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The staff carefully evaluates a child’s ability before determining the best course of care. Four full-time teachers instruct the children in tasks for everyday living, such as personal hygiene and how to dress themselves. The children are also given a basic education in math and Arabic. Specialists are brought in to provide one-on-one sessions for physical, speech and occupational therapy.

Activities change every half hour, with an emphasis on performing simple tasks that will give a child a sense of success and acceptance.

“Mariam had been very withdrawn because she didn’t feel that her parents accepted her, nor did she accept herself,” says Sister Nirmeen of a developmentally delayed girl who loves to make beaded necklaces and bracelets. “But when she discovered that she likes to make jewelry, it was as if she found her place in the world.”

Sister Nirmeen then points to Madonna, a pretty girl with a mischievous smile, who enjoys nothing better than running around in the playground with the other children. Madonna was only able to attend Good Samaritan after her mother could finally accept and admit her daughter’s disability.

Because the stigma of disability can extend to an entire family, it is not uncommon for a child to be hidden in the home out of fear of the community’s reaction. Some parents may believe their child’s disability is a sign of God’s judgment against them. Such concerns may also lead parents to believe nothing can be done to better their child’s life.

“A key way that we have been able to help the children is to teach the parents,” says Sister Nirmeen. This includes encouraging constructive interactions, limiting or eliminating the use of corporal or verbal punishment, which can have long-term negative effects.

“In their homes, there is no system,” Sister Nirmeen says, “so we show them how to keep their child busy with a variety of activities so that they don’t get into trouble.”

Being able to bring their child to Good Samaritan for the half day of schooling can also lessen the stress on parents, helping them to be more relaxed at home.

While Christian instruction is not a part of the curriculum, the spirit of Good Samaritan Home is rooted in St. Luke’s Gospel account of the parable about loving one’s neighbor.

“Muslims in this region are known to be strong supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood,” says Father Ishaq, referring to Egypt’s largest Islamist political party, which came to power in 2012 but was toppled by the Egyptian military in 2013.

“If parents thought we were giving Christian instruction,” adds one teacher, “they would not send their children here. And in many ways, Muslims need our services even more than the Christians.”

Egypt’s orphaned children face many of the same difficulties that impact the country’s special needs children: poverty, neglect and, especially, social stigma. However, because Egyptian law bans the adoption of children — irrespective of religion — orphans are fated to spend their entire childhood living in an institution, without ever knowing the security of family life.

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