanted to help me. There was one thing that I critically needed: a scholarship to study engineering and pursue my dream of becoming a robotics engineer. At the time, I also did not fully comprehend how grants and scholarships in the U.S. worked.
Unbeknownst to me and to my parents, Father Andre discussed this situation with Msgr. Robert Stern upon one of his visits to CNEWA headquarters. Msgr. Stern, whom I got to know quite well during my undergraduate years in New York, was another formidable man who was intent on helping people. Together and with others, including Brother Robert Wise, a Christian Brother at my high school in Jerusalem, they tried to work out an arrangement for me that would allow me to lump together enough financial resources to attend Manhattan College. These included small contributions from Manhattan College, from my family, and from my student work. However, the primary contribution would come from CNEWA’s newly established scholarship fund through the generous endowment of an Aramco retiree, Ollie DeVine. With the help of several players, one of whom I only met a couple of years ago, the fund was established and I became the first recipient of this scholarship.
Ollie was a gracious man with whom I exchanged monthly letters and pictures when I started at Manhattan College in the fall of 1988. We were both eager to meet one another. A meeting in New York City was arranged for November of 1988 but later postponed to January. Sadly, Ollie passed away in December and we never got to meet in person. But over the years, I held on to the letters and pictures that he sent me. It is these gestures — his willingness to help — that were transformative in my life. I dedicated my doctoral dissertation to Ollie and his legacy.
Perhaps my initial request for help with a scholarship was a little unusual. But the fact is that the people at CNEWA and those who support them made it happen. It is a testament to their dedication to creating solutions to help people in need. This left me in awe. Those people enabled my journey and I will always be indebted to them. What they have done helped change my life in very profound ways.
The people I met along this journey and the genuine kindness and caring that I experienced throughout left the deepest impact on me. That made me very determined to give back, with the hope that it would make a positive impact on others.
I felt blessed and fortunate, but it also inspired me to reciprocate. I felt the need to do something in return that would help others. Once your life gets touched by others, it changes you to the core.
I think people should know that the work that CNEWA does touches so many lives in the most fundamental way. It connects potential donors to people who are in need and who are victims of political misfortunes. The aid that CNEWA offers helps people get up on their feet and improve their living conditions.
We are all part of the human fabric: people of different backgrounds, cultures, ethnicities and religions. Our lives are intertwined. Bombs and wars only sow seeds of anger and hatred, wreak havoc on the lives and livelihood of people for generations to come, create schisms and misunderstanding among cultures and never solve a problem at its core. Justice, kindness, education, and positive interaction will promote better understanding of our diversity and lead to more harmony, peace and prosperity in our world.
25 October 2016
Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil, Iraq, serves the thousands of displaced people who fled ISIS. He is calling for both prayers and planning to help support those who are suffering in his homeland, as they look to a future after ISIS. (photo: CNS/Tyler Orsburn)
It is never easy being a bishop and tending to a large and diverse flock. The mission is made even more challenging if you are a bishop in a time of war, displacement and persecution.
That is the story of Iraq’s Archbishop Bashar Warda. The Chaldean Catholic archbishop visited our offices this week and his presence served to remind us of the heroic work so many men and women are undertaking, despite sometimes overwhelming obstacles.
The past two years have been tumultuous. He described in 2015 some of what his people were facing:
Archbishop Warda said that 620 families were initially housed on the grounds of the cathedral in Erbil where he lived.
“People come and tell their stories of persecution and how they were really terrified, having to walk eight to 10 hours during the night,” Archbishop Warda said. “In the end, they would tell you, ‘Thank God we are alive. Nushkur Allah. We thank God for everything.’ That’s the phrase they end with. That’s strengthening, in a way...
...He tried to encourage the persecuted Christians whom he had welcomed to Erbil, within his heart he would frequently “quarrel with God.”
“I don’t understand what he is doing when I look at what has happened in the region,” Archbishop Warda said. “I quarrel with him every day.”
