From ONE Magazine

Days of Hope in Amman

For more than 40 years, CNEWA, through its operating agency in the Middle East, the Pontifical Mission for Palestine (PMP), has supported humanitarian and pastoral endeavors in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

A list of the programs initiated and maintained there – the mother and child clinic in Zerqa, the Italian Hospital in Amman, the Pontifical Mission Library, water projects in Smakieh and Bakoura, not to mention the thousands of children supported through the Needy Child Sponsorship Program – fails to define the depth and impact of the work of PMP – CNEWA. One aspect of its work in Jordan, however, is singular to that office alone – a social service program every Wednesday that reaches out to Amman’s poor.

“I saw a sign on Jabal Hussein that said ‘Pontifical Mission for Palestine,’” writes Marian Nimry, a friend of Hiam Mansour, the Project Coordinator of the PMP – CNEWA Amman office, “and I knew I had reached the right place. For some time I had been curious about the nature of the work of this agency of the Holy See. As I carefully made my way downstairs I saw a queue of people; each person held a sheet of numbered paper, waiting patiently for his or her number to be called.

“Hiam, who is responsible for the program, called number 11 and three people, two gentlemen and a girl of about 10 years of age, answered. One of the men lifted the child into his arms and carried her to Hiam’s office.

“‘We’re Iraqi,’ the other man began in a hesitant manner, ‘but my friend, the father of Nour, speaks only Assyrian.’

“Nour, we were told, had lost all ability to use her legs as a result of a botched back operation, which was considered a minor procedure. Nour’s doctors in Iraq stated that she would never be able to walk again.

“After joining the thousands of Iraqi refugees flooding the Kingdom of Jordan, however, they learned that perhaps Nour could regain the use of her legs.

“‘Her father has no money to spare for such an operation,’ explained the interpreter, he works as a laborer and makes barely enough to feed and shelter his family. It must be added that Iraqi refugees may not work in Jordan legally; what money they earn is not reported and is done for cash.”

“I watched Nour as her father spoke in the ancient Assyrian tongue, akin to the Aramaic spoken by Jesus in first-century Palestine. She sat on her father’s lap, calmly observing her surroundings with her big black eyes, her feeble legs dangling freely.

“Hiam offered PMP’s assistance in the form of limited financial assistance in the form of cash payments to the Italian Hospital, a facility operated by the Comboni Missionary Sisters, where the operation would take place.

“While this piece of good news was translated from Arabic to Assyrian, the eyes of Nour’s father lit with joy in the promise that his daughter would one day walk again.”

“A pregnant woman in her ninth month who could not afford the cost of delivering her baby, a diabetic woman in dire need of treatment, and a paralyzed man who desperately needed a wheelchair were only a few of the many cases that were assessed and assisted by the Pontifical Mission on that Wednesday last summer.

“Rana, a 10-year-old girl, fell into scalding hot water at the age of three. A bad burn on her arm prevented full use of the limb. Her father has abandoned them and his whereabouts are unknown:

‘“My two children and I are living with my parents, explained Khadra, Rana’s mother. I do some sewing and make about 30-40 JD a month (approximately $21 to $28 a month), which supports my family.’

“An operation to repair Rana’s arm will cost approximately 500 JD, or $355, Khadra’s yearly income. In response to this woman’s unmistakable dignity, Hiam encouraged Khadra to raise half the funds,” concludes Ms. Nimry, “while promising PMP’s assistance in covering the rest.”

Hiam takes an active role in securing resources to fund the many cases she considers, collaborating with Catholic Relief Services, Kinderhilfe Bethlehem, the Mennonite Center, Misereor and Missio, as well as many individual benefactors.

One American, Gary Berglund, described this activity in a recent letter:

“I have never been more touched until I heard the story of a 15-year-old blind Iraqi boy, Zaidoun Atyyeh. Although the U.N.-imposed embargo intended to curb the Iraqi government’s command, the five-year embargo has only hastened the impoverishment of Iraq’s middle – and lower-income families. The sanctions have also prevented children such as Zaidoun the opportunity to receive the simplest of medical assistance.

“Eight years ago Zaidoun lost his sight in the left eye due to a ‘total retinal detachment…vitreous bands and a partial complicated cataract.’ Two years later he lost a portion of his eyesight in his right eye; also a detached retina.”

“In early June, Zaidoun and his father visited the PMP – CNEWA Amman office to secure its assistance for an operation that would correct the boy’s vision. Zaidoun’s father had collected $280 from various odd jobs and from his friends and family. He needed just $2,000 more – an exorbitant sum – to correct the vision of his son, of whom he was enormously proud.

“After hearing this story, and checking the child’s medical records, Hiam immediately made a round of phone calls, asking for the support of individuals and collaborators. By the end of the day, with the help of the Mennonites and generous friends of PMP – CNEWA, enough had been collected for Zaidoun’s operation.

“Just three weeks later, Zaidoun and his father returned to the office to convey their deepest gratitude. What a glow on this child’s face; the operation had been a complete success.”

These are just a few of the many tales of hope that one could tell should space allow.

There is also the story of Asma, whose badly burned skull was treated with skin grafts; Ferial, whose struggle with Hodgkin’s disease required continuous care; and the lovely Fatin, a young woman with multiple sclerosis who, with the assistance of PMP – CNEWA, received a grant to launch her simple greeting card enterprise.

Wednesdays at our Amman office are days of hope.