However, the arguments take place within his intimate relationship with God, one that, with the help of grace, withstands even the previously unimaginable challenges to his faith that he has faced over the past year.
“Before going to sleep, I usually hand all my crises, wishes, thoughts and sadness to him, so I can at least have some rest,” Archbishop Warda said. “The next day, I usually wake up with his providence that I would never dream about.”
This week, visiting New York, he reflected on all that had happened and spoke about looking beyond persecution, and planning for the future:
“We can’t be a church that complains all the time about persecution,” he said. “Persecution started on Good Friday. It’s not a new event for being a Christian. It started there and continues. It’s not the first experience, not the only experience. It’s happened in different parts of the world, and churches were able to emerge stronger than before. Aid is needed. We are going to face a new challenge with liberating Mosul, with convincing families to go back again. How are we going to convince them to go back to their villages? It needs a plan. We need some good, concrete plans.”
And he encouraged everyone to raise awareness about what is happening back in his homeland:
“In my visit here,” he explained, “Americans have no idea what is going on there. Raising awareness is so important. The roots of the Christians are in the Middle East. We have to keep these roots alive. Even if they are small and tiny roots, we have to work to keep them alive so they can give us more vitality. So we need to raise awareness, we need to pray for Christians.”
Pray for the people in Erbil and throughout the region. At this moment, as Iraqi soldiers launch their offensive to try and retake Mosul from ISIS, there are growing concerns about what could become a massive humanitarian crisis. To lend your support to these people in their moment of need, visit this page.
20 October 2016
Sister Lovely Kattumattam is one of the heroic Nirmala Dasi Sisters serving the poor outside Mumbai. (photo: Peter Lemieux)
Many of the CNEWA heroes we’ve met are people who feel an especially close connection to the suffering people they serve. Take, for example, Sister Lovely Kattumattam, a Nirmala Dasi Sister who works among the poor near Mumbai. A few years ago we profiled these ‘Slumdog’ Sisters, and described their mission:
In 1971, Syro–Malabar Catholic Archbishop Joseph Kundukulam of Trichur, Kerala, founded the Society of Nirmala Dasi Sisters [S.N.D.S.] with a mission to care for society’s destitute, abandoned and marginalized. Today, its 265 sisters operate more than 30 homes, centers and clinics that serve impoverished communities, orphaned children, the elderly, the mentally and physically disabled, single mothers and their children, substance abusers, persons with H.I.V./AIDS and persons affected by Hansen’s disease. Though the sisters primarily work in Kerala, they also run facilities in other states in India as well as overseas, in Hungary and Kenya.
In 1989, Mumbai’s Syro–Malabar church leaders invited the Nirmala Dasi Sisters to minister and provide basic social services to the impoverished residents of Dharavi.
“They had great experience in this field and a very good name,” explains Father Francis Eluvathingal, chancellor of the Mumbai–based Eparchy of Kalyan. “So they were chosen for this work by the eparchy.”
Since their arrival in Dharavi, the Nirmala Dasi Sisters have disappointed no one, quickly becoming leaders within the local church and a lifeline for Dharavi’s residents.
...“It’s a blessing from the Lord to work with the poor and needy,” explains Sister Lovely Kattumattam, who worked in Dharavi for seven years. She now works at a new Syro–Malabar Catholic social service facility in a different Mumbai suburb.
“People in Dharavi are not well mannered or cultured. They have their disagreements and fights. But the sisters work for peace, fellowship and love. We live there in the same simple facilities. We have a happy life despite shortages and the respect of the community because we’ve opted to live without.”
Reflecting on her life and ministry, she summed up her philosophy:
“It’s total chaos in Dharavi,” says Sister Lovely, thinking back on her seven years in the impoverished neighborhood. “But wherever we work, we work for the Lord.”
Read more about heroic sisters like the aptly-named Sister Lovely here. And learn more about their founder, Archbishop Joseph Kundukulam, another CNEWA hero, here.
18 October 2016
Ivlita Kuchaidze survived famine, war and political upheaval in Georgia— but has held on to hope in spite of every imaginable hardship. (photo: Molly Corso)
Some of most memorable people we have encountered over the years have been not only heroes, but survivors.
One of those is Ivlita Kuchaidze, whose indomitable spirit and engaging smile mask a life of exceptional challenges:
Ivlita Kuchaidze survived famine, World War II, the Cold War, the Georgian civil war and the country’s turbulent early years of independence. But, at 93, she may be facing her hardest challenge yet: Along with an estimated 400,000 other Georgian citizens, Ms. Kuchaidze endures a life of abject poverty.
After decades spent caring for others, Ms. Kuchaidze has become one of the thousands of pensioners who must depend on charity to survive.
“How do I live right now? In the cold. Hungry. Everything has gotten so expensive,” she says.
“I am used to it,” Ms. Kuchaidze adds. “I grew up half hungry. It is harder for people who used to live well.”
...Hers is the story of so many Georgians of her generation — defined, in large part, by jagged contours of the rise and fall of the Soviet Union. It is the story of perseverance in the face of oppression, of holding on to hope in spite of every imaginable hardship. It is a story of longing and loss.
It is also a story of a heroic woman who never let life defeat her, despite all her difficulties. “Thank God for what I have,” she told writer Molly Corso. “Whatever I have, it is enough.”
Read more about her remarkable life here.
CNEWA is privileged to work with Caritas in helping to support “new orphans” like Ivlita Kuchaidze, people who once lived a secure and comfortable life but who now find themselves forgotten or alone — yet still holding fast to their dignity, uplifted by the faith that sustains them.
To learn how you can remember those others have forgotten, visit this link.
14 October 2016
Father Yousif Haddad collects medicine from a storage unit outside his parish church in Zakho. (photo: Raed Rafei)
The displaced people of Iraq are fortunate to have a a hero like the Rev. Yousif Jamil Haddad, who saw a particular problem and came up with a novel solution, a mobile clinic to serve thousands in far-flung villages in Iraqi Kurdistan:
Funded by CNEWA, the mobile clinic is an initiative of the Rev. Yousif Jamil Haddad, the pastor of the Virgin Mary Syriac Catholic Church in Zakho, a bustling city close to Turkey and a commercial hub for the export of oil from Kurdistan.
“Many refugees are staying in poor, remote villages where they have no access to medical care,” says Father Haddad, explaining the motivations behind the project that began its operations last June.
Today, the mobile clinic visits 22 villages scattered throughout the hilly northern edges of Kurdistan, serving a population of roughly 15,000 internally displaced Christian, Muslim and Yazidi families. Staffed by a doctor, a pharmacist, an administrator and a driver, the van departs from Zakho around 9 a.m., five days a week. Each morning, the van is loaded with supplies stored on the premises of the Syriac Catholic parish. It then makes its way to one or two villages where, typically, the clinic’s doctor provides medical consultation to some 140 patients.
This young priest is committed to his community and their struggles, as journalist Raed Rafei noted when he interviewed Father Haddad:
For four days, Father Haddad, the mastermind behind the mobile clinic that I was reporting on, invited me many times for meals and tea to meet with displaced Christians from his community and discuss practical matters pertaining to refugee life as well as historical information on the Christian presence in the region. I was touched to see that he shared the rectory with displaced families. He seemed happy to see the place buzzing with the voices of children playing. He told me that when the refugees first arrived, he had to accommodate the men inside the Church and the women and children in a hall annexed to it. This situation lasted for several days before families could be relocated to rented apartments.
After a year and a half of displacement, Father Haddad understood that what his community really needs is not just assistance with food and medicine but hope for the future.
The mobile clinic helps provide that hope. You can see a video the clinic in action below.